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Patriots open can of worms with Tim Tebow acquisition

Posted by Adam Kaufman  June 11, 2013 06:00 AM

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The Bruins are in pursuit of a second Stanley Cup in three years. The Red Sox, coming off a disastrous 69-win season, are among the best teams in the majors. The Celtics are in flux with a head coach who refuses to reveal whether or not he’ll return for the inevitable rebuild.

The Patriots had to do something other than run-of-the-mill OTA’s, right?

Twitter damn near broke late Monday afternoon when ESPN reported what a number of people had frequently speculated. New England signed quarterback – a term used very loosely – Tim Tebow, and he’s set to report to minicamp today.

The beautiful thing about a guy as polarizing as the one who brought us Tebowmania is that everyone’s got an opinion. Here’s mine: Who cares?

Repeat: This is not a big deal. Not yet.

This story barely scrapes the surface of relevance until he’s on the roster for Week 1, and hopefully with at least a somewhat defined role. Remember the excitement when the Patriots signed every receiver under the sun last offseason? It was nice on paper to give Tom Brady a few new old weapons in Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth, at least until they were all cut before camp broke.

Let’s consider the Pats’ options with Tebow:

1) At the moment, we’ve been led to believe by the reports that the wannabe NFL QB will serve as the team’s third-stringer behind Ryan Mallett, or perhaps even as the backup to Brady. Many pundits doubt Tebow’s ability to play the position well at the game’s highest level, despite a shooting star’s worth of success with the Broncos in 2011 in which he even won a playoff game before getting clobbered by Brady’s crew, 45-10, in the next round.

Over two seasons with the Broncos and one with the Jets that probably made him turn to the guy in the sky for sanity every so often, Tebow’s quarterback opportunities have produced 2,422 yards, 17 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and a 47.9% completion rate over 35 games. On the ground, he’s rushed for 989 yards and another 12 scores. He’s mobile, no doubt about it, and it’s his ability as a football player – not a quarterback, per se, but a player – that has always seemed to intrigue Pats coach Bill Belichick dating back to their pre-draft talks in 2010.

Ah, yes, the draft. That’s when now-Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was head coach in Denver, and he traded away three picks for the right to select a Florida Heisman Trophy winner who’d mesmerized very few others, many of whom saw Tebow as benefiting from the profile of so many other players who despite success in college were unable to get the job done at the next level.

Again, only a few people seem to believe Tebow can be an NFL QB, or player for that matter. Hall of Famer Warren Moon suggested Tebow couldn’t even cut it in the Canadian Football League, and former pro Ron Jaworski felt the Arena League would be the answer. His supporters really may only include Tebow himself, McDaniels and maybe Belichick. Rumors be damned, it turns out Bill likes his game after all.

You’re probably thinking, “Umm … we have a quarterback.” Yes, and one of the all-time greats, who also happens to be under contract until he’s 40. That’s five more years. Barring injury, Tebow wouldn’t take a single snap ahead of Brady. Unlike in New York, there’s no QB controversy in Foxboro. Mark Sanchez stinks; Brady’s elite, even at 35. Need I remind you that Tebow couldn’t – or at least didn’t – start ahead of Greg McElroy when Sanchez was benched late last year? I suppose, in his defense, he only got to chuck eight passes and he completed six. Woo hoo!

What the Patriots could do is keep him around to practice, learn the system, study the playbook, and refill Brady’s Gatorade. Who knows, maybe as a long-term project, with the right coaching and mentorship, Tebow could be molded into an NFL-caliber quarterback after a few years? You at least have to wonder if that’s what they’re thinking in the offices at Gillette. Haven’t you heard? All He Does Is Win.

2) If not a quarterback, maybe Tebow could be used as a tight end. At 6-3 and 236 pounds, there’s no questioning the man’s athleticism and build. He’s tough, can take a hit, could probably block, and he’s a hard worker who genuinely seems eager to find a fit, even if he prefers to be under center. We know the Wildcat experiment didn’t pan out with Gang Green (and wouldn't exit here with Brady still breathing), but there also isn’t much evidence that Rex Ryan and company ever really gave it a shot. The coaching staff determined that he couldn’t play and that was essentially that. He’s a good kid and, regardless of his abilities, he got a raw deal.

If Tebow could handle the position – a big if – it would provide depth at a spot decimated by injuries. The Patriots shouldn’t be rushing Rob Gronkowski back onto the field any time soon, and Aaron Hernandez and Jake Ballard have their own histories of medical woes.

3+) Without blabbering on and on in this space, we may as well also throw fullback, H-back, linebacker, or a special teams role into the conversation. Again, with the right coaching and the Jets not around to screw things up, it’s possible Tebow could thrive under the tutelage of special teams captain Matthew Slater. We've seen guys like Troy Brown and Julian Edelman excel at various positions. Belichick enjoys reinventing guys and Tebow could in theory bring versatility.

That’s all any of the above is: theory. Until Tebow’s on the 53-man roster to start the season in one of the above roles, or even on the 45-man game day roster, this whole thing is moot. It’s not publicity because – unlike the Jets trying to steal headlines back from the Giants after a Super Bowl win – the Patriots don’t operate that way. There won’t be an enormous press conference to welcome a backup quarterback (or whatever he is) to town. Heck, not only would the Pats not think to do it, Belichick wouldn’t allow it. In Foxboro, you keep your mouth shut. The last guy to capture the media's attention with his comments was the greatest receiver in franchise history, and now he’s catching balls from Peyton Manning. Something for Tebow to keep in mind, since he fancies himself a media darling.

One thing Belichick does like, however, is being right while proving others wrong. In Bill We Trust, in part, comes from his long-standing desire to take on reclamation projects – whether for personality or talent-sake – and revitalize their careers. See Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, or the recently-jailed Chad Ochocinco. Obviously some have worked out better than others.

Plus, we’re certainly learning how much weight McDaniels carries in this organization. The man many expect to succeed Belichick one day has, you’d think, been involved in the acquisitions of Brandon Lloyd, Danny Amendola, Michael Hoomanawanui, Greg Salas, and now Tebow? Give the guy a reunion reality show already.

On Monday morning, we thought Tim Tebow’s NFL career was over. With a non-guaranteed contract, maybe it still is. This signing is the definition of “low risk, potential high reward.” The Patriots have nothing to lose so, in that sense, what the hell? But wake me when he actually makes the team.

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About this blog

Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.

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