You have to love the NFL's bottomless well of intrigue. No sooner does one suspense thriller end than another one begins.
On Monday morning news broke that Peyton Manning has chosen the Broncos as his next team and is negotiating with the club on a contract. Instead of ending with an exclamation point, however, the announcement was followed by a comma, as in: Manning will sign with the Broncos, and the team will trade Tim Tebow.
Now that's advancing the story at Chris Johnson speed.
It says something about the popularity/polarity of Tebow that his situation could generate as much interest as Manning's did. Manning is a four-time league MVP who has thrown for 399 touchdowns and nearly 55,000 yards. Tebow is entering his third season and only became a full-time starter early last year.
Still, you knew there was little chance of a long-term relationship between Tebow and the Broncos. Executive VP John Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback himself, was never comfortable with Tebow's struggles to throw from the pocket. Yes, Tebow's late-game heroics were great. And so was the organization's first playoff appearance and win in six years. But Tebow's repeated struggles through three-plus quarters in games put an inordinate amount of pressure on the defense, which had to keep the score close for Denver to have any shot at a victory.
In Manning, Elway has a quarterback built in his mold from an ideological standpoint. He is the quintessential pocket passer. He is more likely to run for office than he is for a first down, and that's critical in an age where the rules are so heavily tilted toward the passing game.
So now a new guessing game begins: Where will Tebow land? The short answer is that none of us knows at this point. But since that's neither sexy nor interesting to a news cycle that must be fed by the hour, if not the minute, let's explore some of the options:
This is a popular pick because the Dolphins have made no secret of their desire to upgrade at the position, even though incumbent Matt Moore was 6-6 as a starter and threw for 16 scores with nine interceptions last season. They went after Manning, wooed Matt Flynn before he signed with Seattle and, according to the Denver Post, were in contract talks with 49ers free agent Alex Smith over the weekend.
I don't see Tebow as a good fit in Miami. New coach Joe Philbin's offense is built around an accurate pocket passer. Tebow had a 46.7 completion percentage as a starter last year, with much of his success coming when he was on the move. Can he get better in the pocket? Absolutely. But it's doubtful that Philbin will gamble on that in his first year as a head coach. Then again, perhaps the Dolphins are getting desperate after being left at the altar so often. And Tebow, a Florida native who won two national titles and a Heisman Trophy with the Gators, definitely would add star power to a storied franchise that has become painfully non-descript.
This one will get a lot of run, being that Tebow is a native of the area and definitely would provide a boost in attendance. Currently, the Jaguars have two quarterbacks: free agent signee Chad Henne and 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert. I've never been high on Gabbert, who spends too much time looking at the rush, and Henne is never going to be confused for Manning, so perhaps Tebow could make a positive impression on new coach Mike Mularkey. But will he get the chance? Reports are that general manager Gene Smith is not high on him, so the only chance of a Tebow homecoming is if new owner Shahid Khan steps in, and I don't see that happening.
This one makes so much sense to me that there's no way it happens. One, Eagles coach Andy Reid is prone to do the unpredictable (see, Michael Vick, 2009; or Vince Young, 2010). Two, Tebow has many of the same qualities as Vick (mobile, left-handed, strong-armed). Three, switching to Tebow from Vick if Vick were to sustain an injury -- he has missed at least three games because of injury in each of his three seasons in Philadelphia -- would not require a major adjustment to play-calling or blocking schemes. Again, it makes so much sense that it will never happen.
This one makes little sense, in that the Patriots have a Hall of Fame-caliber starter in Tom Brady and a promising backup in Ryan Mallett. Then again, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels did trade up to draft Tebow in the first round when McDaniels was coach of the Broncos. And Patriots coach Bill Belichick is known to be a fan of Tebow's intangibles. It's not inconceivable that New England could put together a package for Tebow while working to improve his production from the pocket.
Again, none of us knows what will happen at this point. But if there is one thing we can all agree on, it's that the story will be closely watched and widely debated.