Tim O’Sullivan: With no risk, Tim Tebow worth a look
New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow throws during a team football practice in Foxborough, Mass., Tuesday June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow is surrounded by reporters and cameramen after NFL football practice in Foxborough, Mass., Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
There are no guarantees for Tim Tebow in New England, starting with the reported two-year, non-guaranteed contract he signed yesterday. He’s coming to the Patriots as a quarterback, but whether he ends up throwing passes, catching passes or blocking for the passer remains to be seen.
“What position? We’ll try to do what’s best for our football team. I don’t know, we’ll see,” Bill Belichick said during his first Tebowmania press conference yesterday, an ordeal the hoodie grew tired of quickly.
Tebow has shown he can lead a team to NFL wins, and he’s shown throwing mechanics that look like they belong
only on a college campus. He seems to have the physical tools to be a tight end, fullback or H-back, but he’s never shown he can play those positions. He does, presumably, have one trait all good Patriots have – a strong dislike for the New York Jets.
By the time he was finished with his 2011 season in Denver, Tebow had half the nation believing he could walk on water. The other half may have been skeptical (a 45.6 completion percentage will do that), but they couldn’t deny what they had seen – Tebow going 8-5 as a starter, pulling wins out of thin air, beating the Steelers in the playoffs, rushing for 723 yards on 137 attempts (5.3 yards per carry) and throwing for 2,181 yards and 14 touchdowns, even if he did go 145-for-318 on his way there.
Sure, he was unorthodox, but he won, he worked hard, and his teammates believed in him. Then he went to New York.
It seemed obvious from the start that the Jets were more interested in Tebowmania than Tebow the player. They wanted the attention and the ticket sales that Tebow would bring, and maybe they were hoping he could push Mark Sanchez, who they had just signed to a long-term contract.
Take those circumstances, mix in a bumbling Rex Ryan and the circling media vultures, and it’s clear Tebow never really had a chance in New York. So it was no surprise he couldn’t duplicate the kind of quarterback success he had in Denver, or that he looked lost when the Jets used him at tight end or running back.
That’s not to say that he will succeed at any or all of those things in New England. As a matter of fact, it seems more likely that he’ll fail. But he’ll have a better chance than he did in New York.
Tebow won’t be under pressure to take the Patriots starting quarterback job – we all know who that belongs to. He won’t even be under pressure to take the backup job, since Ryan Mallett appears entrenched in that role. And he won’t be under the kind of media pressure he was in New York – Belichick simply won’t allow it.
Instead, Tebow can work on his flawed fundamentals in relative obscurity. And he can do that work with the two NFL coaches who probably believe in him the most – Belichick and New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who, as Denver’s head coach in 2010, traded a second-, third- and fourth-round draft pick to move up to the first round and select Tebow.
There’s no doubt Tebow needs a lot of work as a quarterback, but since Tom Brady and Mallett will get most of the repetitions during the upcoming minicamps, training camp and practices, Tebow will also have time to learn other positions. Sure, he looked bad in New York running routes and trying to block, and he never caught a pass, but, again, was he really put in a position to succeed? And you know Belichick would just love to succeed where Ryan failed.
Tebow is not going to make the team as a tight end or a fullback. But if he can be a third-string quarterback who can also play those positions, he will have the versatility and value that Belichick craves. Plus, Tebow is the perfect holder for field goals or extra points since he’s a threat to run or pass on a fake, and he seems to like having one knee on the ground.
There’s no telling how Tebow’s tenure will play out in Foxborough. He may not make it out of training camp, he could be here for years. But there’s really no risk for New England. The Patriots can cut him at no cost, his presence won’t bother Brady, and Belichick won’t let Tebowmania distract his team.
“In all honesty, we’ve been in front of bigger crowds than this before,” Belichick said with a smirk to yesterday’s media horde. “We’ll just keep doing what our job is.”
(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)