CANTON, Ohio -- As Joe Namath makes his way from one end zone to the other at Fawcett Field on Saturday night, I place the handshake count at roughly 230. The legendary New York Jets quarterback is flocked by admirers the entire way.
- "Joe, Joe," a boy screams, "Can I get your picture?"
- "Mr. Namath, this is my brother, Paul. He is a lifelong Jets fan. Will you say hello?"
- "Excuse me, Joe, can we talk for just a minute? I grew up two towns away from your cousin."
In 85 degree weather, Namath does not sweat. His smile remains unbroken with every request. At the edge of this long walk, with his fans cordoned off and vanishing behind him, Namath continues to chat with security guards and random hotshots swooping in for their moment with the man.
"If you're winning games, yes. If you're winning, of course, there's nothing to it," Namath said. "All you have to do is win, everybody will be happy."
Sounds good, but would you have been happy splitting time at quarterback?
"That's a hard question to answer. I can only speak for myself," Namath said. "I wouldn't have felt really happy after signing a contract, but ... (he pauses, switches gears). Well, I don't know. I don't think he should care. You know, you earn the job every season. ... You've got to earn it in training camp. You have to convince your teammates is what you gotta do out there."
Namath believes one reason the Jets acquired Tebow was to force opponents to chew up valuable preparation time planning for the Wildcat. Their second motivation is obvious:
"I really believe, going back to Day 1, it's the greatest publicity stunt the Jets could have pulled," Namath said. "Now, if they can utilize him, it's a major positive. He's a positive in the locker room, he's a positive with the players. Tebow's a sensational guy. Now, how much playing quarterback he's going to do remains to be seen."
Namath said it might not matter. Unless a "questionable" offensive line improves, Sanchez and Tebow are about to be slaughtered: "We need an offensive line. I don't care whether you're a quarterback, running back, whatever. It starts up front, and until that can get consistent, we're going to see inconsistent offense."
"I don't see that," Namath said. "Not right now. This is early in the season. We don't know what they have. They have to go out and prove it. Like I said, every team's optimistic at this stage in the season. Every team thinks they can make the playoffs. ... The Jets are optimistic, but I think reality sets in the first week."