There were also some key differences. In the wake of the Jets' 48-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills, I consider the similarities and differences and analyze what they mean for the Jets and for Jets fans going forward.
In some ways, the two games were almost identical.
In Week 1 of the 2010 season, the Broncos opened at the Atlanta Falcons on September 17th. In this game, Tebow—the backup quarterback at the time—came in early in the first quarter for a cameo appearance at wide receiver. He was not involved in the play, but the choice to put him there made a statement.
Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano did the exact same thing on Sunday, putting Tebow at slot wide receiver on the first play of the game.
Other aspects of the two games were similar, as well. In his first game with the Broncos, Tebow was involved in two more offensive plays, running for two yards. On Sunday, Tebow touched the ball nine times on offense, a mixture of short runs and handoffs.
In each case, he was a complete nonfactor and was used as an unconventional running back.
Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez threw three touchdowns and effectively no interceptions. (There was one fake interception on a blown call.) The starting quarterback for the Broncos in 2010, Kyle Orton, had one of his better in games Week 1—295 yards and a touchdown with a 64-percent completion rate.
How will you respond if Tebow throws zero passes this year?
There are three big differences that ensure New York will not witness something similar to what occurred in Denver.
The first are the starting quarterbacks.
Ignoring the fact that Sanchez played better on Sunday than Orton ever has in an NFL game, Sanchez and Orton have not been in similar situations. Orton came into the 2010 and 2011 seasons on somewhat hot seats. Playing in his sixth and seventh years, respectively, he was already a veteran journeyman with a low ceiling.
On the other hand, Sanchez—a first-round choice by New York in 2009—is the established franchise quarterback of the Jets. After three seasons of continual improvement, he continues to have the complete support of head coach Rex Ryan (via NBC Sports):
As a rookie, it was like he was looked as a weakness of our football team. I said there’s going to be a day when he’s looked as a strength, not a weakness. I think that day is right now.
The second difference is special teams. Tebow had his most notable impact on Sunday with the Jets special teams, recovering an onside kick. He also blocked for every punt.
Tebow has a role on this team that makes him worth his pay check, even if he does not throw a pass all season.
Keeping him on the sidelines will not bother many fans and will not seem like a waste.
The final difference is that New York City is not the same as Denver. Fans in New York City have the highest expectations of those in any city, to the point of irrationality. Tebow excited a lot of people in Denver with an 8-8 season, but we saw last year how New York fans respond to 8-8 seasons.
New York fans know the spread-option offense has a relatively low ceiling in the NFL, even when run to perfection.
Tebow was even booed early in his first game in New York. Jets fans may not all love Mark Sanchez. But that does not mean they have any great love for Tim Tebow.