Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was introduced Monday as the newest member of the New York Jets at a noon press conference attended by hundreds of media members and covered live on both local and national television.
Lasting more than a half hour, the press conference featured Tebow standing alone at a podium, taking questions about football, faith and his future. He answered most and deflected some but conveyed one general sentiment throughout: excitement about being a member of the Jets organization.
“I want to thank the Broncos for my time in Denver. It was an amazing time. I want to thank my teammates and my fans for being such great teammates and such great fans,” he said in his opening statement.
“I’m looking forward to my time here in New York and my time here as a Jet. I’m so honored and humbled to be a Jet. I’m so thankful that they wanted me, and I’m so excited about me and my teammates. I’ve had the pleasure to meet quite a few already, and I’m looking forward to my future as a Jet. And I’m very excited about it.”
The first order of business was clearing up his exit from the Denver Broncos and whether or not he actually had a choice between New York and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite reports that Denver put the decision in Tebow’s hands, he said it was ultimately the team’s decision and expanded on that greatly on Monday by recounting the events of one week ago.
“When I woke up Wednesday morning, I talked to Coach Fox and they were very gracious the whole time. Coach Fox – I specifically talked to him all throughout the process. He kind of told me some of the opportunities that were out there,” he said. “When I talked to him about it, next thing I know I got a call from Mr. [Mike Tannenbaum] and Coach [Rex] Ryan and they said I was a Jet. So I was really excited about that. ‘When’s the next flight out to new York?’ I was excited about it.
“Then obviously the media circus happened and I found out a few minutes later there was a snag in the contract and I wasn’t a Jet. And so then it was five hours of kind of waiting. Coach Fox was keeping me updated on what was happening. Later on in the day they said they had a few teams that were interested with similar deals. He was very gracious to ask me what I thought. I talked to him very honestly about it, and I told him I would love to be a Jet. I told him also that the Jaguars are my hometown and [to do] whatever was best for them. He said the same for me.
“Ultimately they had my contract there and they had all the power, but he listened to me and what I had to say. It was very gracious of them because they didn’t have to do that. They could have just done whatever. He listened to me and talked to me and I told him I would love to be a Jet. I love the coaches. I had an opportunity to be with Coach [Tony] Sparano at the Senior Bowl. I had an opportunity to get to know Coach Ryan several times. That was exciting for me. I also told them I would love to be a Jaguar. That’s my hometown and that would be exciting for me. Whatever was the best for them. I’m excited to be a Jet and I’m excited to be here.”
Tebow was asked again about the process and not-so-specifically relayed what a lot had already assumed – that he felt the love in New York and not so much in Jacksonville. He also cited his relationship with the coaches as a reason playing for the Jets might be better for him in the long run.
He refused to say that he felt disrespected by the Broncos even if that was the case. Tebow made it clear that he was fine with the way things ended in Denver and is ready to move forward with his career.
“I will have a lot of great memories for a long time from last season. Some of the comebacks and the wins and beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs – those will always be part of my football career and special memories. But they went in a way that they thought was best for the origination, and I’ll never blame them for that,” he said.
“I’m excited about being a Jet and exited about the support that I have here. I wish the Broncos nothing but the best. They got one of the best quarterbacks to ever play this game in Peyton Manning. He’s always been extremely classy and very supportive of me, and I wish him nothing but the best. There’s no ill will towards the Broncos or the coaching staff or Peyton Manning or anybody. I wish them nothing but the best, but it will be a lot of fun when we get to play each other.”
Now a member of Gang Green, the focus becomes how Tebow will be used within the offense. Unlike most traditional backup quarterbacks, he will not be sitting on the bench holding the clipboard the entire game. Instead the coaching staff plans to use him up to 20 plays a game as both a short-yardage contributor and in a Wildcat quarterback role.
“I have had time to spend with Coach Ryan. I think a lot of it has to do with how well it works, how it does in practice. Obviously you’re not going to just put something out there that’s not executing or running well. It really matters how well we do and how well I can pick everything up and go out there and how well we’re doing,” he explained. “My goal is to go out there and try to execute as well as I possibly can and improve every single day and really feel comfortable with my role and try to expand that role by going out there and competing and playing well. I think it’s just exciting that he has faith in me and he believes in me as a football player and as a person to trade for me and make me a Jet.”
He also stressed that he has a “great relationship” with starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, the player he would eventually have to beat out for the first-string job. “We have had a good relationship for the last three years, I think,” he said. “We’ve been friends. We text back and forth. We’ve talked already. We’re going to have a great relationship and a great working relationship. I think we’ll have a lot of fun together.”
Nevertheless, Tebow still has his eyes on being a starter in the NFL and will work hard every day to reach that goal. “Everybody that puts on a uniform, you want to go out there and you want to play. That’s why you play the game of football.,” he said. “And I’m excited to be a Jet, to go out there and help this team any way I can. Whatever my role is, however I can expand that role, I’m going to try and do that. Every day in practice I’m going to go out there and compete and try to do better as a quarterback and try to figure out any ways possible to help this team any way that I can.”
Expanding that role, for Tebow, means becoming a better quarterback and not necessarily transitioning to another position. That is something he would like to stay away from even if he is open to doing whatever it takes to help the team.
“First and foremost, I’ve always said that I’m a football player first and then a quarterback. That is my dream, that is what I want to be and that’s what I believe I am – is a quarterback,” he noted. “However I can help the team, however I can make a difference, however they can use me, I’ll be open to it. I’ll work as hard as I can every time I step on that field I will give my whole heart to being the best Jet that I can possibly be and trying to help this team win football games.”
A vocal group of his new teammates does not necessarily believe Tebow should even have that opportunity. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie said that the team had no reason to go after Tebow and other anonymous players spoke with the local print media to say they did not understand why the team traded for him. He, once again, remained unfazed.
“I’m not necessarily trying to win over the locker room. I’m just trying to, every day in my actions, earn a little bit of respect from the guys in that locker room by showing up and working hard and trying to be a great teammate and trying to improve on my skills, trying to make the Jets a little bit better because I’m on this team,” Tebow said. “Whether that’s by on the field or being a great teammate or encouraging other guys, I just want to make this team a little bit better because I’m here. I’ll earn their respect a little bit at a time by how I work and who I am as a person.”
He also brushed off questions about the media being a distraction or putting too much pressure on him to succeed. Tebow said the only reason he was at the press conference was “because I have bosses, too, and they wanted me to stand up and talk to all y’all” and that if he did not feel nervous before stepping on the field then he would know he was in the wrong profession.
“Before every practice, before every football game I play I always get a little bit nervous. That’s something that excites me, and I think it’s something that I play better when I have more on the line. That’s something that I’ve always tried to thrive on. When that feeling goes away, that’ll probably be the time I stop playing football,” he said.
Tebow also said that outside pressure is something he is used to whether it comes from the media or even his loyal following of fans. “Something I learned early on at Florida is if you can’t control it, don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ve been very blessed in my past to have passionate fans. When I was at the University of Florida, you know, Gator Nation is very powerful and it’s everywhere. So that was a lot of fun.”
More than anything else, Tebow is ready to dive into his new playbook and get ready for organized team activities. His goal is to prove to his front office, coaches, teammates and the New York fans that he belongs and will do whatever it takes to succeed.
“It’s always a lot of fun to be on the tough team and the physical team,” he said. “I believe that’s what you have when you’re on the New York Jets.”
On the criticisms he hears for the way he plays: “I think that I’m improving every single day. I’ve been working very hard in [Los Angeles, CA] with Coach [Leo] Mazzone, who was a former Jet coach. I’m working extremely hard to improve in every area of my game. I’m excited about my future and just improving as a quarterback, as a football player, understanding defenses, understanding the schemes, how we go about it, how we take advantages of defenses, reads, reactions, fundamentals, all of those things. I’m excited about the opportunity, and I’m excited about my future.”
On people saying that the Jets traded for him for “non-football” reasons: “I really don’t take offense to that. I don’t think it’s true because I think the Jets get a lot of support as it is and they have a lot of great fans. I don’t think it has much to do with that. I think it has more to do with just some coaches believing in me and hopefully thinking that I’m an OK football player. I’m just excited that I have the opportunity to be a Jet and hopefully I have the opportunity to add something to this great franchise and organization.”
On getting so much attention and the “Tebowing” phenomenon: “As far as ‘Tebowing’ goes, I’ve been doing that same routine for the last seven years – since my senior year of high school. All of a sudden this last year it became a big deal that I was going to the end zone and getting on a knee before the game and praying and then I would get up, do a few jumps and then spring down the sideline. All of a sudden it became a big story, but it’s something I’ve done the last seven years.”