The Denver Broncos just sent their country mouse — quarterback Tim Tebow — to the Big Apple. They threw Little Red Riding Tim to the Big Bad Wolves. They traded the NFL's biggest choirboy to the league's rowdiest, most dysfunctional band, the New York Jets.
Just when we thought "Tebowmania" couldn't get any crazier, it was ratcheted up several notches by the Broncos, who conveniently brushed it off their lap. Now the Jets have to manage the circus, including the quarterback controversy that's certain to brew if Mark Sanchez stumbles. Only a return engagement on HBO's Hard Knocks would make this scenario more interesting.
"I wanted to play for Coach [Rex] Ryan ever since I saw Hard Knocks," Tebow said of the Jets' foulmouthed leader. "He just seemed like a coach who loves football and is passionate about the game of football. He's definitely a players' coach. I just love that about him."
When Tebow led the Broncos to an 8-8 record, followed by a playoff victory against Pittsburgh, he was the veritable Pied Piper of Denver. Every player in the locker room rallied around him, as did fans across the country. It didn't matter that most NFL personnel executives consider Tebow too flawed to succeed long-term. Tebowmania is fueled by faith more than football, with true believers convinced that a higher power is at work.
New Yorkers, however, are much more skeptical, cynical and downright ornery when they see fit. If Tebow stinks up the joint, they'll boo him until his ears bleed, using the Lord's name in vain with every other breath.
His new teammates might be worse. As reports surfaced that the Jets were interested in making the trade, cornerback Antonio Cromartie made his position clear: "We don't need Tebow," he wrote on Twitter. "We sell out every home game. Let him go to Jacksonville, Tampa or Miami."
This is the same team in which several players used anonymous quotes to criticize Sanchez. They lobbied for the Jets to acquire quarterback Peyton Manning (who instead landed in Denver and thereby made Tebow expendable). Halfback LaDainian Tomlinson said that the team chemistry and the relationship between Sanchez and Jets star wide receiver Santonio Holmes "is as bad as I've ever been around, honestly. And I've been around some locker rooms and quarterback-receiver situations and what-not. But it was as bad as I've been around."
And the most famous Jets player ever, Joe Namath, ripped the trade before Tebow's flight to New York was in the air. "I think it stinks," the Hall of Fame quarterback said, concerned about the possible negative effect on Sanchez's psyche.
Tebow isn't in Denver anymore. This is going to take a while to get used to, and it might never look or feel right.