A day after welcoming future Hall of Famer Manning to Denver, which turned Tebow into a one-year wonder as the Broncos starting quarterback, Tebow and a seventh-round draft pick were shipped to the Jets for a fourth-round and a sixth-round pick.
In a whirlwind three days, “Manningmania” replaced “Tebowmania” in Denver and “Timsanity” is headed to the Big Apple.
Manning, perhaps the most coveted NFL free agent ever, chose the Broncos as his new team on Monday, March 19. That decision made Tebow, the quarterback who last season led Denver to its first playoff appearance in six years with a string of dramatic comebacks, suddenly expendable.
Manning, the four-time NFL MVP released by the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, signed a five-year deal with Denver, reportedly worth $96 million. He was introduced as the Broncos’ new QB at a press conference in Denver on Tuesday, March 20.
“This truly is a special football environment. I’m glad to be a part of it. In the end, I felt the Broncos were just a great fit,” Manning said after holding up his familiar No. 18 jersey. The number had been retired in Denver in honor of Frank Tripucka, the franchise’s first quarterback in 1960. He has given Manning permission to wear it.
Two of the highest-profile QBs in the NFL, each with very different resumes, now have new homes. Manning steps in immediately as the starter in Denver with the only question mark being his health. He turns 36 Saturday, March 24 and he missed all of last season after a series of surgeries to repair nerve damage in his neck.
Tebow’s role with the Jets is uncertain. Earlier this month, the Jets gave incumbent QB Mark Sanchez a three-year, $40.5 contract extension. It remains to be seen if Tebow will complement Sanchez or compete with him for the No. 1 job.
Tebow and Sanchez have each been criticized for their throwing ability, but Tebow became one of the most-discussed figures in sports as much for his outspoken fundamentalist Christian beliefs as for his play. The former Heisman Trophy winner from Florida took over as the Broncos starter when the team was 1-4 and through a series of remarkable comebacks, led them into the playoffs.
Well before his touchdown pass gave the Broncos a 28-23 overtime playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tebow had become a cultural phenomenon and sparked spirited debate over his religion and playing ability. Now, he brings all that attention to the biggest media market in the country and joins a team that finished last season in turmoil.
Meanwhile, the Manning move boosted Broncos ticket sales almost immediately. Sales of their season tickets on StubHub.com rose about 25 percent, StubHub spokeswoman Joellen Ferrer told Bloomberg News. Ferrer told TicketNews that Broncos tickets had totaled 65,000 page views on StubHub on Monday, March 19 and was the online ticket reseller’s top search on Tuesday, March 20 along with NCAA Tournament tickets. The next closest NFL team was the San Francisco 49ers at 5,000 page views.
Tebow’s popularity and the ensuing media frenzy fueled a price surge and increased demand for Broncos tickets on the secondary market last season. Manning’s presence should continue to add to that. In February 2012, the team announced its first ticket price increases in three years. More than 45,000 seats at Sports Authority Field will be see $2 to $15 increases. The Broncos’ average ticket price of $76.75 was 10th in the 32-team NFL last season.
Dates and times of the NFL schedule will be released in late April, but the opponents are already known. A Denver team that went 8-8 in the regular season faces some challenging opponents for Manning. Based on records from last season, the Broncos have the second-most difficult schedule in the league. It includes a home rematch with the Steelers, one of seven playoff teams the Broncos face.
Other marquee games include a visit to the New Orleans Saints. Manning grew up in New Orleans, where his father, Archie, played quarterback for the Saints. There are also road games at the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, all playoff teams.
Perhaps the most-anticipated game on the schedule is a visit to Foxborough, Mass., where Manning will renew his rivalry with quarterback Tom Brady and the AFC champion New England Patriots. Look for a prime-time Sunday night or Monday night spot for that match-up.
By choosing to remain in the AFC, Manning keeps alive the possibility of meeting his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, in the Super Bowl. Eli has led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories, both over Brady’s Patriots, including this past February 2012. Peyton Manning led the Colts to one Super Bowl victory in 2007. In 2013, Super Bowl XLVII is at the Superdome in the Mannings’ hometown of New Orleans.
Las Vegas odds-makers boosted the Broncos chances to win the Super Bowl from 50-1 to 10-1 after Manning chose Denver. Still, he hasn’t played since January 2011 and his deal with Denver reportedly includes language that protects the Broncos should the neck problem leave Manning unable to play.
Until he missed last season, Manning started every game for the Colts since he was the No. 1 pick out of the University of Tennessee in 1998. Indianapolis, which averaged 12 victories a season the past 10 years with Manning, dropped to 2-14 without him. The dismal season clinched the No. 1 overall pick in NFL draft for the Colts, who are expected to use it next month to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Rather than pay an aging quarterback whose health is suspect, Colts owner Jim Irsay decided to release the QB who had been the face of the franchise and an icon in Indianapolis.
Manning’s availability presented a unique opportunity for the Broncos’ vice president John Elway, who is himself a Hall of Fame quarterback for Denver as a player. Despite publicly voicing support for Tebow as his starter for this season, Elway, like many other NFL observers, had reservations about Tebow.
After the deal was first reported Wednesday, March 21, it was held up by language in Tebow’s contract that required the Jets to pay the Broncos $5 million. That late snag allowed Tebow’s hometown Jacksonville Jaguars to make a bid for him. The deal with the Jets was completed after the Broncos agreed to accept $2.5 million from the Jets and, according to ESPN, Tebow expressed a preference to go to New York instead of Jacksonville.
The Jets visit Jacksonville this season in what should be another interesting match-up, particularly for the fans’ reaction.
Like the Broncos, the Jets went 8-8 last season but lost their final three games and missed the playoffs after losing in the AFC Championship Game the previous two seasons. Tebow joins a team coached by the outspoken Rex Ryan and one plagued by infighting in the locker room. Sanchez was criticized by his teammates — particularly wide receiver Santonio Holmes — and other Jets anonymously. Jets fans and Tebow’s fervent supporters are bound to be looking for a quarterback switch should Sanchez struggle.
The Jets face only three playoff teams — the Patriots twice — the Steelers in Pittsburgh and the Texans at home. Jets tickets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. had the highest average face value in the NFL last season at $120.85.