Tim Tebow is now a New England Patriot. I imagine you’ve heard. According to a Deadspin report, ESPN mentioned Tebow’s name 137 times in the two-hour period between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday. I’ll take their word for it.
At first, I was baffled. What could Bill Belichick be thinking? Tebow is a good guy and a terrific competitor. But he’s simply not good enough to play quarterback in the NFL. As the Jets discovered last season, the circus atmosphere that surrounds Tebow isn’t nearly worth the trouble.
Tebow is more curiosity than NFL star at this point. If he signed with any other NFL team, I’d laugh it off and turn my attention to the Bills’ lack of linebacking depth. Why all this fuss over someone’s third-string quarterback?
The problem is, it’s not just any team. This is the Patriots and Belichick, their evil, hooded mastermind. I know Belichick hasn’t won a Super Bowl in eight years. He doesn’t hit on all his draft picks or free agents. Remember Chad Ochocinco? Joey Galloway? Albert Haynesworth?
But this is also Buffalo, where obsessing about the Patriots has become a civic pastime. I can just hear Bills fans, mumbling to themselves and wondering what Belichick might have up his sleeve. Oh, my God! He’s going to find a way to use Tebow, and he’s going to try it out on us first!
Assuming he makes the roster, Tebow will play his first game as a Pat in Orchard Park on Sept. 8. His long-awaited Jets debut last season came against the Bills, too, and was much ado about nothing. Maybe Tebow won’t even see the field in this year’s opener.
Still, Belichick must believe in him. Why would he take on the added distraction? His news conference Tuesday was carried on CNN. There were non-sports reporters in the room, asking a string of Tebow questions. In his typically dour monotone, Belichick offered up a stream of dull answers.
“We’re gonna do what we think is best for this football team, so, I don’t know, we’ll see,” was a choice sample. “We’ll see. I don’t know.”
Eventually, the media will tire of Belichick’s evasive answers. It won’t be the way it was in New York last year, when ESPN was allowed to set up a “SportsCenter” studio at Jets training camp. The Tebow story became a daily circus and his competition with Mark Sanchez a major distraction.
Tebow is no threat to Tom Brady. That much is obvious. He’s probably not a threat to Ryan Mallett, who has served as Brady’s seldom-used backup the last two years and is perceived as the heir to the No. 1 job when Brady retires.
The Pats gave Tebow No. 5, a quarterback’s number. Tebow says he wants to be a quarterback. But he’ll get no guarantees. He didn’t receive any guaranteed money from New England. No one tells Belichick how to run his show.
Maybe Belichick, in his supreme arrogance, feels he’s the one who can fix Tebow. Remember, his offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, has believed in Tebow from the start. As Denver’s head coach, McDaniels sent three picks to Baltimore to move back into the first round and draft Tebow in 2010.
McDaniels, who had served as the Pats’ offensive coordinator before taking the Denver job, was reportedly concerned that Tebow might get snapped up by another Tebow admirer – his old boss, Belichick. So you could say that Tebow is now united with the two men who believed in him most.
They have a big job on their hands. Tebow is still very raw as a passer. He needs to polish his throwing motion. He has to prove he can make all the different throws, to make his progressions and deliver then ball on target.
Belichick won’t give anything away, but you have to wonder if he’ll come up with inventive ways to channel Tebow’s determination and skill. Maybe use him some as an H-back? Try him at tight end in case Rob Gronkowski’s injury doesn’t heal in time?
You can’t rule anything out where Belichick is concerned. No one is better at going through the football junkyard and finding rusty old parts to stick under his hood.
Belichick took a veteran wide receiver, Troy Brown, and turned him into a defensive back. Remember Brown picking off Drew Bledsoe that awful night in Foxborough? He used Julian Edelman the same way. He took Wes Welker from the Dolphins and made him into a superstar.
A few years ago, the Jets cut Danny Woodhead. Belichick grabbed Woodhead and turned him into a valuable spot player in a great offense. There was a stretch in one Super Bowl when Woodhead was Brady’s go-to guy on offense.
Buffalo fans have ample justification for worry. The Patriots have won 23 of their last 25 games against the Bills. In the last six meetings with the Bills, the Patriots have averaged 40.2 points a game. Go ahead and make fun of Belichick’s offensive judgment.
Sure, the Tebow signing could be a sign of Belichick’s expanding ego and fading genius. But if he turns Tebow into a functioning NFL quarterback, a player he can trust to make big throws and win games if Brady goes down, it would one of his greatest coaching achievements. If nothing else, maybe Belichick wants Tebow to be a character guy in the locker room, a professional example, the way he did with Doug Flutie at the end of Flutie’s career in 2005.
Hey, maybe Tebow knows how to drop-kick.