Just two years ago, Tim Tebow was worth a first-round pick. Sure, that was a reach, and a very calculated one by Josh McDaniels, who was then the Broncos head coach. Had Tebow’s charm not won over McDaniels during the pre-draft interview process, he likely would have tumbled to at least the third round.
But like any draft that we look at through our handy crystal ball (an exercise we’ll engage in often over the next few weeks), that’s all educated second guessing. We know what Tebow is now, with his very unique skills, and his many, many flaws that start with the inability to throw a football with any consistency whatsoever. But Tebow’s status as a first-round pick is a fact etched in NFL history, and now former general manager Charley Casserly thinks Denver will be lucky to get a fifth rounder as they shop their quarterback after signing Peyton Manning.
They may be fine with that, and John Elway undoubtedly just wants to immediately capitalize on any value Tebow has while there are still vacancies on the quarterback market. The dynamic Tebow introduces to an offense is scary for general managers and offensive coordinators who are hesitant to change their entire scheme. But his gimmicky style could also work in Tebow’s favor as teams look to add some trickery.
Here are some early possibilities for Tebow’s next team, which range from the very obvious, to the very…odd.
1. Miami Dolphins
Miami is still courting Alex Smith, but he’s likely just using them, and he’ll probably bolt back to San Francisco now that his old team officially isn’t employing anyone named Manning. From a business standpoint, a franchise that saw plenty of pretty orange empty seats needs a quick and easy jolt of energy, and we saw last year during the Dolphins’ “Gator Day” what the power of Tebow can do in South Florida, even though it’s primarily Hurricane territory.
One of the foremost weapons Tebow needs for success is a strong running game, and Reggie Bush had 519 rushing yards over his final four games of 2011 (he missed Week 16 with an injury).
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville is more in the heart of Gator country, and similar to Miami, this is a franchise that desperately needs a financial boost, and needs it now. New owner Shahid Khan wants to keep the team in Jacksonville, and re-establish the Jaguars as a legitimate NFL organization that isn’t continually struggling for attention even in its own local market.
There’s just a small personnel problem here: adding Tebow makes absolutely no sense. A year ago Jacksonville spent a first-round pick on Blaine Gabbert, and then they hired the offensive-minded Mike Mularkey as their new head coach to work with Gabbert and make him more comfortable and confident in the pocket. They also just signed Chad Henne to be Gabbert’s competent competition. Trading for Tebow would then mean Henne is immediately a wasted signing, and Gabbert a wasted pick.
3. Cleveland Browns
Although the demand is higher in Jacksonville and Miami, the Browns may be the best fit. When he’s asked to throw, Tebow excels when he’s on the move, and his targets are running short, simple routes. Pat Shurmur’s west coast offense is difficult to learn, but those are two basic staples of the system.
4. New England Patriots
And now we begin the parade of reaches based on gimmickery, and Tebow playing a position that isn’t necessarily quarterback. That transition would likely be to some halfback concoction that involves a little bit of throwing, and a lot of pretending to throw, fooling no one, and then running. Remember those hand-offs to Aaron Hernandez? Yeah, Tebow would look kind of like that in New England.
Tebow’s transition with the Patriots would be made easier with McDaniels’ presence as the new offensive coordinator.
5. Oakland Raiders
Al Davis’ legacy lives on. The Raiders have always been infatuated with highly athletic wonderkids, and Tebow’s style could be the perfect contrast to the statuesque Carson Palmer if the Raiders want to run any wildcat formations.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Vick is a far superior passer, but in terms of their running ability and athleticism, Tebow is one of the few comparables to the Eagles quarterback. Vince Young was allowed to walk as a free agent, and Vick has missed five games over the past two years.
The Eagles have arguably the most important backup QB position in the league, and Tebow is the most similar to Vick among the quarterbacks still available either on the open market, or through a trade. Even if there isn’t enough confidence in his ability to be an effective backup, then Mike Kafka could take that role, and offensive creativity would lead to some ultra athletic backfield sets that feature Tebow, Vick, and LeSean McCoy.
7. Carolina Panthers
This sounds crazy, probably because it is crazy. But if we’re reaching for places where Tebow would be exactly what he is and little more (a gimmick), then why not put him alongside Cam Newton? With the combined elusiveness of those two and their familiarity with spread offenses, the creativity would be limitless.