When the New England Patriots signed Tim Tebow this offseason it started an expected media frenzy that was quickly diffused by Bill Belichick. Tebow will still garner plenty of attention in training camp, but what will it take for him to resurrect his career with the Pats?
Josh McDaniels is one of the most innovative offensive football minds in the NFL, and he clearly had a plan for Tebow when he traded the Broncos' second-, third- and fourth-round picks to get him in the first round.
Now McDaniels no longer has the pressure of having to justify that selection with his current team—there will be no quarterback controversy in New England, and perhaps now McDaniels can groom Tebow in peace and mold him into what his original vision was.
The knocks on Tebow as a quarterback are well-documented, but what is undeniable is his competitiveness and brute strength with the ball in his hands.
Let's take a look at how the Patriots can build a role for Tebow that doesn't involve him starting at quarterback but still contributing in enough ways to win him a roster spot.
The Patriots saw firsthand what Tebow was capable of in December of 2011, when he led the Broncos out to a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter. The Patriots adjusted to their 3-4 defense and Tebow was stifled, despite putting up two touchdowns and 287 total yards of offense.
When the two teams unexpectedly met again in the playoffs, Tebow was shut down completely, recording just 13 yards rushing and completing nine passes for 136 yards.
Still, Tebow's performance early in the first meeting gave the Pats defense problems, so when the Jets acquired Tebow in 2012, it gave Pats fans pause. But New York's lack of creativity with Tebow resulted in a lost season.
As Joe Caporoso of the popular Jets blog TurnOnTheJets.com told me:
The Jets gave him limited chance to play quarterback and they'd put him in during weird, poorly timed situations. He only completed six passes and they were all dump-offs or quick swing routes. Tebow averaged 3.2 yards per carry when running and never broke any big plays, outside of a 22-yard run early in the year versus Pittsburgh.
Best Fit for Patriots
In a traditional passing offense like the Patriots under Tom Brady, it seems a stretch to believe Tebow could even be a legitimate third quarterback without the offense being majorly tweaked.
Many seem to think Tebow could be used as an H-back, in a similar role to what Aaron Hernandez did with the Patriots, but given samples like the GIF above, it's a stretch to think he can suddenly be a legitimate NFL pass-catcher.
More realistic would be to take the best of Tebow from the past two seasons and incorporate those elements into New England's offense, while he can redevelop under McDaniels.
He could have a use as a short-yardage running back. Tebow has the size of a fullback, but his ability to throw the ball, even with faulty mechanics, adds another element the defense must prepare for.
Couple the Tebow threat to plow through the line or pull up and toss a quick pass with the red-zone threats and the Pats could stymie opposing defenses in short-yardage situations with indecision.
A Brady handoff to Tebow, who then tosses it to a wide open Rob Gronkowski would be difficult to stop.
Third-string QBs don't often contribute and are often left off the roster entirely, as the Patriots have done in three of the past four seasons, but Tebow could carve out a role if he's able to add value at a number of different spots.
Tebow could also bring value on the punt team, where he was a fake punt threat with the Jets—perhaps the only significant contribution he made on the field.
And who knows, it might not be impossible for Tebow to have a legitimate shot to replace Brady in a few seasons, but he'll have to show progress at the quarterback position first. The competition he'll face for each role with be constant and intense.
As many have learned, you should never write a passionate player like Tebow off, especially with a franchise that can protect him from the media circus and give him a chance to focus entirely on football.
Bill Belichick always puts his players in position to succeed by playing to their strengths. Does Tebow have enough strengths to make himself useful? He'll have to start proving it in just a few days.