A New York Minute

The last time I addressed Tim Tebow, I argued that he was focused on a lot of non-football items over the course of this pivotal off-season. Hanging with Fred Durst, cultivating a bevy of Hollywood love interests and securing representation for his extracurricular media work all seemed to be potential distractions, at least to me.

Many of you disagreed. Notes from angry waiters, late-night text messages, letters to the editor — all informing me that I was full of it. Then, things happened. John Elway’s Broncos repudiated the Tebow era as error by giving Peyton Manning a contract that, on paper at least, was better than his Colts deal. Then, of course, the trade, which led at least one local TV station to send a reporter to New York City to cover Tebow’s acquisition by the Jets.

The offers that the Jags and Jets made were nearly identical; in fact, given that reports said the Jags agreed to pay “most if not all” of the $5 million advanced to Tebow from salaries over the next few years, it could be argued that the Jags offered the Broncos more (and, according to Shahid Khan, they were prepared to offer still more). So why would the local hero develop a New York State of Mind?

Perhaps it was the idea that the Jags were going to protect their depth chart and the fragile ego of Blaine Gabbert by limiting Tebow to a third quarterback/special teams role. Maybe it was that Tebow, despite being friends with Mark “Dirty” Sanchez — the other young, inconsistent, all-he-does-is-win passer on the roster — felt that he could parlay what the coaches characterized as “15 to 20 plays a game” into a starting role. Perhaps, as was claimed, Tebow liked Rex Ryan a whole bunch on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series and he really wanted a “player’s coach.” Maybe it was all those things. Or maybe it was something else.

The fact is, local fans like the idea of Tim Tebow — the one derived from 6 p.m. news soundbites and highlight reels — more than they would like the reality. As bad as Gabbert was last year, Tebow was worse, and he had better talent around him. Tebow went entire quarters without completing a forward pass. Even after the games his Broncos won, he was dissed on Twitter and in the media by opposing players. And when he was traded, his former teammates talked about what a nice guy he was far more than vouching for him as an NFL quarterback.

Would Jaguar fans turn on him if he had a bad game or two? You bet your ass. These are the same folks who clamored for Mark Brunell to replace Steve Beuerlein and then Jamie Martin to replace Mark Brunell. They wanted Leftwich until they didn’t, and the same with Garrard. And most of them are ready to kick Gabbert to the curb after one developmental year in which the offensive line leaked like a sieve, and in which his wide receivers were as bad as any group in franchise history.

Here’s another thing no one’s considering. Maybe Tebow doesn’t want to be big time in a small town. Maybe he doesn’t want to spend the next 10 years talking to his supplicants in the local media. Maybe he wants better endorsement deals than a credit union could offer. Maybe he doesn’t want to be the hope of a franchise, but just an essential — or even a complementary — part. Maybe he wants the platform that only New York could offer him. National talk shows — just a limo ride away! The reason we love Tebow so much, and don’t really get worked up one way or another over local products like Rod Gardner, Lav Coles and Brian Dawkins — we have embraced the Tebow brand. Even with its internal contradictions.

For instance, Tebow at his NYC presser on the decision: “I told them I would love to be a Jet. And I told them that I would also love to be a Jaguar.” This statement, of course, is at odds with much of what has been reported on the topic, including words from Elway and Shahid Khan. But the Tebow brand requires him to be all things to all people, so even if he had a preference, it’s not in his interest to divulge it.

What’s next? We’ll likely see a lot of Jets jerseys around town. The Jags will continue building around Gabbert. And Tebow? As I said the other week, he needs to step up his game to become more than a gimmick.

AG Gancarsk

Twitter @AGGancarsk

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