The NFL season is still four months away and it's important to keep a little perspective when the focus is the Jets and their quarterback picture. Mark Sanchez is the starter, Tim Tebow is the backup/package performer and they're both in the midst of learning a brand new offense under coordinator Tony Sparano.
"These first three weeks or so have been exactly what we've needed," Sanchez said today of the offseason program. "Guys just put their heads down and go to work, a real team atmosphere. Coach Sparano preaches that — lifting other guys up, pushing each other and really competing — and that's what our team has done on offense."
Referring to Sanchez as a fun-loving guy, Tebow says the two have maintained a good relationship ever since the latter visited USC on a recruiting trip.
"It's been great," said Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner. "Just working together, pushing each other, learning from each other, spending extra time in the film room, talking about college days, talking about different teams that we've faced and just going over things together. We're learning the same offense — something we haven't been in before, so we're just trying to learn it together. It's been fun."
Throughout the locker room, many players praised the no-nonsense approach of Sparano, and the top two quarterbacks were amongst the bunch.
"He expects a lot of you, but he's fair and he'll remind you each day of what we're going over just like a game plan," Sanchez said. "He'll let you know, 'We're going to work on a specific situation — here's what I expect.' And if it doesn't happen, then that's when you hear the Coach Sparano that everybody talks about."
"I was blessed to be with him for a week at the Senior Bowl," added Tebow. "That was awesome. He's very positive about coaching. He's a very intense, passionate coach."
Sanchez and Tebow will want to see the field as much as possible in 2012 and that should not be viewed as problematic in May. Competition breeds winners and nobody ever got better from the lack of it.
"I hope every backup quarterback wants the job of the starter," Sanchez said. "That's the way you have to prepare. I've been in those shoes in college, anticipating the game, studying like I'm the starter and then getting to the game and not playing. Fortunately for Tim he has the ability to do other things — that's why he's on board. He's a backup quarterback first and he'll do plenty of other stuff."
Tebow isn't much into labels. You don't have to listen to him long to know that he wants to continually improve and he is* excited* about the work that lies ahead.
"I always want to be my best, as good as I can possibly be," Tebow said in front of a crush of reporters in front of his Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker. "Push myself to the limits just as far as a quarterback, a passer, learning defenses, learning offenses, just trying to be the best football player and person that I possibly can be. That's what I'm not going to settle for anything less than."
Sanchez, who led the Jets to AFC Championship Game appearances his first two seasons and passed for 3,542 yards and 26 TDs in 2011, doesn't plan on changing his approach just because his backup has changed.
"I'm the kind of guy who competes against myself at all times," he said. "Whether Tim's here or there's another backup quarterback, I'm always competing with myself first and then whoever else is in the room. It doesn't matter either way, but he's been great to work with and I'm excited to keep working with him."
Head coach Rex Ryan has said Tebow could play anywhere from two to 20 offensive plays a game and his positional role could vary. Many media reports have indicated No. 15 will see a fair amount of time on special teams as well.
"I always put team first and whatever they want me to do, they know that I'll do it with all my heart," Tebow said. "I'm just going out there every day, trying to get a little bit better."
Along with learning the new offense, Sanchez is pushing himself in the weightroom in the hopes of adding strength and increasing bulk while maintaining his speed and agility.
"I think everybody's moved on," Sanchez said in reference to 2011. "We're ready to attack this new year and get off to a good start."
The 8-8 season is January's news. Spring football is here and it's time to start building a foundation for 2012.
"We're worried about today," said Tebow. "We're trying to get better today, be a great teammate and try to improve a little bit."