Commentary

It's up to two, New York, New York

It's on the Jets' pair of QBs to make this oddball union of Sanchez, Tebow work

Updated: March 26, 2012, 8:25 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The email arrived Monday just as Tim Tebow was finishing up his 32-minute media "availability," as the New York Jets called it. It was an unrelated news release announcing a product endorsement for Mark Sanchez.

An anti-perspirant for men.

Yes, really.

Sanchez will participate in a series of high-adrenaline activities -- flying in an F-18 fighter jet, driving a race car and playing hockey goalie -- to show, presumably, the product works.

Actually, that's pretty tame stuff, compared to the ultimate sweat test -- trying to playing quarterback in New York amid the hysteria known as Tebow-mania.

The temperature is rising, and we're not referring to the thermometer.

This is a quarterback controversy waiting to happen, folks. We're talking about two high-profile athletes, two former college stars, two former first-round picks and two relatively young NFL quarterbacks with playoff wins on their résumé.

And they will be doing their thing in New York, under a 24/7 microscope. If this were a Madden video game, yeah, you could see the quarterback/Wildcat arrangement working out with Sanchez and Tebow, but this isn't a vacuum. This is going to be hard.

There are so many questions:

How much Wildcat will they use? What if Sanchez struggles? Can the scatter-armed Tebow function in a pro-style offense? Does coordinator Tony Sparano have to install two different offenses?

Think about that for a second. The Jets struggled last season with one offense, and now they're talking about integrating a Tebow package into a new playbook the players still haven't seen. By league rule, the offseason doesn't begin until April 16.

There is only one way this can work, and it falls on the quarterbacks. They have to subjugate their egos, support each other and present a united front no matter what happens.

On Day 1, they did just that.

Tebow, addressing more than 200 media types at the largest news conference in franchise history, turned on the charm, praising Sanchez and not making any remotely controversial remarks about the quarterback situation.

He smiled a lot. He cracked a couple of jokes. He was humble. He made eye contact with reporters. He claimed it wasn't his idea to make such a big deal out of his arrival. He said it with a laugh, of course.

OK, we get it, Tebow's a nice guy. His new teammates will like him.

Five hours after Tebow Time, it was Sanchez's turn. Speaking on a conference call from California, the incumbent said all the right things. It sounded like he was reading from a course manual, spewing the company line.

Mark likes Tim. Mark likes the trade. Mark likes whatever management likes.

Sanchez called Tebow a "dynamic" player, adding that "he really adds a new wrinkle to our offense." Sanchez handled this perfectly.

Even though he was jarred by the trade, according to a source, Sanchez didn't let on. He sounded, well, like the starting quarterback. He didn't seem threatened by Tebow's presence. To him, this was just another transaction -- or at least that's what he wanted us to believe.

"We're adding another player and we're not replacing anybody," Sanchez said. "He's here to help us. I'm confident about my ability and I know the team feels the same way. They have faith in me. I'm the same guy that's helped us win a lot of games, with a lot of great players around me. ... I'm not worried about losing my spot."

Sanchez acknowledged that he's not thrilled about playing wide receiver in the Wildcat or coming off the field, but he quickly added that he'll do it to help the team win games.

It was a good start for Sanchez and Tebow, but it's easy to be Team Guy in March. The real test comes in the fall, in the crucible of the regular season, when the stakes are bigger and the pressure is intensified. The locker room cracked last season, and Sanchez was part of the fissure. It can't happen again if the Jets have any shot.

Sanchez and Tebow talked about how well they know each other, making it sound like they're boyhood friends. That's not the case. Sanchez hosted Tebow on a recruiting trip to USC and they crossed paths a couple of times on the endorsement circuit, hooking up at past Super Bowls. They talked last week after the trade went down.

"He was excited about working with me and I'm excited about working with him," said Tebow, who used the words "excited" or "exciting" no fewer than 44 times in 32 minutes.

Tebow seems like the real deal, but he's also a fierce competitor. A quarterback with limited passing skill can't win that many games unless he's a Type A competitor. So don't believe for a second that he'll be satisfied in a limited role. People who know him say he absolutely wants to be a starting quarterback -- the starting quarterback.

"Whatever my role is, however I can expand that role, I'm going to try to do that," said Tebow, one of his few unfiltered remarks.

So here we go, off into the grand experiment. It can succeed, but only if Sanchez and Tebow allow it. They're going to need plenty of anti-perspirant.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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