'Yes!' Now the Tebow-Sanchez chatter counts

Mark Sanchez, left, and Tim Tebow of the

Mark Sanchez, left, and Tim Tebow of the New York Jets look on from the sidelines against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. (Aug. 18, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Neil Best

Newsday columnist Neil Best Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned

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Millions of words have given their lives in anticipation of the Jets' Tim Tebow Era.

On Sunday, at last, it will be time for the first utterances about things that truly matter, when the team takes the field and we see how it all plays out.

CBS will mark the occasion by deploying a most interesting team to describe the action for the majority of us who will watch on television.

Unofficially, Marv Albert and Rich Gannon rank fourth on CBS' NFL depth chart, but they are an ideal pairing for two of the Jets' first three games -- Sunday against the Bills and Sept. 23 against the Dolphins.

One is an iconic New York voice; the other spent two days in the spring of 2010 tutoring a young quarterback who was coming off an uneven rookie season. Yup, Mark Sanchez.

Let's start with Marv. "It certainly gives us a lot to talk about -- very compelling issues," he said. "I love it from a television point of view. If Sanchez gets off to a bad start, they'll be roaring."

Albert was less excited about the move itself than the story lines it dropped into his lap.

"You never know when you're coming in, when you're coming out," he said. "Mark Sanchez is saying all the right things, but I don't know if it's a good idea as opposed to having a young backup behind him . . . I'm kind of skeptical."

Soon Albert, grasping for historical precedent, was comparing the plan to share the quarterback job to what the Giants used to do with Charlie Conerly and Don Heinrich in the 1950s, and comparing Tebow's throwing style to those of Billy Kilmer and Joe Kapp.

Well, those guys did win plenty of games. But back to the 21st century: What does Gannon think of all this, given that the 2002 NFL MVP was called in by the Jets only two years ago to work with Sanchez?

Like Albert, Gannon was jazzed as a broadcaster. "It's going to be a big topic," he said. "Everybody wants to know about Tebow. It's amazing."

Football-wise, though . . .

"I think it's going to be a challenge for Tony Sparano and how they utilize him. One thing you need to keep in mind is Tim Tebow is used to playing 65 plays in a game. Now all of a sudden it's going to be 'OK, we'll throw you in for a play. Now come on out and sit on the sidelines for 15 minutes. Now we'll get you in for two plays.'

"It's kind of hard to get your timing and rhythm. And how is that going to impact Sanchez, where you're standing on the sideline for a key third down?"

Gannon believes Sanchez has the physical tools to succeed but still must improve in decision-making, completion percentage, ball security, third-down conversions and fourth-quarter production. Is that all?

In 2010, Gannon and Sanchez watched video of every sack and interception from Sanchez's rookie season.

What is a bit alarming is the Sanchez to-do list that Gannon shared with me last month was nearly identical to the one he cited in a 2010 interview with USA Today shortly after his sessions with Sanchez.

"He completed 53 percent of his passes, and if just a handful of things changed, that number could jump to 63 percent," he said then.

Two weeks ago he said: "Completion percentage is an area where he has to get better. All the good ones now are well over 60 percent, 63, 64, 65. Over the course of the season, if you're 58 or 59 versus 63, that is a lot of throws, a lot of extra possessions."

Sanchez improved from 53.8 percent as a rookie to 56.7 in 2011. By Gannon's math, that is not good enough. And now there will be an intriguing alternative standing on the sideline.

Sounds like great TV. "We have to talk about it," Gannon said. "It's something I think is fascinating."

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