Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday's Musings on Sports - Tebow Time?

After Peyton Manning made his decision to sign with the Denver Broncos, speculation began as to whether the Broncos would keep last year's controversial starter, Tim Tebow. The Broncos did little to diffuse the situation and it became an open secret that they were taking offers for Tebow. At first it seemed that Tebow would be traded to a team which was looking for a starting quarterback and Jacksonville seemed a strong possibility. There was also some talk about Tebow possibly going to the Miami Dolphins, especially after they failed to land Matt Flynn.

Soon thereafter, reports began to circulate about teams which were looking to add Tebow as a hybrid player to run the option or wildcat as a change of pace. Teams in this category included the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers. And then news broke that the New York Jets were serious about trying to land Tebow. Soon thereafter the trade was finalized and then "unfinalized" due to the Jets' purported failure to read the fine print in Tebow's contract with the Broncos. A few hours later the Jets and Broncos worked a slightly modified deal which allowed for some of the money which had been advanced to Tebow by the Broncos to be paid back by the Jets.

Once the deal was truly final, every sports story faded into the background. It did not matter that Saints Head Coach Sean Payton had been suspended for a year, or that Greg Williams was suspended indefinitely for Bounty Gate. (For my thoughts on that story click here The NCAA Sweet 16 and the departure of various Cinderellas (or is that Cinderelli?) also seemed to matter less. Instead, sports media of every persuasion wanted to discuss the acquisition of Tim Tebow, whether this was a good or bad move for the Jets, whether this would impede Mark Sanchez's development and whether the move was a reaction to the poisonous state of the Jets locker room circa 2011.

Surprisingly, the viewpoint of the media was skewed based on proximity to New York. Most of the national press and radio hosts felt that the move was good for the Jets. Their angle was that Tebow could be a change of pace to force the defenses to game plan for unconventional plays. The thinking was, if the defenses have to study and plan for Tebow, they would not be as prepared for the Jets standard plays (and vice versa).

The New York pundits seemed to be universally against the thought of Tebow coming here. I can't possibly recite all the negative viewpoints that I heard, but distilled to their core the views were that the Jets had done this to sell tickets or to try to cure the locker room from the disease that permeated last year. The press seemed to think that the trade was not properly thought through by the Jets and that Tebowmaniacs would be clamoring for him to start for the Jets after Sanchez had a bad half.

The matter came to a head today when the Jets held a press conference to introduce their new backup quarterback. This might be the first time in history that a team held a press conference to welcome a backup. To his credit, when asked during the press conference about the need for a press conference, Tebow twice made references to the fact that the event had been engineered by management, including reportedly saying "It’s my job to come in here and earn respect by how I work. I can’t control this press conference … You can blame the guys upstairs.”

At this juncture its far too early to say whether Tebow will improve the team or cause greater dissension than last year. For all of Tebow's good intentions and his stated goal of just being a team player, there will be a time that Mark Sanchez falters, as every other player does. The question will be whether the media/fans push the team into making a change at QB and whether the team functions as a team.

The Tebow team question made me a think of the Medrash which Rashi relates in connection with the obligation to put salt on bread. Rashi states that when Hashem separated the waters during creation, the water on the earth was jealous of the water which went to the heavens. Hashem told the lower water - I will give you a consolation prize - your salt will be used on sacrifices which will ascend to heaven.

In a shiur last week, R' Frand asked - why put the accent on the salt? The water wants to be in the heaven. R' Frand answered that salt is derived from water which evaporates. The message of the consolation to the water is that even in this world, the lowest of the low - the salt which is left behind during evaporation - can ascend to a higher purpose.

I don't know if Tim Tebow truly views playing for the Jets as a wildcat option QB as his mission for this team or whether Tebow would like to be more than just a change of pace player. But if the team can get him and Mark Sanchez to buy into a team concept, even the lower piece can join together for a positive purpose.

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