Theismann: Tebow trade is trouble waiting to happen

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Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow meet at midfield

Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow meet at midfield after the Broncos defeated the Jets 17-13 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (Nov. 17, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Bob Glauber Newsday columnist Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets and

Joe Theismann is still shaking his head about the Jets' trade for Tim Tebow. And not just because the Jets swung the deal less than two weeks after extending Mark Sanchez's contract through the 2016 season. No, the former Redskins quarterback still can't figure out why Tebow is so happy about the deal.

"I can't imagine in my wildest dreams Tim Tebow wanting to go to the Jets," said Theismann, whose Redskins won the Super Bowl after the 1982 season and reached the title game the following year. "Why would you want to be a part-time quarterback? There's only one way to become a successful quarterback over a long period of time, and Tim needs to work on his ability to become a more accurate passer. This isn't the way to get it done."

Theismann thought the much better option for Tebow was the Jaguars, his hometown team and the only other club that actively pursued him in trade talks.

"He could have easily won the starting job and been a marketing dream," Theismann said. "Instead, he's going to the Jets to play, what, eight or 10 plays a game? C'mon."

But Tebow to the Jets is only half the problem for Theismann. He thinks the Jets have essentially doomed incumbent starter Sanchez, even if general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan repeatedly have said Sanchez will remain the team's No. 1 quarterback and Tebow will be used in limited Wildcat packages that stress his running ability.

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Theismann doesn't buy it. And he knows from experience just how difficult it is to survive a quarterback controversy, regardless of the coach's best intentions.

"I really love golf, and playing the position of quarterback is very similar," said Theismann, who starred at Notre Dame and for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts before joining the Redskins in 1974. "You get into the flow of the game. If you make a mistake, you process it, and you move forward. But in the case of Mark Sanchez, you make a mistake, and no man alive will be in a position not to think about when the hook is coming."

The cultlike status of Tebow, who has developed a fiercely loyal following during his days at Florida and Denver, potentially makes the situation even more unsettling.

"You took a one-ring circus and turned it into a three-ring circus," Theismann said. "Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey should be envious of the New York Jets. Rex is a ring unto himself. Mark's situation now becomes a ring unto itself. Now you have time. And oh, by the way, performing in a smaller ring is [receiver] Santonio Holmes."

The craziness of the situation will be made all the more extreme by the fact that the Jets perform in the world's largest media market.

"It's like the New York media walked en masse into a casino, put a dollar in a slot machine and they won a million dollars," Theismann said.

He can only imagine how crazy it's going to get. After all, Theismann himself went through one of the most closely watched quarterback controversies of his generation. In 1978, he beat out incumbent Billy Kilmer and went through one of the most difficult periods of his career.

"And that was before things like Twitter and 24-hour TV coverage," Theismann said. "It was nothing compared to what you have now."

Theismann also was a backup during the Sonny Jurgensen-Kilmer controversy of the '70s, a competition so polarizing that fans would show up to games with pins that read "I like Sonny" or "I like Billy." And then Theismann was at the center of another controversy, when he beat out Kilmer.

"Billy and I didn't like each other," Theismann said. "I had what he wanted, and that was the starting job. He didn't talk to me for six straight weeks. Not a single word. We'd be in the meeting room with the offensive coordinator [Joe Walton]. He said nothing to me. Not a word. You walked by and said hello, and he didn't even acknowledge I existed.

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"I learned then that if you really want to screw with someone's head, don't yell at them. Ignore them. That really screwed with my head back then."

Sanchez and Tebow are friends, but Theismann knows that relationship will come under tremendous strain.

"You have two diametrically opposite people in their performance from last year," Theismann said. "If Mark had a chance to make a play, he fumbled or threw an interception returned for a touchdown at the wrong time. Tim broke tackles, made first downs and won football games. He had tremendous momentum, and he built a tremendous following."

And now the fallout awaits.

"It's going to be crazy," Theismann said. "I don't know that we've ever seen one like this."

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