Word spread like wildfire this past Monday that the New England Patriots were signing Tim Tebow. But why did the sudden interest? And why did the Patriots wait so long?
Let me clarify the ACTUAL thinking and reasoning behind this signing!
Tim Tebow has already had 2 stops in the NFL with the Broncos and Jets. Neither opportunity has materialized into a starting job, ‘career contract’ or even satisfaction by the team’s management! Tebow has been let go both times. So why has Tebow not worked out? Lets examine his game.
Tebow’s athletic ability as a professional football player was criticized right from the start. College athletes have every component of their lives, bodies and skills scrutinized and analyzed before coming into the pros. NFL scouts find the flaws in each and every college prospect, and Tim Tebow was no exception. As a matter of fact, numerous teams were especially leery of drafting him, especially if they didn’t have a plan for how to use him.
NFL teams recognized Tebow’s will to win, his toughness, his leadership and his ability to run an offense. Scouts knew he had arm strength, but with inconsistent accuracy, arm strength becomes irrelevant. They knew he had awareness, but he didn’t see the whole field the same way that a reliable starting quarterback should. They knew he offered a running dynamic, but Tebow had worked within a spread option offense, operating as a more traditional power running back. Running that kind of offense in the NFL would subject Tebow to countless brutal hits. No quarterback could withstand that amount of physical abuse from powerful NFL defensive players!
One might argue that Colin Kaepernick has been successful as a running quarterback, but he is much quicker than Tebow and he runs a read option scheme. So he offers the same running dimension, but doesn’t simply tuck and run with the ball when a passing play offers no open receivers. However, that was Tebow’s approach: Run if the passing play didn’t work. And that was on top of the plays called specifically for Tebow to run the ball.
The Bottom Line
NFL scouts knew Tebow’s game wouldn’t work in the NFL. If a play broke down, running would rarely be an option. And Tebow would have even less time to diagnose defenses in the NFL versus college, not to mention vision that would be even more limited. Tebow had talent, but he didn’t have the elite talent of a starting NFL quarterback. He was not a quarterback that a team could build an offense around at the NFL level.
In short, scouts knew that Tebow was successful because he improvised and willed his ways to victories. He played (and won) with heart. And while that has some value in the NFL (just ask the Broncos), it is not reliable. Tim Tebow no doubt had high expectations of himself coming out of college, but his football career was somewhat doomed from the start. And there isn’t much he can do about it!
Nonetheless, Tebow was still drafted in the 1st round, despite having a longer list of negatives than desired. Most players drafted in the 1st round have fewer holes. But it was Tebow’s success that likely led the Broncos to draft him higher than was appropriate for his skill-set.
The Case for Tebow
Tebow carried the Gators to a national championship in 2007 and eventually led the Broncos to the second round of the playoffs in 2011. Tebow has maximized his skill-set when given the chance. He beats opponents by playing with heart and effort, and his football skills merely supplement that. NFL teams respect his effort, but they also know that his game has limitations. The Broncos quickly realized his limitations, and they looked for a more complete quarterback after the 2011 season: Adding Peyton Manning made Tebow expendable.
The Jets appreciated Tebow’s unique skill-set and traded for him in 2012 from the Broncos. They recognized his past success, but they most likely traded for him to utilize the diversity he offered as a quarterback. Opponents would have to gameplan for an offense in which a quarterback scrambled and moved outside the pocket, as well as preparing for the traditional drop-back pocket passer. The experiment was supposed to be Tebow AND Sanchez, not Tebow vs. Sanchez. As it turns out, the plan never got up and running. Some say that Tebow didn’t pick up the offense well enough, but my experience leads me to believe that the Jets offense wasn’t having success with a Tebow style of offense. A scrambling quarterback wouldn’t have success because the Jets offense wasn’t built for that type of offensive scheme. And the Jets didn’t run the spread option offense, so Tebow was set up to struggle again like he did with the Broncos.
What seemed like a good idea never materialized. While it might have been hard for defenses to adjust on the fly if Tebow were to enter the game, it turned out to be even harder for the Jets offense to adjust to his style of play. The offense was built for a certain type of scheme, and the other offensive starters just didn’t perform well in a “Tebow” offensive scheme.
As much as it was a positive that Tebow brought extra fan support and attention to the Jets, he eventually also brought the ire of fans and the dissatisfaction of team management. On top of that, the media attacked the Jets for trading for a player that they never used! Once new General Manager John Idzik was hired in 2013, Tebow was out. He viewed Tebow as an expensive luxury that did not fit his offensive system. But that should have come as no surprise to Tebow.
Tebow’s success with the Broncos was simply a testament of his will to win. He found a way, and that’s admirable about his game. And that is why Tebow should remain in the NFL. He cares, and he finds a way to win. One team now has.
The Will of a Patriot
The Patriots have decided to give Tebow a chance. Not for his fame, the additional sales, or to be Tom Brady’s heir apparent. No, the Patriots see Tebow in a specific role. And if any team will be able to place Tebow in the best role for his NFL career, it will be the Patriots.
It appears that the Patriots are the first team to finally realize that Tebow’s true value lies as a back-up quarterback. Tebow could come into a game and maintain a lead when the starting quarterback(s) goes down with an injury. He is not a reliable every game starter, but he did win important games for the Broncos. Actually, in the Patriots ideal world, Tebow would never play. Rather, he would be a great scout team quarterback to prepare the Patriots when they play against Cam Newton or Colin Kaepernick on the upcoming Sunday. He would be a great example of how to be a consummate pro for incoming rookies. And he would bring positive press about the Patriots due to his community involvement.
However, there is a very real chance he won’t make the team. The Patriots realize his limited value, and they are paying him accordingly. He is on a 2 year contract for the veteran minimum salaries with no guaranteed money. These terms allow the Patriots the flexibility of releasing him at any time with limited cap consequences. It gives them the chance the analyze Tebow and determine if he offers enough value to make the team. If they deem the signing not worth it, they can release him with no repercussions.
And that is the Patriot way: Over the years, the Patriots have added numerous aging veterans that other teams had no interest in. (e.g. Randy Moss, Corey Dillon, Tommy Kelly, etc…) The Patriots see talent in these veterans, and as long as the players fit the Patriots’ scheme, they are happy to give them the chance no other team is willing to!
Even if Tebow does make it, the role of a 3rd string quarterback is typically short-lived. Some teams don’t even carry a third quarterback on the 53-man roster! And if they do, teams typically employ a young quarterback that they are developing, not a veteran like Tebow that fits a diversified quarterback role.
So Tebow will have his work cut out for him. He must convince the Patriots that he has value in AT LEAST the following 5 ways:
- As a 3rd string emergency quarterback to enter a game if needed
- To contribute in special packages
- As a scout team quarterback in practice
- On special teams
- As a great example and mentor for younger teammates
The odds are against Tebow making the 53-man roster, but I am not going to write him off just yet. Tebow has been beating the odds his whole life! God has once again blessed him, and Tebow openly acknowledges that. The Patriots are that blessing, and we all know how Tebow likes to take opportunities and overachieve unexpectedly!
Keep up the good work, Tim. Maybe the Patriots have finally placed you in YOUR BEST ROLE as a professional athlete. You have taught us all to expect great things!
Only time will tell what comes of this opportunity, even if it is mostly out of Tebow’s hands.