“He warned me about y’all,” Tebow said with a smile.
Judging from his introduction, Sanchez needn’t worry about Tebow’s handling of the media. He was calm, charming and charismatic, dressed in a sleek gray suit with green shirt and tie. He didn’t even need the crutch of an introduction or a team official to stand alongside him. He simply strode to the microphone, answered questions for about a half-hour without once getting tripped up, then thanked everyone for attending.
If Tebow can command the locker room and the huddle the way he dominated his first public appearance as a Jet, it’s Sanchez who should be warned and not the new guy.
Who is Sanchez to warn Tebow, anyway? He’s never had a news conference moved into the Jets’ field house because there were too many reporters who wanted to get in and hear him talk. Not even Rex Ryan’s introduction needed such a large venue. But that’s what happened with Tebow on Monday.
Sanchez may have a spotlight on him as a starting quarterback, but it’s nothing like what Tebow has experienced in the last year with national magazine covers and profiles, not to mention the very public debate about the role his Christian faith plays—and should or shouldn’t play—in his football achievements. Sanchez gets just a whiff of the scrutiny that Tebow has had to deal with. And Tebow deals with it well.
“Ultimately I’m just going to be myself,” Tebow said. “For me, it’s not about changing anything, it’s about being who I am and who I’ve always been. Just trying to be the same person.”
There’s little doubt he’ll continue that. Tebow may be the Jet best prepared to handle Tebowmania. He may in fact be the only one. In their insistence that this is a football move and not a publicity stunt, the Jets may not be allowing themselves to understand just how huge of a personality they have brought in.
Tebow’s arrival may not be the biggest event in Jets history. Yet.
But right now, it’s the most compelling story line the team has ever had. Bigger than “Hard Knocks.” Bigger than AFC Championship Games. Bigger than Brett.
More eyes will be on them than ever before. Tebow brings in a non-football audience. It’s a crowd he’s used to handling, used to addressing, but one that is foreign to the Jets.
Twice in his news conference, Tebow joked that he was standing there in front of everyone only because “the guys upstairs” wanted him to do so. Tebow may not have necessarily wanted to be standing there. He just made it look that way.
Perhaps the most telling demonstration of Tebow’s control of the situation came when he wasn’t even in the room. A few minutes before he walked across the indoor football field to the microphone, an odd—almost reverent—hush fell across the assembled reporters.
This is just the opening of the circus that will now attach itself to the Jets all season long. Sure there were at least 30 cameras on risers aiming at Tebow on Monday, not to mention just as many others recording images via shoulder units, hand-held cameras and smartphones. There were more than a dozen satellite trucks lined up outside the team facility, some of them arriving early in the morning for predawn stand-ups to trumpet Tebow’s arrival.
Imagine what the scene will be like when Tebow first steps onto the practice field as a Jet. When he takes his first snap (presumably after Sanchez has taken his starter’s reps). When he scores his first game-winning touchdown for the Jets.
Sanchez said Monday that he’s not worried about losing his starting job to Tebow. That’s an easy question to answer now, in March. It gets increasingly more difficult in August and September. A few early-season interceptions from Sanchez and it could become difficult to defuse a potentially explosive situation.
Does Tebow have the tools to be the better quarterback? That’s hard to say. Does he have the tools to better weather a quarterback controversy? It certainly seems that way at first glance.