Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tim Tebow Signs With New England Patriots

By: Rich Bergeron

Just as many NFL analysts began to wonder if Quarterback Tim Tebow would ever play in the league again, a surprising team picked up the free agent known as much for his intense Christian ideals as he is for his on-field ability. Crafty coaching veteran Bill Bellichick made the news in recent weeks for a rumor claiming that he actually hated Tebow, so Tebow's signing with the New England Patriots makes for an odd twist of fate.

The New York Jets dropped Tebow at the end of April, and there were no teams chomping at the bit to pick him up right away. Tebow had more job offers relating to youth ministry positions in recent months than anything football related. New England's interest seems primarily tied to the team's offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the man who drafted Tebow for the Denver Broncos. It's also obvious that Coach Bill Bellichick is concerned about his aging starting QB Tom Brady, who is going into this season as a 36-year-old legend lacking his go-to receiver Wes Welker.

Though Tebow likely will not be competing for the starting position anytime soon, he could serve a specialized role in short-yardage situations or see playing time when the team wants to draw up a trick play without risking an injury to their star QB. Tebow may not be an epic passer, but he does have amazing scrambling and running ability the Patriots have never really been able to develop in any of their most recent starting quarterbacks.

Perhaps Bellichick was inspired by San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick's mix of exceptional running and passing in the playoffs last season. Whatever the reasoning is for Tebow's signing, the Jacksonville native and wildly popular media sensation should be a perfect fit in New England. His work ethic and morals fit well with the system designed by Bellichick that focuses on fostering a highly team-oriented attitude that's turned around some of the NFL's most troubled players in past years. Instead of Tebow always somehow being part of the story, he'll finally be humbled in New England where he will have to spend the bulk of his time on the sidelines until he becomes a key cog in their on-field machine.

The Patriots released third-string QB Mike Kafka Monday in anticipation of the Tebow signing. That seems to indicate that there is probably no plan to use Tebow to replace Rob Gronkowski at tight end. Media outlets are ramping up the speculation on what Tebow's real role will be since it doesn't seem like he'll be taking snaps as a starter this coming season, and there's a ton of buzz around the prospect of Tebow playing another position other than quarterback. Still, outside of possibly replacing Welker on punt and kick returns, Tebow probably won't be pushed to learn many new skills. Tebow himself has made multiple statements regarding switching positions and is adamant that he only wants to play quarterback.

Whether Tebow sees any actual playing time or not, he could be key to the offense as a mentor to current backup QB Ryan Mallett. He could also serve as an informant on the New York Jets offensive schemes he learned while he was a member of the division rival of the Patriots. What is far more likely is that Tebow will wait patiently to prove his worth and work his way into sharing more snaps with Brady. Though Brady has had a few injuries in the past, he's not really the type to take any unforced breaks.

Tebow fans will be imagining a best case scenario in which Brady repeats the history of the very man he replaced to start his storybook rise to fame. Drew Bledose's 2001 chest injury put Brady in the starting position, and Brady never looked back. Tebow may need a miracle for that kind of scenario to unfold, but it's entirely possible that Brady would be willing to take a few plays off here and there so Tebow can throw defenses off by giving them a whole different look than Brady presents them. We may even see Tebow helping Brady become a better running quarterback.

Signing Tebow may not help lead the Patriots to another Super Bowl next season, but it's not all that outrageous to suggest he could eventually become the team's next Super Bowl winning superstar. The Patriots have made much more questionable moves in recent memory, namely letting Wes Welker walk away from the squad and join the Denver Broncos. Bill Bellichick has always been more of a defensive-minded coach who happened to have a stellar offense to boot. He's spent the past few years rebuilding that defense once led by experienced vets. The defense is now made up mostly of young prospects with unlimited talent and time to develop. While they work to become better and master the "bend, but don't break" mentality Bellichick fosters, this defense will have to rely on a supreme Patriot offense that just hasn't completely materialized in the last couple years. Perhaps the addition of Tebow will help shake things up a bit and provide the team with the running QB they never knew they needed.

Tebow's best years in the league were with the Broncos in 2010-11, where he completed 47.3 percent of 353 pass attempts. He also notched 17 touchdowns to nine interceptions. More importantly, he averaged 5.4 yards-per-carry on 165 rushes, scoring 12 touchdowns on the ground. He didn't have near that much success with the Jets, but it could have been more a matter of a lack of chemistry with the team and coaching staff than any supreme lack of talent. If any team can bring out the best Tebow has to offer, it's the New England Patriots.
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