It almost reads like the script of an old school mafia movie.
One can imagine Jets owner Woody Johnson (the don) with his arm around Mark Sanchez (the promising associate), whispering his assurances in New York. “Sure thing, Mark. You’re our guy. Tim? Fuggedaboutit. We got your back.”
Then, as expected, comes the hit.
The Jets’ training camp begins this Thursday, and so does the drama between Sanchez and backup quarterback Tim Tebow. All eyes will be on them, especially ESPN, which will have Hannah Storm, Ron Jaworski and Sal Paolantonio there to offer live, continuous coverage on “SportsCenter.”
Nothing will be as it seems in Cortland, N.Y., highlighted by the fact that coach Rex Ryan (242 pounds) suddenly weighs less than Tebow (250). But that’s where the Jets will pick up their efforts to convince us that Tebow isn’t a threat to Sanchez. However, the team can’t hide the fact that it pursued Peyton Manning in the offseason. And everyone can see right through Sanchez’s new contract, which only guarantees that he’ll be starting in Week 1.
The Jets organization has handled the outside prognostication with a level of paranoia. At minicamp on June 13, Ryan said that “there may be times” in the future when Tebow plays with the starters before a team spokesman felt the need to clarify those remarks by saying that the coach meant Tebow will get first-team snaps only in Wildcat packages.
Regardless of what formation he lines up in, the team does plan on Tebow throwing the ball plenty this season. That’s why Tebow has rigorously tried to improve his unorthodox throwing motion by working with two different people in the last six months. He’s spent the past week with former MLB pitcher Tom House and sought UCLA coordinator Noel Mazzone for help in mid-February. Both House and Mazzone have worked with some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
The southpaw’s throwing style is still a main source of the criticism being tossed his way, but the truth is, Tebow possesses qualities that Sanchez lacks. And the Jets’ brass considered them when they signed Tebow.
For one, Tebow has shown the ability to take care of the ball. Last year, Sanchez committed a career-high 26 turnovers (18 INTs, 8 fumbles lost) with nine turnovers in the final three games. He has the second-highest turnover total since entering the league. On the other hand, Tebow only had 12 turnovers (6 INTs, 6 fumbles lost) last year.
Secondly, Tebow can throw the deep ball. Sanchez had an NFL-low two completions of 40-plus yards in 2011. Meanwhile, Tebow completed more passes of at least 40 yards (three) in the second quarter of the Broncos’ wild-card win over the Steelers.
Meanwhile, Sanchez has a tough time even exploiting Tebow’s biggest shortcoming: his inaccuracy. While Tebow (46.5 percent) finished 34th in the league in completion percentage, Sanchez (56.7) finished 28th and has never done better than 27th in that area.
But Tebow isn’t the only bullet Sanchez has to dodge. He’ll face plenty of them at the onset of a Jets schedule that’s brutal at the start, making one genuinely think this is all a setup for Tebow to replace Sanchez.
Sanchez will be up against the Nos. 1, 6, 2 and 4 scoring defenses from last season in Weeks 2-5 when the Jets play the Steelers, Dolphins, 49ers and Texans, respectively, during that stretch. They play the Patriots in Foxborough in Week 6 and then play the Dolphins again before their bye in Week 9.
Sanchez will be lucky to have a winning record by then.
Nonetheless, the Jets have made it clear that Sanchez is the undisputed starting quarterback albeit one that must surrender 20 snaps a game to the most popular backup quarterback in the NFL who beat him in crunch time last season?
That’s just one of the many reasons all this seems like a plot to sabotage Sanchez, almost like giving him the keys to a car with a bomb underneath.
And it’s set to explode quicker than you can say “bada bing, bada boom.”
The Raiders announced on Monday that they’ve traded Murphy to the Panthers for an undisclosed draft pick.
Murphy, the team’s fourth-round pick in 2009, wasted no time making a name for himself in Oakland by catching 75 passes for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns in his first two seasons. However, a groin injury last season hampered Murphy, who only started one game.