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Down to the Core: April 4, 2012

Through Tim, all things are possible

The New York Jets were relatively quiet during the NFL’s free agency frenzy, which began March 13, 2012 – the date likely to be remembered for Peyton Manning’s departure from Indianapolis, which rendered him a Colt in the same regard as the city of Baltimore.

In true Jets fashion, the announcement of the Tim Tebow trade – albeit with its minor complications – stole (read: engulfed) headlines and emphatically overshadowed what was already one of the wildest weeks in football history.

Before Tebow even had a chance to realize what just happened (read: what he got himself into), the New York and national media labeled the trade as another elephant on its way to the cirque du gang green (remember when the Jets made it to the AFC championship two years straight? Of course not, what have they done for us lately). Right away critics argued: the Jets already had their quarterback (one they signed to a three-year, $40.5 million contract days earlier); slot receiver Jeremy Kerley is capable of running the Wildcat; and just about any other excuse under the sun and above the turf that might negate Tebow’s potential impact.

For the Jets to land Tebow for a fourth- and sixth-round draft pick and roughly $2.5 million, they became a better team without sacrificing much of anything. Historically, the Jets have had success drafting in the fourth-round with Brad Smith, Dwight Lowery, Kerry Rhodes, Jason Fabini and Jerricho Cotchery. Matt Slauson, Joel Dreesen and Drew Coleman were all sixth-rounders; Slauson is the only remaining Jet out of the bunch, although many established decent NFL careers here in New York.

But Tebow is an unbelievable specimen with ultimately unknown potential. Tebow, 24, approaches interviews like a polished, elder statesman in his prime. He revitalized a lowly Broncos team and hopeless fan base almost overnight in a series of unlikely endings typically reserved for a screenplay’s final scenes. The speech he made while playing for the University of Florida is now a plaque that sits outside the entrance to the Gators’ football facility. He has a bronze statue dedicated to his 2007 Heisman Trophy, the year he became the first sophomore ever to win the award.

Tebow is 24, and really, his legend is only starting to take shape.

While the Jets have yet to play a single game, let alone practice together (cue the Iverson joke), the whole organization is already somehow in shambles, postage licked, mail it in. Through the eyes of the media, the Tebow trade may have come at the worst possible time, provided how the Jets’ season ended with an estranged locker room, how the Jets missed out on Peyton Manning and how the Giants finished their season. Through eyes of the Jets front office, the Tebow trade couldn’t have come at a better time: we need help running the football.

In an ideal football world, every team would have its franchise quarterback: Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or a Manning brother. The Jets aren’t living in such a world (must be nice, Giants!), but here on Earth they’re making the most out of a promising opportunity. By the numbers, Tebow’s rushing speaks for itself: 35 first downs in 122 rushing attempts (Shonn Greene had 46 on 253 while appearing in two more games) and scored 40 of Denver’s 309 points. He’s no Sonny Jurgensen when it comes to spinning the pigskin, but that’s not what he’s here for. More importantly, The Tebow steed valiantly (read: inexplicably) led the Broncos’ surprising charge into the playoffs before an equally startling first round win over the Steelers.

Some fans see the move as a slight to Sanchez, who struggled in managing the football down the stretch. It’s only a matter of time before fans, a la the Denver faithful in early 2011, start chanting the three words that will haunt Sanchez’s dreams in the foreseeable future: we want Tebow.

Take a look at Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman, comparable to Sanchez in just about every aspect: age, experience, salary and draft pedigree. Freeman had a breakout season in 2010 and followed it up with a very underwhelming 2011 … yet the world managed to remain spinning on its axis. We don’t hear about it every four minutes because it’s Tampa Bay, not New York. Most all quarterbacks, or professional athletes for that matter, will have an off year or two. The NFL has become a quarterback-driven league in recent years; the Jets’ extending Sanchez is a testament to the front office recognizing the trend. The Tebow trade acknowledges that Sanchez might need a little help reaching his potential, and who better than Tim Tebow, the ultimate team player and grandmaster of ceiling-ascending sorcery, to get him there.

Worst-case scenario we’ll see Tebow take the reins at some point (which I doubt given the organization’s commitment to Sanchez), but the last time Tebow took over, it seemed to work out for everyone just fine.

We, as sports fans, live in this mortal world of consistent media coverage and constant digital complaining. Facebook and Twitter have made griping almost fashionable. Remember, we don’t know anything about football and if we did, we’d all have great jobs in the NFL. Enjoy the game. Appreciate the phenomenon, the spectacle, because anything can happen on game day.

And there’s no better embodiment of that uncertainty, that excitement, than Tim Tebow.