On the eve of their first training camp practice together, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow showed not even the slightest hint of ill will or controversy. With the Jets' grand experiment about to begin -- two first-round quarterbacks attempting to peacefully co-exist in a situation in which friction usually is the result -- Sanchez and Tebow promise this will be different.
"[Tebow] is huge; he can help any team. We're lucky to have him," Sanchez said yesterday as he checked into his dorm at SUNY Cortland. "It's going to work out well. He's only going to be an asset for us.''
Tebow returned the bouquets, calling his relationship with Sanchez "great" and saying, "I know that I'll support him and he'll support me."
Despite their heartfelt support for each other going into the season, history shows that two quarterbacks living side-by-side in harmony is more the exception than the rule, and that controversy can mar even the most well-intentioned plans.
Show us a team with two starting-caliber quarterbacks on the roster and we'll show you a situation that in the long term rarely works out.
But Rex Ryan is betting he can make this thing work, using Sanchez as his starter and sprinkling in doses of Tebow as a Wildcat quarterback capable of either running or passing, depending on the situation.
Ryan makes a plausible case, arguing that defenses often have difficulty preparing for Wildcat plays because such a different dynamic is created. But applying that theory to a 16-game season, in which plans go awry, is when it gets tricky to pull off.
Ryan scoffs at the doubters . . . even those on his roster.
"We have a clear-cut starting quarterback and we also have a great football player in Tim Tebow," Ryan said. "You know how I feel about the Wildcat. It puts a lot of pressure on defenses. I look at [Tebow] as a guy who can be a real asset to this football team."
"We brought him in to be a receiver, not the offensive coordinator," Ryan said, expressing support for the man who does hold that position, Tony Sparano. "We'll make those decisions. We'll do what's in the best interest of this football team."
Said Sparano, "I appreciate Rex saying that."
Holmes was not available for comment yesterday.
Ryan may have opened the door -- albeit slightly -- to using Tebow in a more extensive role when he was asked if he'd consider taking snaps away from Sanchez if he struggles.
"I'm here to win games," Ryan said. "If Mark physically isn't ready to go or if [some other] player is not ready to go, I hope we have the guys on this team that will step in and be able to step it up. But we'll do whatever's in the best interest of this football team and what gives us the best chance to win."
Hmmm. That sure sounds as though he's leaving himself some wiggle room in the event Sanchez doesn't play well. At the very least, Ryan did not offer a blanket "Sanchez plays no matter what" statement.
Controversy? Certainly not yet, when the optimistic glow of training camp still is new and warm. Only when the regular season is here will Ryan's decision-making be tested in earnest, especially in the event Sanchez hits a rough patch. For now, it's all good.
"I'm going to be ready . . . to play and I'm ready to lead this team," Sanchez said. "I know that mentally, you have to be strong in this position and this town. I'll be ready for it."
Sanchez deftly dealt with an awkward moment during his news conference Thursday when someone began a question by calling him Tim. "I'm Mark," he said. Nice.
And Tebow has managed to adjust his mind-set to a lesser role, at least for now. Not an easy proposition, especially after leading the Broncos to the playoffs last season after taking over for Kyle Orton.
"Every year is a new situation, a new time," he said. "I'm not going to look back on the past. I'm just going to live in the present. Just one day at a time, one play at a time, one meeting at a time . . . worrying about how I can get better every single day."
Smart answer. For now, anyway.
Check back when the games start and see if the feeling stays the same. The two quarterbacks may be getting along great now, but this is the NFL, where things change in a hurry.