Mark Sanchez is key to Tebow-mania

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
1:51
PM ET
Mark Sanchez, Tim TebowAP PhotoThere is a lot riding on Mark Sanchez for the Tim Tebow experiment to work in New York.
Believe it or not, the biggest key to making Tebow-mania work in New York is not Tim Tebow.

The linchpin in this is New York Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez.

The Jets acquired Tebow on Wednesday for a pair of 2012 draft picks. It's a modest price for a player who was taken in the first round in 2010 and has many good traits that you want in a football player.

But what the Jets don't want is Tebow as their starter. That is Sanchez's job, and if it doesn't stay true to form, that is when problems will arise.

The Jets traded for Tebow because they want to run the ball a lot, and Tebow is a perfect fit for new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano's Wildcat package. No team ran that package better than Sparano when he was in Miami. Expect a Tebow/Wildcat resurgence with the Jets in 2012.

Tebow-mania has the potential to be great for New York -- as long as it's in moderation. Therefore, Sanchez must handle his end as the starting quarterback.

Sanchez can no longer have three bad games in a row, as he did last year, with Tebow waiting on the sideline. Sanchez has to be consistent, accurate, move the offense and score points. The Jets showed their faith in Sanchez this offseason by giving him a $58.25 million contract. It's time for Sanchez to produce. No excuses.

If Sanchez successfully runs New York's base offense, everything with Tebow falls perfectly into place. Sanchez can do the throwing, Tebow can do the running and New York's 25th-ranked offense will be scoring at a higher clip than last season. That's a win-win for the Jets.

But if Sanchez doesn't play well, especially early, fans will want the wildly popular Tebow as the starting quarterback. That's when things would unravel for the Jets. There is already a nervousness about Sanchez going into the season. It wouldn't take long for there to be immense fan pressure in New York to push for a quarterback change.

As usual, there's no in-between when it comes to Tebow. This move by the Jets has the potential to be genius or disastrous.

Everything rests on Sanchez's shoulders.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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