Look up the noun, ‘competition’, in your copy of Merriam-Webster and you’ll see listed under the second definition of the word, "a contest between rivals." In the case of the New York Jets, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are teammates competing with one another, yet with the same end goal of winning football games.
Look further and you’ll see the essence of what this word has meant to Mark Sanchez, at least since news broke earlier in the year that the Jets had traded for Tim Tebow. Sanchez has talked the talk to the media and Sunday afternoon he walked the walk, having one of the best games of his career in New York's victory over Buffalo.
Mark Sanchez is a competitor, and while he may not say these words in public, he appears to have taken the Jets acquisition of Tebow personally. Who wouldn’t in his position?
Tebow, as a result, became a fellow teammate—yet rival, as a fellow competitor for the New York Jets starting quarterback position.
While many may now feel that Sanchez was never truly going to be challenged by Tebow, many every day people have been there before in the workplace—seeing someone new come along to take our spot.
Tebow has not distinguished himself at the professional level as an efficient, precise passer, but he’s nevertheless won with his arm when needed and run for lots of yards on the ground. The man is a winner, whether his passing game is taken seriously or not.
And Sanchez knows it.
Sanchez was reportedly ‘rattled’ by news of the Tebow signing, but the polarizing former Heisman Trophy winner inspired him to work harder and push himself more than he ever had in his life. That is what competition is all about.
Head Coach Rex Ryan and Jets management fought hard to trade for Tim Tebow once Denver signed Peyton Manning to a lucrative free-agent deal. The Tebow acquisition was not exactly an ultimatum for Sanchez, but not far from it. Get better and work harder or we’re willing to entertain other options.
Cries from the media and fans this offseason that the Tebow acquisition was foolish and stupid since the Jets already had a young quarterback ready to blossom missed the point. Sanchez was handed the keys to a Mercedes three years ago—given the reins to lead a team with an elite defense, rock-solid offensive line and a promising young tailback.
Along the way, he’s gotten some nicks on the fender and he’s banged up the wheels a bit like he's run into some potholes on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. To be fair, Sanchez did make some improvements statistically last season as a passer.
Yet Mark Sanchez was the 23rd rated quarterback in the NFL last season. To put that in perspective, Sanchez had a season worse than the man who is now the backup quarterback of the team that Sanchez just thrashed on Sunday.
Sanchez can't turn in any performances that resemble his 2011 season—it simply won't get it done, particularly in New York. In the limelight of New York, it’s hard enough to perform with the media always questioning your every move. Sanchez didn’t make matters easy on himself with a mediocre 2012 season.
Sanchez has had tremendous inspiration in the exceptionally industrious Tebow. Say what you will about Tebow’s weak passing game, most players and coaches rave about a man with a work ethic the likes of which they’ve never witnessed. This is the exact kind of thing that makes a big difference on the practice fields and in the locker room.
Tim Tebow has to be wondering if his move to the Jets—particularly when the Jaguars expressed interest in bringing him on board— will be the right move for his career. Through one week of the 2012 NFL season, it appears Tebow's arrival in New York is exactly the competitive fire that Sanchez needed lit under him to take himself to a better level of play.
One game does not make a season. Yet maybe we caught a glimpse of a new man this past Sunday at Met Life Stadium. Mark Sanchez accepted the competitive challenge that fell into his lap once Tim Tebow became a New York Jet.
He rose to the occasion—magnificently—on Sunday. All it took was a little bit of competition and the foresight of Jets management to see that their No. 1 man needed a spark.
Smart move, Rex Ryan.