QB's move to Jets causes barrage of hype
Add three more to the proverbial 8 million stories in the naked city:
Just about an hour after the announcement that the New York Jets had snagged disgruntled Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre in a latenight trade on Wednesday, a visitor to the team’s website could find just-minted jerseys featuring the QB’s legendary No. 4 on sale. Excited much?
Not long after that, reports surfaced that CBS, which airs the NFL’s American Football Conference games, had bumped the marquee matchup of week one featuring the 2007 AFC champ New England Patriots in favor of the former mutt of the opening week’s sked, the Jets taking on the lowly Miami Dolphins.
And by Thursday afternoon, New York Jets tickets topped the list of searches — for the week — at the ticket resale website StubHub. Sideline field-level tickets, which have a face value of $105, for Favre’s first game in the Meadowlands — Sept. 14 vs. the Patriots — were going for at least $400 a seat. Last week, tickets could be had for less than $200.
Those promise to be merely the opening salvos in a barrage of hype, scrutiny and celebration accompanying the move of Favre, the NFL’s most storied active passer, from the league’s smallest market of Green Bay, Wis., to its largest.
Long-suffering Jets fans aren’t the only ones who will be happy about the trade. “Elation” is how Rob Correa, CBS exec veep of sports programming, described the mood at the net upon hearing the news.
“The Jets will have a bigger footprint across the country in our single-headers, regional games and national games” courtesy of the Eye net, Correa said. CBS brings nearly all of the Jets games to the New York metro area.
Unless Favre fails to make even a middling improvement in the Jets’ 4-12 record in 2007, CBS can look forward to a nice ratings bump, at least early in the season.
“Even if the Jets aren’t good, they become that much more interesting to watch in New York, if nowhere else,” said Rick Gentile, a former veep at CBS Sports who is currently director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll. “Compared to what they’ve had, they now have something to watch.”
Citing CBS as a “clear beneficiary” of the deal, he speculated that “New York’s ratings could go up 15%, and 15% of a 10 million person market is a nice chunk.” In any event, he added, “It will improve it by some percentage, and some percentage of the New York market is just big numbers. So the advertisers have to be ecstatic.”
The Jets are currently scheduled to play only two games on national television, a Monday nighter on ESPN at San Diego on Sept. 22 and a Thursday-night game Nov. 13 vs. their archrivals the Patriots on the NFL Network.
The NFL’s “flex schedule” during the last seven weeks of the season could open several possibilities for NBC to grab the Gang Green for its Sunday-night broadcast. If the Jets are competing for the playoffs, the games with juicy subplots include the Denver Broncos, the team that beat Favre and the Packers in the Super Bowl, on Nov. 30, and the Seattle Seahawks, coached by his former mentor Mike Holmgren, on Dec. 21.
Favre has been a very big fish in a very, very small pond, which has made him savvier than might immediately be apparent. “Not to take anything away from Jeter and A-Rod and Eli Manning, but he’s the most popular guy in the state of Wisconsin,” said David Carter, head of Sports Institute at USC. “I think he’ll adapt rather easily.”
Favre’s presence in the Jets lineup gives the team its first superstar QB since Joe Namath and the team’s strongest focal point for the media since Curtis Martin was the team’s dominant running back. The Jets have long played in the shadow of the Giants, a situation that gets exacerbated each time the G-men have a good season and the Jets are below .500; last year, the Giants won the Super Bowl and the Jets were considered a failure in the team’s second season under Eric Mangini.
The two are jointly building a new stadium in the parking lot of the Meadowlands that will open in 2010. Giants management, with the Lombardi Trophy shining in its hallways, used its championship momentum to announce a Personal Seat License program that asks season ticketholders to shell out up to $20,000 a seat to have the right to purchase tickets, most of which will run between $95 and $160.
The Jets, meanwhile, used a poll to ask its season ticketholders for opinions on PSLs but have not released a pricing plan. During the off season, management beefed up the team’s non-glamorous positions (offensive line, for example) but was still lacking a superstar to at least give the illusion that the Jets were attempting to field a team fans would want to back financially.
Before he crosses the Hudson River to East Rutherford, N.J., Favre will have inevitable dealings with Madison Avenue. In fact, it’s been reported that as part of the pitch to the future Hall of Famer during a latenight meeting on Tuesday, Jets coach Mangini told Favre of the marketing and promotional boom that a move to Gotham could mean.
In his first statement as a member of the Jets, Favre said Thursday in Cleveland, “I’m here for one reason. Not to do commercials, Broadway all those things. I’m here to help the Jets win.”
(Phil Gallo in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)