When the New England Patriots signed headline-grabbing quarterback Tim Tebow, there was no question there would be a lot of buzz around him in training camp. Tebow draws a lot of attention wherever he goes, but unfortunately for him it’s generally not because of his play on the field, but more as a result of his outgoing personality and the very public way he exercises his Christian faith.
Tebow’s struggles to develop into an NFL caliber pocket passer are well documented. He’s in his fourth year now and thus far he’s had little success transitioning from a mobile college quarterback to a consistent NFL signal caller. In the one season Tebow masqueraded as a starting quarterback, his numbers were dreadful. He completed only 46 percent of his passes and sported a pitiful quarterback rating of 72.9. If there were a Mendoza line for starting quarterbacks, Tebow might be its namesake.
Tebow’s a likable guy and there’s no questioning his competitive spirit on the field, but to believe he’ll develop into someone coaches can trust with their team’s offense every Sunday is unrealistic. The Patriots have a world class coaching staff. There’s no debating that. To think, however, that they will succeed where all others have failed is a reach. It’s not like Tebow was working with bad coaches on his previous teams. John Fox and John Elway in Denver have pretty impressive resumes. When in New York, Tebow worked primarily with offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh, both well respected throughout the league. Josh McDaniels is a great coach and he obviously saw something in Tebow when he drafted him that lead him to believe he could develop the young quarterback into an NFL starter. Now that Tebow has had the opportunity to play elsewhere, it’s worth wondering whether McDaniels still believes that.
It’s not Tebow’s accuracy as a passer that will ultimately determine whether or not he makes the Patriots roster out of training camp, though. It’s more the fact that the Patriots simply don’t need a third quarterback and with so many question marks at so many positions, the opportunity cost of keeping Tebow on the roster is too high. With so much competition in training camp at so many critical positions, the Patriots are better served using a roster spot to carry more depth at a position of uncertainty than on a third string quarterback who will never see the field.
At the end of the preseason, the Patriots will have quality players on the bubble at essentially every position. It’s more likely that they will keep more depth in the defensive backfield, on the defensive line, or keep a player around who can contribute on special teams consistently. Players like Marquice Cole, Steve Beauharnais, Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette, Marcus Forston, and Marcus Benard come to mind. Yes, some of those players could realistically make it to the practice squad, but so to could Tebow. Let’s not forget that the Patriots signed him very late in free agency just before the start of mandatory minicamp. There wasn’t great interest in Tebow throughout free agency and unless the injury bug hits an NFL team at quarterback before the end of preseason, there won’t be much interest in him then.
Tebow is likely to have an active preseason, beginning on Friday in Philadelphia. The opportunity to play consistent snaps throughout preseason gives Tebow a chance to show other NFL teams just what he might be able to do for them. The only way it makes sense for the Patriots to keep Tebow on the 53 man roster is if he plays well enough in preseason to the point where his trade value becomes real. That’s not likely to happen, though, given the Patriots offense relies so heavily on timing patterns and Tom Brady’s quick release, something Tebow struggles mightily with.
There’s still a chance for Tim Tebow to be an impact player in the NFL, but it’s not going to happen at the quarterback position. His best bet to make it in this league is to publicly embrace the idea of changing positions and start working with some coaches who can help him do just that. He’s a dangerous ball carrier and if he could be taught to run routes and catch passes he could be a successful tight end in the NFL. His window to make that transition is closing, though, and this next offseason may well be his last chance.