Jets should just start Tebow if they're going to feed the beast

The outcome was predictable, particularly for those who have seen this show before: Tim Tebow would walk to a podium, make a quick quip about the massive number of people in the room and politely answer a handful of questions while divulging little.

It's standard procedure for a Tebow news conference. He handles them perfectly, managing to let his smile and charm speak to his sincerity, since anything he says beyond a wholesome cliché will lead to loud headlines.

People inside the Broncos' organization knew this. They learned this. Yet even while knowing Tebow could navigate a tough question, they handled him with delicate care. And there's no way in hell they would have ever done what the Jets did Monday.

"Blame the guys upstairs," Tebow joked about the team's decision to hold a news conference for a backup quarterback. "They wanted me to do it."

It's one thing to manage a monster. It's another to feed it. And if the Jets continue to cultivate an environment that fuels even more life into their newly acquired phenomenon -- which is exactly what they did Monday -- they might as well go ahead and name Tebow as the team's starter right now.

Go ask Kyle Orton or Brady Quinn what happens when the fan base decides they want Tebow. Go ask John Fox. Or better yet, inject some truth serum into John Elway and ask him what happens. Not even a résumé that included nine Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls in the same city was enough to stop the stampede.

Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with who should be the Jets' starting quarterback. After all, the People's Choice led the Broncos to an improbable playoff appearance (and thrilling victory) just two months ago. I'm just saying, if the Jets want to be the ones to decide if Tebow should ever be vaulted above Sanchez, they'd better reassess their PR plan.

On the day New York agreed in principle to this trade, I suggested the pressure on Sanchez was no reason to admonish this move. Sanchez is not a rookie, and if he can't handle Tebow's shadow, he's not good enough.

Well, at the time, I didn't realize the Jets would march out their newly acquired quarterback for an introductory news conference in a forum generally reserved for starters.


It doesn't matter how demanding the media market might be. I understand there's no place like New York. But it's also a place that acts like that big kid on the playground who doesn't think the game starts until he shows up; a place where people believe something can't be hip until they decide it is. If the Jets are approaching Tebow with that same "we got this" mentality, it could bite them back.

Would it really hurt to step back and embrace a little recent history here?

On Sept. 25, 2011, Orton (then the Broncos starter) took a hard hit against the Titans and momentarily appeared injured at midfield. Orton didn't end up missing any action, but for about 10 seconds when it looked like the hit would sideline him, the coaches told Quinn to start warming up. The moment revealed a truth: Quinn was the team's backup. Not Tebow.

But two weeks later -- during a span in which a deafening ground swell from the fan base screamed for Tebow to start -- something changed. Orton was benched for Tebow. Not Quinn. Multiple sources within the Broncos' organization have each since admitted what happened: The uproar gave them no choice but to find out what Tebow could do.

While it is fairly easy to argue that Sanchez is better than Orton, it isn't easy to argue against this: If you thought Tebowmania was crazy back then, what do you think it's going to be like in the wake of a season that included five fourth-quarter comebacks and six game-winning drives, including one against the Jets?

Oh, wait. There's more. During that same time span when fans in Denver clamored, several players (speaking anonymously to NFL.com) later expressed their distaste for the way Tebow handled that situation.

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They said he should have been more supportive of Orton, more vocal with his pleas to fans to take down the billboard. This is not my opinion, I remind you. It was the opinion of Tebow's own teammates. And while I don't fully blame Tebow for the situation, I do once again think the Jets should pay attention to the past.

Tebow wasn't going to be the one to squash Monday's news conference, even if the Jets gave him the choice he says he didn't have. And he isn't coming to New York to simply hang around as a backup for the rest of his career. If the Jets think otherwise, they really don't know anything about his personality.

Tebow is a fantastic person, a role model like nobody we've ever witnessed in sports. But a gee-golly-gosh pushover who likes the idea of playing for the Jets because he can help mend a broken locker room? Not a chance.

Tebow wants to be the starter, no matter what kind of relationship he says he has with Sanchez. And deep down, it won't be long before he believes he deserves it, too.

But unless the Jets start realizing the true polarizing force of Tebow -- something they failed to recognize by putting him front and center Monday afternoon -- it won't matter whether he deserves it or not. First, he'll win the crowd.

Then, he'll win the job.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington