The biggest story in the National Football League this offseason may well have been the courting and eventual signing of quarterback Peyton Manning, but the past couple of weeks have been all about the trade that sent quarterback Tim Tebow from the Broncos to the New York Jets, a deal that has polarized fans and the media.
Bringing the wildly popular and wildly erratic passer to the Big Apple was viewed as a curious football decision by many, especially in light of the three-year contract extension that the team inked starting quarterback Mark Sanchez to after their failed pursuit of Manning, an extension that outspoken ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith railed against.
It's bad enough that Rex Ryan has failed on his Super Bowl predictions. It's even worse that Mark Sanchez spent so much time last season proving how ridiculous such guarantees were in the first place. But this latest move by the New York Jets -- in which they've basically resorted to their same old coddling tendencies, rewarding regression instead of progression -- just shows this franchise to be the second-class citizen it truly is.
As ill-received as the Sanchez extension was by Smith and others, the Tebow trade has become even more of a lead feather for the organization, with none other than the Jets most famous player ever going so far as to say that the deal may have less to do with winning football games and more to do with public relations.
"I do not agree with this situation," former Jets quarterback Joe Namath said. "I can't agree with it. I just think it's a publicity stunt. I really think it's wrong. I can't go for it."
Namath said he thought bringing Tebow in wasn't best for the franchise, in particular Sanchez. Clearly, Tebow's popularity would rival the current starter's, and add pressure that Sanchez wasn't expecting.
"I don't think they know what they're doing over there right now," Namath said. "They give Sanchez a new contract, they pat him on the back and then they bring in two more quarterbacks."
It could well be that Namath is at least partially correct on this account, as the team's unsuccessful bid for Manning and subsequent "apology extension" to Sanchez had gotten the Jets raked over the proverbial coals by the notoriously acerbic New York media.
Or, as Patton Dodd, author of "The Tebow Mystique" told CBS News, it could be that the Jets organization is hoping that Tebow's squeaky-clean image will help to rehabilitate the perception that Gang Green has become the dysfunctional bad boys of the National Football League.
Now that the Oakland Raiders are on good behavior, the Jets have assumed the title of the NFL's bad boys: brash, mouthy, itching to stir up trouble. Oh, it's entertaining at first; at times, "Hard Knocks" felt like a football version of "Dance Moms."
But the act can wear thin fast — especially when a team and its coach aren't winning.
Tebow "models this life of serving other people, of selflessness, these character traits that, at end of day, are conducive to winning," Dodd said. "Even though his status as an NFL quarterback is open to question and we don't know what we're getting from him as a quarterback, you definitely know what you're getting from him as a person and that's a person of character. Strong leadership ability, the capacity to rally people around him.
"Maybe they're hoping that will rub off on people."
At least one player believes that Gang Green's interest in Tebow was all about green, as the Christian Post reported that outspoken free-agent linebacker Joey Porter believes that Tebow's acquisition by the Jets was much more about putting butts in the seats than it was about putting points on the scoreboard.
"Anybody who brings him in right now, you would think they're trying to do it for ticket sales. So it's just like, it's good to have a Justin Bieber because you're gonna get a whole of (fans). That's what I compare it to. He's the Justin Bieber of the NFL."
Regardless of the Jets' motivations behind this "publicity stunt," if that's indeed what it was, then it's one one of the most poorly executed publicity stunts of all time, as the team continues to be blasted by the media, a Jets locker room that was wracked by dissension last year appears to be more divided than ever, and ESPN's Johnette Howard believes that the worst is still to come, as the Jets newest controversy continues to grow by the day.
The Jets' decision to trade two lower-round draft picks for Tebow, and then plow ahead with the deal despite the violent backlash that instantly rose up when the deal was announced, is the sort of publicity-mongering move that's likely to make an already divided locker room of Jets players throw up their hands and flatline. Not pull closer together and rise up.
If this truly was a stunt, then it ranks right up there with this and this in the annals of things that may have seemed like good ideas at the time, but upon implementation turned out to be anything but.
Better hold on to those handlebars, Rex. The ride's about to get bumpy.