I've often wondered recently what it would take to knock Tim Tebow news (both real and the Skip Bayless-generated blather) from top billing during ESPN's daytime programming. Even during the 24/7 drama of the Peyton Manning Who-Wants-Me-Most? World Tour, Tebow proved a pivotal figure.
I really didn't think anything could do it save for a Brett Favre comeback or three, but I was proven wrong when I looked up from my Larry Bird sandwich (presumably not made from real Larry Bird parts) at The Fours Wednesday afternoon and noticed two breaking news headlines on the monitor tuned to ESPN:
The first and biggest: "Saints' Sean Payton suspended for one year."
Below it, in smaller type: "Tim Tebow traded to Jets."
Talk about your double-whammies. Turns out Roger Goodell dropping the anvil on the NFL's convicted-in-the-court-of-the-commish bounty hunters is one news flash that trumps Q-rating (if not QB-rating) darling Tebow being dealt to the world's biggest media market.
A couple more thoughts on Wednesday's dueling NFL bombshells ...
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Foremost, we've come to realize that John Elway is uncommonly forthcoming for a professional sports executive, and his candor while pursuing Manning and explaining why he was going to trade Tebow was refreshing.
But it also confirmed the suspicion that it was extremely difficult for him to continue to praise Tebow even as he, perhaps the most talented conventional quarterback in league history, knew that the successes of a player so unconventional and flawed would be impossible to sustain.
To put it another way, I bet he saw what the Patriots did to him in the playoffs coming, and wouldn't you have loved to have heard his conversations with John Fox behind closed doors as Tebow and the Broncos pulled off improbable victory after improbable victory before he was increasingly exposed late in the season. They knew what they had, and even as they were bemused while their team was invigorated by it, they knew it could not last.
We've also gained insight on how players around the league really feel. The Broncos players, so supportive of Tebow during the season, reacted with glee when Manning chose to join them. Part of it is understandable -- it is Peyton Manning, all-time great. But the breakaway speed in which the likes of Willis McGahee moved on from Tebow while he was still on the roster told you that they too weren't entirely converted into Tebow believers.
Nor is at least one of his new teammates. Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie tweeted Tuesday ...
We don't need Tebow. We sell out every home game let him go to Jacksonville Tampa or Miami. Our wildcat offense can b ran by J. Kerley or Joe McKnight we straight.After the deal Wednesday, he did not change his opinion:
Y bring Tebow in when we need to bring in more Weapons for @Mark_Sanchez let's build the team around him. We already signed to 3 year ext.
Pretty interesting stuff coming from a guy who wanted no part of tackling Tebow on his winning TD run against the Jets last season. But his sentiment is probably correct, his defense of Sanchez is an indication he's a loyal teammate, and his instincts on this deal suggest he might make a better general manager than Mike Tannenbaum.
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But oh, Tannenbaum, you are the best. Manning shows no interest in coming, so you essentially say, pshaw, we never wanted him anyway and promptly sign flawed Mark Sanchez to a three-year, $40.5 million contract extension that had every opposing AFC East defensive back rejoicing.
Then you go out and trade for Tebow, providing Sanchez with a player numbskull fans will be loudly pining for every single time the incumbent throws an incomplete pass. Which, judging by his history, will be a whole lot of times.
And then you temporarily undermined your own masterstroke by not reading Tebow's contract, eventually costing your team $2.5 million when the deal was completed.
You cannot make this stuff up. Is the Jets' 2012 motto, "If you can't tackle him, trade for him?" At best, Tebow will be the new Brad Smith. At worst, new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano will be longing for his days with Pat White.
Part of the motivation for this deal has to be to seize the back pages of the tabloids. Instead, the Jets, yet again, ended up in the comics. Well-done, Tannenbaum. You've outdone yourself again.
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Upon hearing the news that the Jets had traded for a player whom the Patriots' flawed defense dismantled in the playoffs last year, New England fans couldn't be faulted if they were the ones driving around while warbling, "Our God is an awesome God."
Had the deal collapsed, how would this have been for a hypothetical consolation prize: What if the Patriots had swooped in and sent Elway, say, a fifth-rounder in next year's draft to acquire him?
I didn't particularly want Tebow on the Patriots. But this is one of the few places in the league where the suggestion to ever play him at quarterback would be unanimously greeted as foolish, and I am curious how Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels might have utilized his odd collection of skills.
Ultimately though, it will be more fun watching him try to make his way amid the perpetual chaos in New York than it would have been watching him try to carve out a five-plays-per-game niche as a Jim Jensen/Andy Johnson amalgam here.
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Losing Payton, the best coach the franchise has ever had, for a year is obviously the biggest blow and the aspect of the punishment that deserves the huge headlines.
But the fallout may be just as catastrophic -- their locker room right now has to be more divided and tense than that of the Red Sox post-September collapse. It's so bad, Josh Beckett is currently on the hunt for the Saints' snitch. (Et tu, Shockey?)
It cannot be overstated how profoundly this affects their future. Which players will be punished, and for how long? Jonathan Vilma can probably go ahead and plan a nice, long vacation for September. And maybe October.
Will Drew Brees, whose frustration with being franchised probably grew when he saw what the Broncos gave Manning, still be with the Saints when Payton returns?
And how do they replenish their roster without picks in the first two rounds this year and lacking a No. 2 next year?
This much we do know: Goodell absolutely looked at this as a worse crime than Spygate. And given that the issue of player health is both his personal cause and a cause for litigation, the consequences, as harsh as they are, should surprise no one, especially the team's quarterback.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.