After a big false start, the New York Jets pulled off a Tebow-like comeback Wednesday night, getting the quarterback who turned the Denver Broncos from an also-ran into a playoff team last season and became the NFL's most talked-about player — for a fourth- and sixth-round draft pick.
Now, Tebowmania is opening on Broadway.
And, there's sure to be plenty of drama — just as there was from the moment the Jets pulled off the deal. Or thought they did, that is.
"I'm thankful they stuck with me through this whole crazy process," Tebow said during a call late Wednesday night, repeating several times that he was "excited" to be a member of the Jets.
Eight hours after initially agreeing to a trade, the teams completed it after it was hung up when the Jets balked at repaying Denver more than $5 million for a salary advance due Tebow. The two sides agreed to split that cost, and Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said the team was "comfortable with the compensation."
He said there was a disagreement about how to handle the salary advance after Denver received the papers.
"We knew what the contract was," he said. "We had read it. ... We felt it was one way; they felt it was another. Based on that, they were well within their rights to assess their different possibilities of what to do and their alternatives. And they did so throughout the day."
So the Jets waited and waited — and looked as if they had botched the big deal. Despite ultimately pulling off the trade, it's just another bizarre moment for the Jets, a team that has had its share of them over the years, conjuring memories of Bill Belichick's hiring as coach and his resignation one day later.
The deal also raised questions about the Jets' commitment to Mark Sanchez, who received a $40.5 million contract extension, with $20.5 million guaranteed, earlier this month.
During a call late Wednesday night, Tannenbaum repeatedly referred to Sanchez as "our guy" and the team's unquestioned starting quarterback.
"Mark Sanchez is, has been and will be our starting quarterback," he said.
But the Jets have opened themselves — and Sanchez — to what could be a season of added criticism from restless fans who are sure to call for Tebow to play at the first sign of struggles.
"We obviously know that Tim has a magnetic following," Tannenbaum said. "We understand the popularity of the backup quarterback, and this one is more unique than others."
Tebow said he had a "great conversation" on Wednesday with Sanchez, adding that they've been friends for several years.
"My goal is to push him to get better, and to push myself to get better every day," Tebow said. "But I think we'll have a great working relationship. We'll have a great relationship off the field, and we've had that the last few years. He's such a classy guy and handles himself so well, and I'll be very honored to call him my teammate."
Just a few weeks after "Linsanity" swept the area and the rest of the NBA with the Knicks' sensational Jeremy Lin, "Timsanity" now will take over New York.
"I'm just excited for him and to see what he does," Lin said in Philadelphia, where the Knicks beat the 76ers. "We'll see what happens next year. But I'm excited, obviously, that he's going to be in New York."
So was defensive end Mike DeVito, who likes the intangible qualities Tebow will offer.
"You've got a tough player on the field, a leader in the locker room and a guy who shares the faith that I share," DeVito said. "So, I'm very grateful to have him on our team, and I feel it's going to really benefit us as a whole."
But not everyone's a fan.
Another teammate, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, took to Twitter on Wednesday to express his confidence in Sanchez and the offense as structured before the deal was finalized.
"Y bring Tebow in when we need to bring in more Weapons for (at)Mark_Sanchez," Cromartie tweeted. "Let's build the team around him. We already signed to 3 year ext."
The Jets signed Drew Stanton last week to be their No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Greg McElroy, the team's seventh-round draft pick last year. Tannenbaum said Tuesday that he was confident in the trio, but on Wednesday acknowledged that the team would assess that situation.
Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who led the Jets to their only Super Bowl title in 1969, was also among those who were unhappy.
"I'm just sorry that I can't agree with this situation. I think it's just a publicity stunt. I can't go with it. I think it's wrong," Namath told 1050 ESPN Radio on Wednesday. "I don't think they know what they're doing over there."
Two minutes after the Jets initially posted the trade — in which they'll get a seventh-round pick in 2012 — on its Facebook page, there were 874 "likes," 366 comments and 247 shares. Most of the comments ran along the lines of: "I might cry" and "He is not welcome here, another terrible decision."
Regardless, the Jets sure got the headlines and were the talk of sports radio — even on a day when the New Orleans Saints received unprecedented punishment from the NFL for a bounty system that rocked the football world. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for next season, and former defensive coordinator Greg Williams, now with St. Louis, was banned indefinitely.
But even all that couldn't overshadow another embarrassing episode for a franchise that has had to explain away several missteps in recent years.
The Jets are hoping Tebow can help change all that.
He led the Broncos to the playoffs last season — along the way beating Sanchez and the Jets, who missed the postseason. But Denver executive John Elway believed Manning gave the team a better chance at winning a championship now.
For the Jets, Tebow adds a unique dimension to the offense, including running the team's wildcat package — something new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano enjoys using.
"It is very clear: They want me to come in and compete and get better, and get better as a quarterback and to help the team any way possible," Tebow said. "Whatever that role is, I will do my best."
Tebow also provides a solid presence in a locker room that was rife with infighting last season — particularly between Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes. He also brings with him a flock of fervent fans for reasons that have to do as much with his faith as his football skills. A devout Christian, he's been a role model since his days at Florida, when he led the Gators to two national titles and captured the Heisman Trophy.
Denver started shopping Tebow after signing Peyton Manning, and the Jets were considered a long shot as late as Tuesday night. But New York went hard after Tebow, envisioning him as a versatile complement to starter Sanchez. The Jets also had pursued Manning, but fell out of that race early when there wasn't mutual interest.
As part of Tebow's $11.25 million, five-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2010, he had a $6.277 million advance due 29 days after the start of the 2011 league year. That money was paid to him in August after the NFL lockout ended. The trade stalled over the payment the Jets would owe the Broncos from that advance.
That allowed Jacksonville to get back into the hunt, and it came down to the Jaguars and Jets.
"I think we have a duty to consider all avenues of improving the Jaguars on and off the field, especially given the unique circumstances involving the player," Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement. "I am very satisfied with the outcome."
Tebow said, contrary to some reports, he didn't have final say in where he was going.
"Ultimately, I really didn't have any because the Broncos had all that power," Tebow said, adding that Denver was "gracious" in the way it handled the process. "I was just kind of watching and waiting — kind of like everybody else. It was an interesting day."
On Tuesday, Sanchez spoke highly of both Tebow and Manning on Fox Sports Radio in Los Angeles.
"I think Peyton is going to do great, and I think Tim is going to do great no matter what happens," Sanchez said on "The Petros & Money Show." ''He can learn from one of the best quarterbacks to ever play or he moves on somewhere else and uses his skills at another ball club. He definitely has talent. He knows how to win. He knows how to impact players, so both guys are really in a good situation. It'll work out for both of them."
Tebow's days were numbered in Denver when Manning chose the Broncos as his next destination. They are two entirely different quarterbacks and it made little sense to keep Tebow as a backup because the Broncos were going to have a vastly different offense under Manning, one of the most precise passers in league history.
Elway and Fox called Tebow on Monday night to tell him it was possible he would be traded.
Elway said he wanted to do right by Tebow, who took over a 1-4 team and led the Broncos to the AFC West title and a playoff win over Pittsburgh.
"As a former player, I know the last two weeks were not easy for Tim," Elway said in a statement. "He was put in a difficult situation, and I commend him for how he handled it with the same first-class manner he displayed throughout his career in Denver."