I always figured, once the inevitability of the demise of Tim Tebow with the Jets played out, there were three teams that made sense for him: New England, New Orleans and Green Bay. And New England, which announced his signing today, was the most sensible, by far.
What those three teams had in common:
1. Strong coaches with power, job security and a hard-shell immunity from press criticism. Bill Belichick, Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy have all won Super Bowls. What do they care if the local columnist thinks signing Tebow is a stupid idea?
2. No-doubt starting quarterbacks with three or more years left. There will never be a quarterback controversy barring injury in any of the three.
3. A good quarterback-teaching system in place.
New England has two things the others don't, in my opinion, that made the Patriots the best landing spot for Tebow: a good second-string quarterback, and the man with the most faith in Tebow in the NFL. Ryan Mallett actually makes the Patriots a great option for Tebow. And offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was the man with the guts to make Tebow the 25th pick in the 2010 draft.
In Green Bay, Graham Harrell backs up Aaron Rodgers, and there might not be a shakier understudy in football. In New Orleans, three-year backup Chase Daniel, a good security blanket for Drew Brees, has left for Kansas City, so Luke McCown and Seneca Wallace are left to battle for the backup job. Had either the Packers and Saints signed Tebow, the drumbeat from the locals would have begun immediately about Tebow being better than whoever else was in camp, so he should win the backup job. And maybe he should have. But no team in football, today, wants Tim Tebow one high ankle sprain away from being its starting quarterback.
With Mallett a strong No. 2 (for now) in New England, the Patriots can take the year to continue to develop Tebow. No pressure for him to play, unless Belichick wants to use him on the occasional two-point conversion try or on some spread four-wide short-yardage plays. (It's not so incongruous to go spread on short-yardage anymore, especially if you have a 242-pound quarterback who could double as a short-yardage back.) If Belichick chooses, he could simply use the year as a developmental season for Tebow. Maybe he's found something, maybe not. What does he have to lose? A 53rd roster spot?
That is, if Tebow even makes the team. No lock there. Belichick can take all of the next three months to determine whether Tebow is a worthwhile project. He owes him no money unless Tebow's on the opening week roster Sept. 3. So Belichick has 12 weeks of a free look at Tebow right now.
That's where McDaniels comes in. In 2010, I spent a day inside the Broncos when McDaniels was the head coach, watching him install his offense to a quarterback group that included Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tebow. McDaniels, you'll recall, traded second-, third- and fourth-round picks to Baltimore to move up and pick Tebow in the first round of the 2010 draft. (Good move, as it turned out, for Baltimore -- they got Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson out of the deal.) And that spring, Tebow threw about 150 extra passes a day during OTAs and mini-camp under the watchful eyes of Josh and Ben McDaniels (brother Ben was the quarterback coach), both of whom learned quarterback-teaching under their father, longtime Ohio high school coach Thom McDaniels.
Tebow told me then: "I spent a lot of time with [Josh McDaniels] early on, before the draft. I got to know his philosophy and really believe in it. What he was teaching made sense. The buying-in process wasn't hard. I see how what they're teaching me is going to make me better. The mechanics -- I'm going to be thinking about them for a long time. I've got to make the uncomfortable comfortable, and I've got to hurry."
And Tebow loved the skepticism that accompanied his pick, a skepticism that has grown to a loud roar today after stints in Denver and with the New York Jets. "I think we both love it,'' he said that spring day three years ago, referring to he and McDaniels. "It's a little bit of us against the world. It will be wonderful when I prove him right."
He's got another chance now.
I love the Patriots taking the shot. It's smart. I've never bought the idea that Tebow has no value in the NFL. Tony Sparano determined that with the Jets last year in training camp, and after Tebow looked poor early in New Jersey, he never had any sort of shot to change Sparano's mind. It was a wasted year. You don't luck your way into seven wins and a playoff upset of Pittsburgh if you're talent-less. Tebow is a non-traditional quarterback, and this is a non-traditional league right now. Who saw Russell Wilson doing what he did last year? Who saw Tebow beating Dick LeBeau in the playoffs? There's little risk here for New England. It's a smart play.
Now for your email:
CHAD'S A MISCHIEVOUS GUY. "Hi Peter, I was curious about your reaction to Chad Johnson receiving 30 days in jail and probation extension for smacking his attorney's butt in court? I think it's just, as this is what he probably would have received if the rambunctious celebrity didn't have a high-priced lawyer negotiating for him. A courtroom is not a reality show, and I think he got the point. Too bad this didn't happen 10 years ago to help him focus on football.''
-- Chad, Mogadore, Ohio.
When I read about it, I kept thinking: I bet Carson Palmer wishes he had that judge as a GM when he was in Cincinnati.
ON THE IN-STADIUM EXPERIENCE. "I hear a lot about the NFL being concerned about the in game experience and getting people to the game. Do you think that's the reason the NFL has not broadcasted in 3D? I have ESPN 3D and Monday Night Football is not broadcast in 3D. The Masters was in 3D and it was the most incredible viewing experience you have ever seen. I think the NFL is scared of 3D.''
-- Mark Epstein, Oradell, N.J.
Doubt that. The NFL just doesn't have the 3D technology to the point where it can be used for games yet. You can bet league broadcasters will roll it out when they've got it right.
I LIKE THIS IDEA. "I was thinking about how to make the NFL more interesting and came up with this idea: ban field goal attempts if the ball is marked inside the opponent's 20-yard line. This guarantees all FG attempts would be at least 37 yards, makable, but hardly a gimme. It would force teams to be more aggressive inside the red zone, both offensively and defensively. As you can probably guess, I hate, hate, hate seeing teams drive the ball down the field and then go into 'don't screw up' mode inside the twenty. I want to see teams play to win rather than play not to lose. I'd keep the PAT and two-point conversion as they are, although I like your proposal in today's column. I think it's in the same vein as what I've proposed, above.''
-- Ed Johnson, Aliquippa, Pa.
I think that's got some merit, Ed. I agree on the point about teams going into safe mode to not screw up the chance for three points. It's strategic, but it also takes away from more plays that excite the fans.
GOOD IDEA HERE TOO. "In your column you say that teams are doing everything they can do to compete with the couch, but as a fan and a season ticket holder, I wish the stadiums would embrace the couch mentality than try and fight it. Biggest complaint I hear is that at home I can watch all the games at once and keep up with fantasy. There is an easy solution to this- just designate one of your huge video screens to the red zone channel. Keep the sound down, but just play the red zone channel continuously throughout the game. We live in an information now society and at the stadium, you usually get a NFL packaged highlights that are constantly an hour old and don't give up to date state and info.''
-- Timothy Lyden, Bowie, Md.
I've always argued people should be at games to watch the game. I'm losing that fight, slowly but surely. But I actually think it's a good plan, between plays, to have the Red Zone Channel on some smaller video board in the stadium.