NEW YORK — Tim Tebow is coming to New York. Really.
After a big false start, the New York Jets pulled off a Tebow-like comeback Wednesday night, getting the quarterback who turned the Denver Broncos from an also-ran into a playoff team last season and became the NFL’s most talked-about player — for a fourth- and sixth-round draft pick.
Now, Tebowmania is opening on Broadway.
Eight hours after initially agreeing to a deal, the teams completed the trade that was hung up when the Jets apparently balked at repaying Denver more than $5 million for a salary advance due Tebow. ESPN reported that the two sides had agreed to split that cost.
Despite ultimately pulling off the deal for Tebow, it’s just another bizarre moment for the Jets, a team that has had its share of them over the years, conjuring memories of Bill Belichick’s hiring as coach and his resignation one day later.
Just a few weeks after “Linsanity” swept the area and the rest of the NBA with the Knicks’ sensational Jeremy Lin, “Timsanity” now will take over New York.
“You’ve got a tough player on the field, a leader in the locker room and a guy who shares the faith that I share,” Jets defensive end Mike DeVito said. “So, I’m very grateful to have him on our team, and I feel it’s going to really benefit us as a whole.”
But not everyone’s a fan.
Another teammate, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, took to Twitter on Wednesday to express his confidence in Sanchez and the offense as structured before the deal.
“Y bring Tebow in when we need to bring in more Weapons for (at)Mark_Sanchez,” Cromartie tweeted. “Let’s build the team around him. We already signed to 3 year ext.”
The Jets signed Drew Stanton last week to be their No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Greg McElroy, the team’s seventh-round draft pick last year. General manager Mike Tannenbaum said Tuesday that he was confident in the trio, but added: “I’ll give you my standard answer, which is you never know if other opportunities present themselves. We’ll always look at it. That’s the standard line there, but we feel good about Greg, Drew and Mark, and see where we go from there.”
And that led them to Tebow.
But Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who led the Jets to their only Super Bowl title in 1969, was also among those unhappy.
“I’m just sorry that I can’t agree with this situation. I think it’s just a publicity stunt. I can’t go with it. I think it’s wrong,” Namath told 1050 ESPN Radio on Wednesday. “I don’t think they know what they’re doing over there.”
The effect Tebow’s presence will have on Sanchez remains to be seen. The Jets appear to be committed to him financially as their starter for at least the next two years, but a restless fan base that got down on Sanchez as he struggled late last season could call for Tebow to take over at the first sign of trouble.
Two minutes after the Jets initially posted the trade on its Facebook page, there were 874 “likes,” 366 comments and 247 shares. Most of the comments ran along the lines of: “I might cry” and “He is not welcome here, another terrible decision.”
The Jets certainly will have lots of explaining to do: Where was the misunderstanding? Who didn’t read the fine print? Why did the Jets announce the trade on its site and Facebook page before it was completely done?
Sure, they got headlines and were the talk of sports radio — even on a day when the New Orleans Saints received unprecedented punishment from the NFL for a bounty system that rocked the football world. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for next season, and former defensive coordinator Greg Williams, now with St. Louis, was banned indefinitely.
But even all that couldn’t overshadow another embarrassing episode for a franchise that has had to explain away several missteps in recent years.
The Jets are hoping Tebow can help change all that.
Tebow led the Broncos to the playoffs last season — along the way beating Sanchez and the Jets, who missed the postseason. But Denver executive John Elway believed Manning gave the team a better chance at winning a championship now.
For the Jets, Tebow adds a unique dimension to the offense, including running the team’s wildcat package — something new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano enjoys using. He also provides a solid presence in a locker room that was rife with infighting last season — particularly between Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
He also brings with him a flock of fervent fans for reasons that have to do as much with his faith as his football skills. A devout Christian, he’s been a role model since his days at Florida, when he led the Gators to two national titles and captured the Heisman Trophy.
Denver started shopping Tebow after signing Peyton Manning, and the Jets were considered a long shot as late as Tuesday night. But New York went hard after Tebow, envisioning him as a versatile complement to starter Mark Sanchez, who received a $40.5 million contract extension, with $20.5 million guaranteed, earlier this month. The Jets also had pursued Manning, but fell out of that race early when there wasn’t mutual interest.
As part of Tebow’s $11.25 million, five-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2010, he had a $6.277 million advance due 29 days after the start of the 2011 league year. That money was paid to him in August after the NFL lockout ended. The trade stalled over the payment the Jets would owe the Broncos from that advance.
That allowed Jacksonville to get back into the hunt, and it came down to the Jaguars and Jets.
“I think we have a duty to consider all avenues of improving the Jaguars on and off the field, especially given the unique circumstances involving the player,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement. “I am very satisfied with the outcome.”
On Tuesday, Sanchez spoke highly of both Tebow and Manning on Fox Sports Radio in Los Angeles.
“I think Peyton is going to do great, and I think Tim is going to do great no matter what happens,” Sanchez said on “The Petros &Money Show.” ”He can learn from one of the best quarterbacks to ever play or he moves on somewhere else and uses his skills at another ball club. He definitely has talent. He knows how to win. He knows how to impact players, so both guys are really in a good situation. It’ll work out for both of them.”
Tebow’s days were numbered in Denver when Manning chose the Broncos as his next destination. They are two entirely different quarterbacks and it made little sense to keep Tebow as a backup because the Broncos were going to have a vastly different offense under Manning, one of the most precise passers in league history.
Elway and Fox called Tebow on Monday night to tell him it was possible he would be traded.
Elway said he wanted to do right by Tebow, who took over a 1-4 team and led the Broncos to the AFC West title and a playoff win over Pittsburgh.
“As a former player, I know the last two weeks were not easy for Tim,” Elway said in a statement. “He was put in a difficult situation, and I commend him for how he handled it with the same first-class manner he displayed throughout his career in Denver.”