Say this about Tim Tebow: He’s excited to be with the New York Jets.
He sure said so — over and over and over again.
He started with it. He finished with it. He never allowed anyone to get him off message.
If was a deft strategy for defusing those piranhas in the New York media, who surely came with snarling teeth, ready to rip him apart, but got nothing more than how utterly thrilled Tebow was to have been deposed by the team he led to the playoffs last season (that would be the Denver Broncos) and traded to Team Dysfunction (that would very much be the Jets).
He looked questioners in the eye, throwing in the extra touch of bending ever so slightly in their direction from the podium, just to show how much he really cared about their queries. He smiled frequently and easily. It was all so disarming.
Did we mention he’s excited?
But let’s put aside that seven-letter word for a moment and cut to the chase: If the Jets are using Tebow to steal away some of the thunder from their stadium-sharing rivals, the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, don’t view him as an unwitting pawn.
He’s very much using the Jets right back.
Turns out, for all those opinions of Tebow, which range from someone we’d want our daughters to marry to a religious zealot masquerading as a legitimate NFL quarterback, the real answer is not nearly as juicy.
He’s a pragmatist, pure and simple, at least when it came to deciding his post-Denver future.
After the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, Tebow weighed his options. He could return to his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., just up the road from where he won a national title and the Heisman Trophy, to help resurrect the lowly Jaguars. Or, he could go to the nation’s media epicenter, to play for a better team that already has a starting quarterback, but is so starved for attention it threw out the possibility of significant snaps out of the wildcat. And — this is important — it would give him a much bigger canvas to add much bolder strokes to the Tebow brand, which, to his credit, involves some very significant charity work and willingness to be a role model.
While his most fervent fans probably thought the Jaguars were the logical choice, it appears Tebow had his eye on the bright lights all along, not unlike another Jets quarterback who came along before him, pushing a much different message.
Broadway Tim, he’s not, but Tebow surely knows — as Joe Namath did — that being the Big Cheese in the Big Apple is a chance to become even more of a household name. Think Linsanity would’ve caught fire the way it did anywhere else? And don’t think a straight arrow like Tebow will necessarily be out of place in a city some view as just a notch above Sodom.
Tebow seemed to get it all along, though he made every effort to pretend otherwise..
That was the part that seemed insincere during a 35-minute news conference, which served as his introduction to New York.
If you didn’t let all the “exciteds” distract you — the unofficial tally was somewhere around 40 — there was clear insight into how this whole thing came down.
For instance, despite Tebow trying to paint himself as a player who just went where he was told, it’s clear the Broncos consulted him and dealt him where he wanted to go.
“Ultimately, they had my contract. They had all the power,” Tebow insisted. Then, he conceded, “They listened to me and what I had to say. That was very gracious of them. They didn’t have to do that.”
If one needed additional evidence this deal came with Tebow’s full endorsement, think about how he went on about his close relationship with fiery Jets coach Rex Ryan — boy, is that an odd couple — and the incumbent quarterback whose job he’ll be trying to take, Mark Sanchez. Tebow said he had no such relationship with the folks in Jacksonville, where there’s a new owner, new coaching staff, and a rebuilding team.
Fair enough. But it wasn’t exactly clear how Tebow became such fast friends with the guys in green, other than sharing an agent with Ryan and an occasional promotional appearance with Sanchez.
On Ryan: “Gosh, I’m trying to remember the first place we met.”
On Sanchez: “Gosh, when was the first time we met?”
The aw-shucks routine wasn’t quite so persuasive on a couple of other points, either.
Tebow acted genuinely surprised that so many reporters, an estimated 200, showed up for his meet-the-New York-press event.
“Blame the guys upstairs,” he quipped. “They wanted me to do it.”
Asked whether he had instructed some of his endorsement partners to back off, notably Jockey, after it plastered a giant billboard above the Lincoln Tunnel displaying for millions of motorists Tebow’s determined mug and the message: “We Support Tebow &” — oh, yeah — “New York.”
Again, he pleaded no-contest.
“I have not had a chance to talk to them,” he said, “but I guess they are pretty excited.”
Ah, there’s that word again.
Everyone, it seems, is excited.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.