Gird yourselves, Miami. Hurricane Tebow is on its way.
Tim Tebow, the one-man circus, returns to town Sunday. Just without the pomp and circumstance as his last visit to Sun Life Stadium.
For one, he’s not the Jets starting quarterback (at least not yet). And two, the organization isn’t throwing a party in his college team’s honor this time.
But even if he’s merely the Jets’ backup QB and punt protector, Tebow can expect plenty of true-blue fans in the stands. Just think of the excitement if he actually gets on the field.
“Don’t make more of it than it is; please don’t,” linebacker Kevin Burnett pleaded. “Tebow’s going to come in for about five [plays].”
Everything Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner and evangelical hero, does is overhyped. GQ magazine put him on the cover of its football preview edition. NFL.com has a webpage dedicated solely to his highlights, entitled – appropriately enough – the TebowZone.
There’s no way around it. Tebow – who has even fielded questions about his post-career political aspirations (he has them) – has moved beyond simply being an athlete.
Love him or hate him, he’s an icon. But count Jared Odrick and Brian Hartline among the many who simply don’t understand why.
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“You don’t want my real answer to that,” Odrick said, when asked to explain the nation’s infatuation with Tebow, the Florida Gator great. “I’d be on the front page of every newspaper. And I’d definitely be on Deadspin.”
Added Hartline: “Everybody loves him, but the same people go with the Kardashians. I don’t know what they did either. They’re on every cover, everywhere.”
Hartline quickly clarified, because he knows all-to-well what Tebow can do.
“Tim Tebow won a lot of football games in college. He’s won basically wherever he’s gone.”
Heck, there’s a chance Tebow’s surreal run through the 2011 season – during which he engineered six fourth-quarter comebacks – would never have happened without his improbable rally at Sun Life.
Tebow, making his first start of the year when the Broncos visited Miami last October, looked awful for the game’s first 55 minutes. But against all odds, he engineered a 15-point rally – throwing for two touchdowns in the game’s final 2:44 – to send the game into overtime.
The Broncos ultimately won the game in overtime, went on to make the playoffs, and even beat the Steelers in the Wild Card round, courtesy – of course – of a storybook Tebow touchdown pass.
Yet there’s been no Tebow magic yet this year. He simply hasn’t had the chance. The Broncos dealt Tebow to New York after signing Peyton Manning, and while he seems like a perfect triggerman for Tony Sparano’s Wildcat offense, the Jets have hardly used him.
Through two games, Tebow has appeared in just 13 offensive snaps, running six times for 33 yards.
After the Jets’ beatdown at the hands of the Steelers last week – during which Tebow saw the field merely three times on offensive – the New York media took coach Rex Ryan to task.
Ryan was none too pleased, saying he – and not they – determine Tebow’s use.
Asked a similar question by Miami reporters via conference call, Ryan was a bit subdued:
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“Each week is a different situation,” Ryan said. “Sometimes we can run [the Wildcat] more and sometimes we can run it less. You really don’t know how much involvement he’s going to have in a game plan week to week.”
Meanwhile Tebow’s presence has created a potentially awkward situation for Mark Sanchez – the Jets starter who led New York to the AFC championship game in each of his two seasons.
Sanchez was gracious Wednesday, saying the relationship has been a good one, and Tebow has helped the team quite a bit.
“He’s a positive influence on everybody,” Sanchez. “He’s a great teammate to have.”
Exactly how much Tebow will help the team Sunday remains to be seen.
The Dolphins are preparing as if they’ll see the familiar gimmick offense, but not going too crazy. There are only many hours in the day, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said, and plenty more to get ready for than Tebow.
“You still have to stop the run,” Burnett added.
And when asked if he understood ‘Tebowmania’, Burnett said no.
“It’s a case of, you’ve got a good PR guy,” Burnett added. “I need to call him up, find out who he is.”