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Are Belichick and Tebow a perfect match?
Tim Tebow’s first minicamp workout as a Patriot is finished (he went 4 for 7). His jersey is on sale (he’ll wear No. 5). And New England coach Bill Belichick has thrown his first wet blanket on Tebowmania (“We’ll see how it goes”).
Just as Tebow’s NFL career hung by a thread, the Patriots swooped in and gave him a shot of reclaiming his pro career. Whether he’s a quarterback or a multi-faceted offensive weapon (or linebacker, for that matter) is up in the air.
Here are a few reasons Tebow and Pats are a good match, a few reasons it might fail and insight from the experts.
Why it might work
He won’t sniff the starting quarterback job.
The backup quarterback for Tom Brady is a little less popular than the one for Mark Sanchez, to say nothing of the third-stringer. Tebow starts behind Brady and Ryan Mallett, signaling Tebow’s status as an experiment. An injury to Brady is the only thing separating the Patriots from the “Tebow should start” firestorm, but Brady has made 71 consecutive starts.
He can flourish as a specialist.
The theory is that Belichick will find a way to capitalize on Tebow’s size, toughness and athleticism. New England is where a linebacker became a red zone receiving threat, where a Jets castoff from Chadron State amassed more than 2,100 yards from scrimmage in three seasons, where a converted MAC quarterback has been a key contributor on special teams and as receiver, and where a veteran receiver played cornerback during a Super Bowl run.
Even if Tebow is not a Mike Vrabel, Danny Woodhead, Julian Edelman or Troy Brown, he’s still the only read option quarterback on the Patriots’ roster. And with the two-year-old rule allowing emergency quarterbacks to be active for the entire game, Belichick has extra flexibility.
He’s in the right organization.
Tebow’s hometown organization of Jacksonville wanted nothing to do with him, so this is as close as a homecoming as the lefty could have. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels drafted him in Denver, Belichick and former Florida coach Urban Meyer are close colleagues (and Vrabel is now Meyer’s linebackers coach at Ohio State). Three other members of Florida’s 2008 title team are on the Pats’ roster -- tight end Aaron Hernandez, linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham.
Why it might not work
He’s not suited to any position, provided he’s willing to move
Here’s what we know: Tebow is a liability as a passer. He’s a physical runner taking direct snaps or scrambling. There’s little evidence other than his build that suggests Tebow can play tight end, fullback or H-back in the NFL. Tebow has never caught a pass at the collegiate or pro level. He may not be the next Brad Smith or Kordell Stewart. That, of course, assumes Tebow is willing to be Belichick’s and McRoberts’ wild card in the offense in the first place.
Brady gets hurt
Even the most ardent (and sane) Tebow fan can live with the lefty backing up Brady, but what if Brady’s out of the picture? He’ll be 36 years old and already missed a season to a torn ACL. If Tebow is in a realistic position to start for New England, expect the Tebow brigade to speak up.
Reaction from the experts:
• USA Today’s Dan Shanoff, who established the TimTeblog, wrote in April he thought the Patriots were always the most logical landing spot. “Watch Belichich get Tebow 10 TDs, just to show he can.” Shanoff lists some of the same reasons Athlon did as to why it may work in New England, but notes some of the intangibles and the possibilities of it works out:
Just when you think things can’t get any more crazy, they do. Forget how last season played out and consider the long game: Given the widespread animus for both Tim Tebow and Boston sports teams/fans, it would take the Tebow insanity to new levels.
• Chris Brown at Smart Football notes Tebow has improved little as passer, especially since regressing at Florida in 2009, but he’s modestly hopeful he can clean up his deficiencies now that he’s in the right spot.
His flaws (in 2005) are still his flaws now, but the talent is still there too, though somewhat obscured. The question is whether, in 2013, it’s too late for Tebow to learn any better.
• Bruce Allen at Boston Sports Media looks at the media circus angle for the Patriots. Yes, it’s going to be crazy at first. It’s red meat for the talking heads, but the media throng will shrink eventually. Timothy Burke at Deadspin notes ESPN mentioned Tebow 137 times in 120 minutes Tuesday.
• Ben Volin, who covered Florida during the 2008 national championship run, is back on the Tebow beat now that he covers the Pats for the Boston Globe. He’s one of the myriad reporters and columnists saying Tebow has landed in the perfect spot.
In theory, Tebow is athletic enough to be a “slash” type of player like Kordell Stewart or Jim “Crash” Jensen. He’s big enough to play tight end (6 feet 3 inches, 236 pounds), smashes into defenders hard enough to play fullback, and throws well enough to be a trick-play asset on special teams.
• And on to the only place where Tebow is a sure thing: The Patriots opened the online store for Tebow jerseys, as noted by Sports Grid. The Pats’ email was sent before Tebow had a jersey number (Mallett wears No. 15, Tebow will wear No. 5).
• Odds are you’ll read some unintentionally bad columns about the Tebow signing. Might as well read one that’s trying to be awful from Grantland’s Andrew Sharp. The tally: 36 paragraphs, 19 of them are a sentence or less.