Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Tebow Dilemma

One thing I've never understood about the whole Tim Tebow phenomenon—both the good and the bad—is how so many people use one's opinion about Tebow's abilities to play quarterback at the NFL level as a litmus test of religious faith. Simply put, Tebow is, by all accounts, a young man of strong faith who professes a public commitment to living a Christ-centered life. Wonderful. He's also a lousy NFL quarterback. Not as wonderful.

In this age of social media and instant offense at the slightest of remarks, pointing out that Tebow's skill at QB in the NFL is atrocious has become akin to pounding another nail through Jesus's wrist. What? Since when did religious faith of any kind have anything at all to do with a person's athletic skill? The history of the NFL is full of outstanding QBs who range from strong men of faith (Kurt Warner) to others who wouldn't get within a zip code of any of my daughters (Ben Roethlisberger). One has nothing to do with the other.

Except with Tim Tebow. To criticize his ability is taken by his most vehement supporters as a slight to the faith. I'm sorry to inform those people of this simple fact, but here it is: Jesus himself, if he were an NFL head coach, wouldn't start Tebow at QB. Get over it.

That leads us to Bill Belichick, who will never be confused at any time for Jesus Christ. He has, for some unseen reason, decided to sign Tebow as a third-string QB for the New England Patriots. The connection is, of course, NE offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Tebow's head coach in Denver. Is this charity? Did McDaniels convince Belichick that Tebow still has real potential? Only time will tell, but from my seat here in the midwest, I can think of a few scenarios.

1) Tebow will be a third-string quarterback. This is the most likely. I find it hard to see Tebow outplaying Ryan Mallet—an unbelievably skilled QB at Arkansas—for the second-string job. And Tebow has as much chance of beating out Tom Brady for the job as he does convincing Brady's wife Giselle Bundchen of running away to Florida with him. So he rides the pine and holds a clipboard. Glamorous job, huh? 

2) Tebow will be a gimmick player. He'll be used sparingly on gadget and gimmick plays like direct snaps from the RB position, or some variation of the wildcat offense. This seems even less likely from either Belichick's or Brady's standpoint. Bringing Tebow in every once in a while does nothing to make your offense more potent. The Jets proved that when Tebow only comes in once or twice a game, it's easy  to stop him.

3) Belichick and McDaniels finally convince Tebow to play a different position. This is the idea that makes the most sense. He can run the ball better than most fullbacks. I assume he could catch from either the RB or the TE position. And, every once in a while, he could throw the ball downfield (his long arm is much better than his short game—watch his Denver games and see). In fact, Tebow could be a whole new type of position player: the Hybrid. You really don't know what he's going to do—run? Pass? Catch? All of the above on one play? He would be a bigger star in this role than he would ever be as a below-average QB.

There's nothing wrong, absolutely no shame, in being the best that you can be at what you do well. The best that Tebow can be as a QB is to sit on the bench as a third-stringer. The best that he could be as a hybrid RB/FB/TE/QB is create an entirely new position; he could be a real pioneer in the evolution of the offensive game in the same way we see with players like RGIII and Colin Kaepernick. 

I don't know who keeps telling Tim Tebow that it's his destiny to be a starting NFL QB. I don't think it's Jesus, and I don't think it's going to be Bill Belichick, either. Maybe one of them can convince him that a successful career leads down a much different path. 

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