FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The message was the same from the New York Jets' two quarterbacks: We can do this.
And, not only that. Both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow think they're going to have lots of fun along the way.
A brewing quarterback controversy? Not if you ask them.
"I think we'll have a great working relationship," Tebow told the sea of reporters at his introductory news conference Monday. "We talked about that, just supporting one another in our roles. I'm excited about that opportunity. I think we'll have a great relationship and hopefully we'll be able to thrive together."
Sanchez, meanwhile, was nowhere near the Jets' packed practice facility. He was home in California — and didn't even watch Tebow smile his way through his first New York close-up.
"I heard he did a pretty good job," Sanchez said on a conference call five hours later. "How did he do?"
Well, Tebow handled himself just fine in the spotlight, a situation Sanchez has been accustomed to during his first three NFL seasons.
"As the quarterback of the Jets, I'm getting wins for this team," Sanchez said. "That's my primary focus. If Tim is going to help us win, I'm excited about that."
They've known each other for a few years, and Sanchez even hosted Tebow at the University of Southern California on a recruiting trip.
"He's a very classy person with a lot of integrity," Tebow said. "He's also fun to hang around. I think our quarterback room will be a lot of fun."
Sanchez was equally as complimentary, dishing out the praise for his celebrity backup.
"He's such a good guy, people don't want to believe it," Sanchez said. "There's no such thing as that good of a guy, but he is. He's a great guy, a great competitor, and he's going to make a great teammate."
Yep, both quarterbacks said all the right things about themselves, each other and the goal they share.
"I would give my whole heart to be the best Jet I possibly can be," Tebow said, "and help this team win football games."
Added Sanchez: "Our team goal is what's most important, and that's winning."
Sure, it all sounds good, but is it realistic?
Consider that Tebow is a confident and polished rock star who has been a winner on the field. Oh, and he walks in as the Jets' most popular player, thanks to a huge contingent of fans who have followed him from the University of Florida to the Denver Broncos and now to New York.
"I really don't feel like it will be too much of a distraction because I honestly will try not to pay too much attention to it," Tebow said. "The reason we're doing this today is because I have bosses, too, and they wanted me to stand up and talk to all of you. I can blame it on them because they made me do it."
He laughed a few times, grinned throughout and went out of his way to dismiss any speculation that this could be one potential sticky situation. But make no mistake: Tebow is a competitor whose desire is to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. His shortcomings are well-documented with his flawed mechanics, questionable decision-making and 46.5 percent completion rate last season. Tebow also has a resume filled with stirring comeback victories and a playoff win — all last season with the Broncos.
The game plan — at least for now — is to have Tebow serve as the backup to Sanchez, who coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum insist is the unquestioned starter. Tebow is also going to have plenty of playing time, in all kinds of roles. And, if that comes from under center, that sounds good to him.
"I think, first and foremost, I'm a football player first and then a quarterback, although that is my dream, that's what I want to be," he said. "That's what I believe I am, is a quarterback. But however I can help the team, however I can make a difference, however they can use me, I'll be open to it and work as hard as I can every time I step on that field."
Ryan has suggested that Tebow could see as many as 20 plays a game, a massive amount for a backup quarterback. That means Sanchez will have to head to the sideline for a good handful of those, and that's something that doesn't exactly excite him. But, also not looking to stir any controversy, Sanchez chose his words carefully.
"It's well-documented that I'm not thrilled about playing wide receiver or coming off the field," he said. "But that's just how I'm programmed, and any quarterback is programmed like that. The way I feel about the wildcat really is secondary. I'm a team guy and I'll do whatever it takes to win. If changing a few things up a couple times a game is what we need to do, I'm totally on board."
That's exactly what the Jets want to hear. But will the harmony last? After all, it's only March. The situation the Jets put themselves in will play out over the next several months, leading up to training camp sometime in late-July or early August in quaint Cortland, N.Y., which will likely overflow with fans eager to see Tebow in person.
And, if Sanchez slips up or struggles? That's when the real test will be. After all, the Jets committed to Sanchez when they signed him to a three-year extension a little more than two weeks ago.
"We're adding another player," Sanchez said of Tebow's arrival. "We're not replacing anybody. I mean, he's here to help us. I'm confident in my abilities. I know the team feels the same way about me. They have belief in me. ... So, yeah, I'm not worried about losing my spot."Comment on this story
Now, the Jets have to try to make it all work. They have to decide how much they use the wildcat with Tebow, what they do if Sanchez struggles, how they manage the subsequent public outcry for Tebow and how they keep two young quarterbacks who want to start happy together.
"I really don't pay too much attention to it," Tebow said. "I think the exciting thing is that me and Mark have a great relationship. We have had a great relationship for the last three years. We've been friends. We've texted back and forth. We've talked already. I think we'll have a lot of fun together."