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On One Front, Tebow Trade Already a Success

Football angle gets murkier while marketing angle represents a solid victory

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    As the Jets expected, jerseys are selling quickly.

    The easiest reason to explain why the Jets traded for Tim Tebow can be found on the shopping area of the NFL website.

    That's where you can find Peyton Manning Broncos jerseys that look like something you'd see on some bootlegged table on Canal Street. Thanks to the NFL's expiring deal with Reebok, they had run out of blank Broncos jerseys before Manning signed with the team and that means they can only sell knockoffs that don't resemble the Broncos' old jerseys or the ones they'll wear when Nike takes over in a few weeks.

    Why are they out of blank Broncos jerseys? Tebowmania, of course.

    Tebow jerseys were the NFL's second-biggest seller this season and that left the cupboards bare in Denver when Manning came to town. There's no such trouble with the Jets, who had only Mark Sanchez among the top 20 sellers in the league and, therefore, have plenty of Tebow jerseys for sale right now.

    As much as the Jets try to suggest that this was a trade made for the purely football reason of getting themselves a backup quarterback, evidence piles up that this was a deal made to bring attention to the team more than it was about building a better roster for 2012. Tebow, who won an ESPN poll for most popular athlete in the United States last year, is a full-on cultural phenomenon and the Jets are pushing that for all its worth.

    Come noon on Monday, they'll be having a press conference with Tebow. Historians are furiously researching to confirm that this is in fact the first ever press conference held by a backup quarterback, but let's just say that this isn't standard operating procedure.

    Most backup quarterbacks don't have legions of fans following him from Florida to Denver to New Jersey, though. Whether his collegiate success or his religious fervor that attracts them is of little concern, but the Jets have to push Tebow at every opportunity in order to capitalize on their willingness to spend money on their hero.

    They are certainly looking to spend. Modell's sold 45 Tebow shirts in the first half-hour they were selling them last week and StubHub saw page views on Jets tickets spike from 2,000 to 13,000 a day after the Tebow deal was made.

    And then there are all the people looking to sell their own products through Tebow. Jockey put up a billboard welcoming Tebow to the area (and it's deep pocketed residents) and Topps has rushed a trading card of Tebow photoshopped into a Jets jersey into circulation already.

    All of that is music to the Jets' ears, as is the fact that Tebow's trip to a Broadway show and his search for housing were covered breathlessly by the tabloids. Given the naked grabs for attention going on, it should surprise no one that Tebow is looking for a place at a golf course owned by Donald Trump.

    That's also where Sanchez lives and Tebow reportedly has his eye on a home that's essentially the same as the one-time Sanchize player for the Jets. What's true in real estate is also true in football, since there's little chance that Tebow doesn't have his eye on Sanchez's job as well as his home.

    While the Jets call Tebow the backup, they aren't doing anything to slow that pursuit. The estimate of his role in the offense keeps scaling upwards -- Rex Ryan pegged it at 20-odd plays on Sunday -- while the team does nothing to suggest that they won't make a change as quickly as possible if Sanchez struggles.

    You can only sell backup quarterbacks for so long, after all. At some point, Tebow has to be the starter or the Jets' cash registers will stop dinging every few seconds even if the team actually does turn out to be a bigger winner because of his presence.

    Such is the strange little world the Jets have built for themselves, where marketing is the tail that wags the dog. 

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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