Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Where is the next link in the chain?

It has been crazy in the NFL this week, and the annual draft isn't until next month. Perhaps subconsciously, the player movement in the league in the last 48 hours is the league's way of stealing some of the thunder from the NCAA basketball tournaments, which is supposed to be priority one fare for most sports junkies this time of year.

On Monday, Peyton Manning, set adrift by Indianapolis 2 weeks ago after sitting out the entire 2011 season with a neck injury, signed with Denver. The fawning media hordes followed his every move, and almost everyone agreed he would stay in the AFC and avoid going to an NFC team that would probably play against brother Eli and the Super Bowl champion Giants. Oh, sure, San Francisco was a player, along with Tennessee, and the only real selling point for the Titans was that it'd have been a homecoming of sorts for Manning, who played his college ball at the university. The 49ers re-signed their QB, Alex Smith, once they realized they weren't getting Manning.

Once the deal was done, the speculation turned to Denver's incumbent QB, Tim Tebow, who, when last on the field, was royally toasted by the Patriots for the 2nd time in as many months. The media began to guess where Tebow was headed next, because it was clear he wasn't going to be mentored by Manning, although common sense would've suggested that should've been the plan. Instead, within the last hour, Tebow was sent to the New York Jets for 4th round pick in next month's draft.

The Jets' Antonio Cromartie, quoted in today's New York Post, claimed the Jets didn't need Tebow and his adoring followers. Mark Sanchez, the Jets' incumbent QB, had just signed an extension for 2 more years, but the truth is he has been rather inconsistent in the three years he's started for "Gang Green", despite two AFC title game appearances. Not only that, but the Jets were one of the teams Tebow beat during the regular season, so now he'll be on their sideline, but will Sanchez share the spotlight with him?

The ensuing duel in training camp this July will make for some juicy back-page headlines, the kind usually reserved during the summer for the Yankees & Mets. It wouldn't surprise me, then, if Sanchez pouts in private, it gets out in the media, and they'll call for him to be traded before the draft. If the Jets are actually smart about this, they won't take the bait. Former Miami coach Tony Sparano is the new offensive coordinator and the creator of the "Wildcat" offensive schematic that has been in vogue in recent years. The Jets have needed a "Wildcat" QB since Brad Smith left for Buffalo after the 2010 season, so Tebow would fit in there, to hide the shortcomings that have been exposed since his pro debut in '10.

Kevin Blackistone, on ESPN's Around The Horn on Tuesday, had suggested that New England, of all places, would've been a fit for Tebow, but there, they'd be toying with the idea of converting him into a fullback. Uh, no, I don't think that'd work at all. Some online pundits were suggesting the same thing. The last thing everyone else wants to see is the Patriots getting richer than they need to be. They just picked up another Colt, Anthony Gonzalez, and welcomed back Donte Stallworth to shore up their receiving corps in the last few days. So, essentially, the Jets traded for Tebow so New England wouldn't get him. Kind of like the Yankees trading for someone to keep him away from the Red Sox. It's part of the business of the game.

If anything, Tebow vs. Sanchez in training camp should motivate the latter into getting his game focus back in gear, so that they're both in sync come September. Then again, this is New York, where the obsessive media is bound to cause things to get screwed up anyway.

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