So yesterday, the New York Jets played the Arizona Cardinals in what will go down in the annals as maybe actually the single most unwatchable game in the history of sport. They won 7-6, but that wasn’t the important part, because they still suck and are only 5-7 on the season, and although their last four games (at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, home to San Diego and at Buffalo) are in theory all winnable, and although they’re still not technically eliminated from the playoffs, you’re doing white drugs if you think they’re going to the playoffs. What was important, however, was that Mark Sanchez threw three picks before half, forcing still-svelte-ish head coach Rex Ryan, down 3-0 midway through the third quarter, to do what pundits and fans alike have been begging Rex Ryan to do since Sanchez was drafted into the league: sit his ass down.
This, of course, was supposed to be the coronation of Tim Tebow, when he checked into the game and led the lowly Jets to a late score, cemented his spot as the starter,willed his team to a late playoff birth and was traded in the offseason because, hey, Sanchez still has $8.5 million guaranteed on his contract next year and it ain’t like anyone’s about to trade for him. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith would yell and act super duper indignant while everyone else from Skip Bayless to Chris Berman would loudly orgasm through the camera and into our private lives. Also, lots of stuff about Jesus.
That didn’t happen, though, because in what is unquestionable proof that God exists and has a plan for us all, Tebow was out recovering from two broken ribs. So Ryan who, it must be noted, will almost definitely be in search of a new employer in a short month’s time, gave Sanchez a literal clipboard to hold and called on second-year, slightly ginger quarterback Greg McElroy. Of course McElroy, in his NFL debut, promptly marched 69 yards down the field on his first drive and threw the go-ahead one-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland, because sometimes in sports, hilarious shit happens. So now Ryan’s got a bona fide, quarterback controversy on his hands.
Ryan was predictably defiant after the win, telling press, “I’ll let you guys know who’s going to be quarterback when I’m ready to.” But from the outside, he doesn’t have much of a choice but to break with the quarterback he’s been married to since they both joined the Jets in 2009, in hopes something insane happens and they stop being so bad and make playoffs so that, maybe, he can keep his job. His choices are McElroy, a great college QB who’s still unproven in the NFL, and a soon-to-be-healthy Tebow, who like Sanchez is also an awesomely bad thrower, albeit an awesomely bad thrower who can run a little faster and “really knows how to play the game of football,” which apparently means something even though he only plays one position, and doesn’t play it very well.
Our hunch, for what it’s worth, is that Tebow plays, because he went 8-5 last year as the Denver Broncos starter, and because the fans want him, and because, well, the Jets traded him for a reason, and that reason is ostensibly because we all knew this day would come, and the Jets didn’t want to have to turn to, say, Greg McElroy when it arrived.
Tebow’s a cult hero, specifically among the evangelical fanbase, which at best is happy that such an openly pious athlete has had a modicum of success in the league, and at worst takes that modicum as evidence of YHWH Himself. Until Ryan announces a starter for next week’s game, you’ll be hearing a lot of Tebow, even though he was unable to suit up this week, and even though he has thrown for exactly 3.25 dozen yards so far this season. As Jets linebacker Bartholomew Edward Scott would say, “Can’t wait.”