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Tebow, Sanchez appear headed in opposite directions

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If you don't remember it, you've seen replays of it. "It" being then-Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's emotional rant after being upset by Mississippi on Sept. 27, 2008.

"You have never seen any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season," Tebow vehemently pledged. "You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season."

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And of course: "God bless."

Regardless of what you think of Tebow, the raw emotion of it all was moving in some sort of way.

Imagine Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez doing the same thing when he was at USC or with the Jets. That's hard to do, isn't it?

Not that Sanchez has never done it or felt that way, but going all Tebow doesn't seem like his M.O.

Tebow, no matter his deficiencies as a traditional quarterback, a position that Sanchez plays better in the orthodox sense (although a lot of Jets fans beg to differ), moves his audience. Sanchez? Hard to tell. His teammates say he is a leader but coach Rex Ryan is the face of the Jets.

We should get a better comparison of Sanchez and Tebow when the Jets and Broncos face off Thursday night on NFL Network and NFL.com.

Almost any time a coach is the face of the franchise, there is a void of some sort at quarterback. When the coach publicly blasts the quarterback for doing "the stupidest thing in football history," as Ryan did after Sanchez called a bad timeout Sunday in New York's loss to the Patriots, the starch is further taken out of the quarterback's fabric.

Think Jim Caldwell -- or Tony Dungy for that matter -- would ever size up Peyton Manning like that? Or Bill Belichick would publicly put Tom Brady on blast in a similar manner? Even Atlanta's Mike Smith would never do that to Matt Ryan -- and Sanchez has four more playoff wins than Ryan.

Sanchez also is on a plateau of inconsistency that's prompted a louder chorus of questions this season as to how good or bad he is. He's 4-2 in the playoffs and has made plays to win games when it matters -- except in two conference championships. He's got five touchdown passes and just three interceptions in the postseason.

That's pretty darn good in just two NFL seasons.

However, when Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer decided to give the reins to Sanchez in the passing game this season, it backfired. New York went back to its run-first philosophy in the midst of a 2-3 start. After three consecutive wins all seemed good, that is until Sanchez threw two interceptions and looked out of sorts at times in Sunday's 37-16 loss to New England.

Is he good enough?

To answer a question with a question: Would those who want more rather have Tebow instead of Sanchez?

The answer is probably "No," unless the answer is coming from Broncos Nation.

Though Sanchez might not galvanize a fanbase or be a leader in the same manner as Tebow, he's won. The question of whether he's going to improve enough to get the Jets to the Super Bowl is really the legitimate concern, but since we're comparing, look at the two other starting quarterbacks who were first-rounders in Sanchez's draft class.

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Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman seem to be stalling a bit after showing promise. Excuses can be made for all three quarterbacks, who have made their teams better more than worse, but have any of them been good enough at the halfway point of this season to make you think they can lead their teams to the playoffs?

Maybe, just maybe, things center on expectations.

Which brings us back to Denver: The Broncos are 3-1 since Tebow took over as starter. Denver, 4-5, is one game out of first in the AFC West after looking hopelessly lost when Kyle Orton was benched in favor of Tebow.

Taking things a step further, should Denver upset New York, each team will be at 5-5.

One franchise will be thrilled, the other in a state of chaos.

While Tebow has struggled playing the position -- again, in the orthodox sense -- his teammates have stepped up their games. While not diminishing the personal pride and competitiveness of each of those players, that tends to happen when people feel they have a chance to succeed.

It didn't happen in Denver when Orton was starting. It's happening with Tebow.

That's been clear from the final five minutes in Miami to Sunday's victory over Kansas City, a game in which the Broncos should have worn leather helmets based on them throwing just eight passes (completing two) and rushing the ball 55 times.

Denver is winning. Tebow might not be the main reason, but his effect can't be denied.

Tebow, and the style Denver is using to shepherd Tebow and the team to success, seem more like a novelty than a sustainable means to a championship. We'll find out soon enough.

We'll also learn how far leadership from a quarterback -- or lack thereof -- can take a team. Though Sanchez might not be an inspiring presence, if he makes the plays he has to make with his arm and decision-making, that's good enough. If he doesn't, then that's two strikes not in his favor.

Meanwhile, if Tebow can get players to believe but not connect on a 9-yard out route to get in the end zone or move the chains, his aura might not mean much. Then again, if he begins to tap into his vast margin for improvement and Denver keeps winning, Tebow's way might be the way.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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