Just when you thought he was out... he pulls you back in.
Quarterback Tim Tebow, who last took a snap with an NFL team in 2012 when he did so with the New York Jets, and hasn't been on an NFL roster since the New England Patriots released him in August, 2013, will sign a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in time for the team's off-season conditioning program on Monday. Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com was first with the news.
The Tebow signing is the latest in a series of interesting moves that coincided with head coach Chip Kelly's power play early in the year, one that left him with ultimate personnel power and former general manager Howie Roseman in more of an advisory role. Kelly traded quarterback Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for Sam Bradford, traded running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonzo, signed former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray to replace McCoy, released defensive end Trent Cole, signed former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell to a lucrative deal and let receiver Jeremy Maclin walk in free agency to the Kansas City Chiefs.
All of those moves are important and say more about Kelly's approach to team-building than the Tebow signing does, but there's little doubt that the Tebow signing will get more media attention than all those moves combined. Since he was a star for Urban Meyer's Florida Gators and was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2010 draft, Tebow has been a media magnet, whether he's liked it or not, and a highly polarizing figure due to his religious beliefs and the aforementioned media (over-)attention.
Tebow started three games in his rookie season, but it was his 2011 campaign that really caught fire. As a replacement for Kyle Orton, Tebow completed 126 of 271 passes (a decidedly sub-par 46.5 completion percentage), but directed the Broncos to a number of improbable comebacks, concluding with Denver's 29-23 playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which he threw an 80-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in overtime.
It was one of the few plays in which Tebow did things a professional quarterback would be expected to do, in that specific sense. The real star of the 2011 Broncos was offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who set up a simple, one-read system that played to Tebow's strengths (running, persistence, keeping plays alive) while reducing the effects of his weaknesses (throwing motion, field vision, the ability to adjust against more complicated defenses).
As the Broncos signed Peyton Manning to a huge free-agent deal in March, 2012, the team decided to trade Tebow and a seventh-round pick to the New York Jets for fourth- and sixth-round picks. Tebow was used as more of a gimmick player in the Jets' misbegotten Wildcat attempts than anything else. He completed just six passes in eight attempts for 39 yards in 2012, and quarterback Mark Sanchez, who, as fate would have it, is now also with the Eagles, was still the main man at that position. The Jets released Tebow in April, 2013, and the Patriots signed him to a two-year deal with no guaranteed money in June of that year. After he completed just 36.7 passes in the preseason, Tebow was released by the Pats in late August, as the team made its final cuts to get to the 53-man roster. Tebow vowed to keep his NFL dream alive, but also signed a deal with ESPN as an SEC Network analyst.
According to Glazer, the Eagles were convinced that Tebow's work with former major league pitcher and quarterback guru Tom House did enough to put him back on track as a functional NFL prospect. Kelly's offensive schemes are certainly beneficial to quarterbacks when they have protection, but Kelly will have his work cut out for him here. Yes, Kelly runs a lot of shotgun and option stuff, which Tebow is familiar with, but Philly's offense is also a serious hurry-up system, and Tebow was labored at best. In the short term, Tebow will be competing with Sanchez, Bradford and third-stringer Matt Barkley, who the Eagles tried to trade in recent weeks.
If you give them proper mechanics, the idiosyncrasies go away," House told Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report in March. "I think that Tim has found his efficient throwing motion. He did all the work. We just showed him the drills specific to his strength and mechanical requirements. He did the work to reinforce it.
"If you remember the old Tim Tebow, or you looked at old film, then you look at it now, you could see the difference. What that means to him or to you or to my eyes isn't really important. What matters is that he is releasing the ball more efficiently, with better spin and accuracy, at the right time."
We can but wait and see.