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Jets get Tebow - another misstep by New York?

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  March 21, 2012 09:31 PM

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On the heels of the stunning penalties handed down to the Saints for the team's bounty program came the news that the Jets have acquired quarterback Tim Tebow from the Broncos. According to reports, New York sent fourth- and sixth-round picks to Denver, and in exchange the Jets got Tebow and a seventh-round draft pick.

It's tough to know at this point what the Jets' plans are for Tebow. Will he and Drew Stanton work as Mark Sanchez's backups? Could Tebow have his own package of plays and be used as a Wildcat-type quarterback, as New York used to do when Brad Smith was still in green?

After the "we're sorry" contract extension the Jets gave Sanchez recently, when they were quickly knocked out of the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes, it would be tough to see Sanchez not the starter as the regular season begins.

He's paid like the starter, and Jets' brass have taken every opportunity possible to talk him up and say there's no quarterback they'd rather have.

They also said they'd be bringing in players to challenge Sanchez. Those words ring a bit hollow given the two players they've brought in at quarterback over the last week: Stanton, who has played in 12 career games with four starts and has a 55.6 career completion percentage, and Tebow, who completed just 46.5 percent of his passes for Denver last year in 11 starts, with 12 touchdown passes, six interceptions and 33 sacks.

Tebow did, however, lead the Broncos to their first postseason appearance and win since 2005.

When talk began on Tuesday night that the Jets were interested in acquiring Tebow, whom Denver put on the trade block as soon as Manning decided to accept its offer to sign there, one of the reasons offered for why the Jets might be interested is because of the fractured locker room and player infighting that occurred last year.

Tebow may not be a great quarterback, but he's known for his extremely high character, and perhaps he will make a difference in that way. However, if the Jets felt it necessary to smooth things over with Sanchez when they pursued Manning, how will he react to having the highest-profile player in the NFL on the field with him every day?

This isn't to say that Sanchez shouldn't be challenged or pressured to keep his job - he absolutely should. Last year was his third season as starter, and typically a quarterback should be hitting his stride three seasons in - but Sanchez did not show marked improvement and down the stretch, when the Jets had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, he faltered.

A porous offensive line didn't help, but Sanchez had five touchdown passes against seven interceptions and took 11 sacks; New York went 0-3 and missed out on a playoff spot.

His confidence has already been an issue; if the Jets stumble out of the gate and fans start calling for Tebow to step in, hoping for a little of the comeback magic he showed with Denver, how will Sanchez respond?

If he falls apart, it seems clear that Sanchez doesn't have the makeup to be a starter in the NFL.

Coach Rex Ryan has said from Day One with the Jets that his first goal is to win the AFC East. With the recent moves he and general manager Mike Tannenbaum have made, he may not be with the team long enough to see that goal through.

The Bills have strengthened their team, re-signing top receiver Stevie Johnson, landing free agency's best player in Mario Williams and today added another pass-rusher in former Patriot Mark Anderson, and New England has made the type of under-the-radar moves it has found success with over the last decade, signing lesser-known players to team-friendly contracts at positions where it needed help.

Meanwhile, the Jets and Dolphins have stumbled in recent weeks and almost seem weaker instead of stronger.

Right now, New England remains the favorite to win the division again, but it is Buffalo, not New York or Miami, that will pose the strongest threat.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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