Written by James Brown, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com
Let's get something straight: Tim Tebow will be drafted. Earlier than you think. Or Todd McShay thinks, for that matter. As a quarterback. And all that stands in the way of success is how he develops the NFL-ish skills he is lacking. Which can be said of almost every prospect, ever. A huge factor, which will help his NFL career be as successful as possible, is his initial destination.
The franchise which chooses Tebow will impact his long-term career by the expectations placed on him for 2010, the patience of the franchise with a young QB, and the quality of coaching he will receive.
So where will he go? How could he best adapt to the NFL game? Which franchises are a good mix of 'likely to draft Tebow', and 'could develop Tebow into an NFL star'?
After all, the Tim Tebow experiment is inevitable...
The truth is, we won't know where Tim Tebow is going. Every team is going to speak highly of him in the press, and play mind games to get whoever is going to draft him to take him as high as possible. Tim Tebow is the brand amongst brands- scoring higher, already, in endorsement appeal (in various categories) than Brett Favre, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady.
The Train Wrecks
Quite simply, whether these are likely situations or not, they represent the worst-case destinations for Tim Tebow. He needs to go to a franchise where he will NOT be viewed as a savior, and pushed into playing before he is ready. I have little doubt he will turn into a player that could carry a franchise like this. But, for his long-term NFL goals, he needs to take some time adjusting to the NFL game. It's not that I think early playing time will somehow hurt his growth as a quarterback, it's that impatience is the enemy of player development.
Sorry, Jim Kelly, but the Buffalo Bills are one of these teams (Kelly recently stated that the Bills need a franchise QB, and spoke in support of Tebow). They reek of desperation: Buffalo is a success-starved city trying to keep the team in town. The Chan Gailey-Florida connection makes this somewhat likely, as does the fact that they are a team without a QB. I hope for Tim Tebow's sake they try something else.
Is any explanation necessary for the Oakland Raiders falling into this category? You laugh, but Al Davis is seeming like the sane one in his interactions with Lane Kiffin. I'm thinking Tim Tebow's decision not to do any workouts whatsoever at the combine is his way of avoiding being picked by the Raiders. And of course there have been many sarcastic links between Tim Tebow and the Raiders all over the place. Anyway, it could happen, but I really hope it does not.
What to say about the St. Louis Rams? While I love me the Steven Jackson, this team is more than a QB away. Being a franchise savior and pushed into early duty is exactly the type of situation I hope Tebow avoids. Most Rams QB speculation has them taking one early in the first (and not Tebow), and/or signing Michael Vick. But I did at least find someone in St Louis who called Tebow his 'new favorite quarterback'.
The Carolina Panthers are also far from ideal. Though anyone at this point would probably be an upgrade over Jake Delhomme (incompletions at least don't directly result in points for the other team), this team is pretty much a disaster. Have we seen anything out of the franchise that says they'd be able to develop a young prospect? Many of their fans already want Matt Moore, drafting a QB like Tebow is just inviting a controversy... I'll pass. The Charlotte Observer did this piece on Tebow's fit in Carolina. They also met with him during the Senior Bowl week.
The Cleveland Browns have two (or none, as the saying goes) young QBs in Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. Both of these guys- neither of whom appears ready to be a franchise QB- have been there a while, and there's since been a change in management and the coaching staff. This makes it at least somewhat likely they could blow the whole thing up and start over. But who would mentor Tim Tebow in this scenario? Would a depressed city, which could lose LeBron James, look to Tim Tebow as their savior? For Tim Tebow's sake, I hope the Browns stay away. Even if Tom Heckert is impressed by Tebow. ESPN's NFC North blog seems to think the Tebow love out of Browns camp could be nothing more than a smokescreen to cause other teams to draft him higher.
Florida Gators Heisman winner, National Champion heads to the Washington Redskins... I've heard that before. Twice. Yuck. Dan Snyder is pretty much the poster child of a dysfunctional NFL franchise (non-Oakland division). The idea did spark a 13-page thread in this Redskins forum. Please don't ruin Tebow for me, Dan. You've done enough to the players and coaches I hold dear.
The Least Likelies
Some of these teams (Baltimore, Atlanta, etc.) have a young QB who has had success, and is young enough for a Tebow pick to make no sense. Others (Tampa Bay, Detroit) have a young QB we're still waiting on, but it'd be an odd (and unlikely) sequence of events to end up with Tim Tebow on their roster. Basically, this category is anyone who drafted a potential (in their eyes) 'franchise' QB in the last 2 years. However, note the 2007 draft class is full of QBs either getting bailed on (JaMarcus Russell, potentially Brady Quinn) or being likely will be pressed into action (Kevin Kolb) as teams begin to seek a return on that investment, or pursue alternatives.
The Atlanta Falcons have Matt Ryan. And the fewest mentions of Tim Tebow on their websites of any team in the NFL. Maybe because Georgians prefer their QBs to throw interceptions more frequently (extended way of zinging Stafford)?
I openly cackled when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Josh Freeman last year. I was with G1 NFL Draft guru Krutch at Dallas' Crawl for Cancer (drink beer? fight cancer? YES!), and he was depressed. But even he began to talk himself into Freeman by the end of the year (narrowly avoiding a winless season will do that, I guess). Anyway, my point is, as much as Tim Tebow would win a Florida-based NFL team fan support... this one isn't happening. Though some, at least, are entertaining the idea.
The New York Jets are another team that took a QB last season. Of course, I can't imagine a scenario where they would make a surprise run to the AFC Championship Game and then fire 5 assistant coaches, but that just happened.
The Detroit Lions think they got their franchise QB last year. I guess in a franchise QB, they value interceptions over anything else. Yep, second time to rip Stafford in this section. Anyway, after taking a QB #1 overall a year ago, there is no way they draft a QB this year.
I'm thinking the Chicago Bears break with recent history (Rex Grossman, Chris Leak) and avoid drafting this Florida Gators quarterback. Even if Jay Cutler is not a franchise quarterback, the Bears can't afford to devote so many resources to chasing a QB. The high pick this year would be on top of all they gave up for Cutler a year ago. Cutler is still young enough they won't give up on him, either. This isn't happening.
At least one Green Bay Packers fan is praying for Tebow to come to Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is 26. They're not drafting a QB, though when they got Rodgers it was great value after he fell past so many other teams. The only way they draft Tebow is if they think they can then trade him.
The Baltimore Ravens are Wacco for Flacco (as Matthew Berry would say). Joe Flacco is their franchise QB, and they have Troy Smith behind him. While it's likely they take a QB in a lower round in the draft, Tim Tebow will be gone before they are ready to pull the trigger.
How's this for a Gator connection to the Houston Texans: Rex Grossman is the backup QB. I doubt anyone still thinks Sexy Rexy will develop into a star down the road, so they could be looking for a backup for (first time Pro-Bowler) Matt Schaub. Schaub, however, is 28, and grooming a replacement would not be a high priority. I wouldn't be surprised if they take a QB, but I would be surprised if they do it early enough to get Tebow. I also am not sold on their ability to groom young QBs- Schaub was a highly-regarded backup with Atlanta before he was traded to Houston. This Texans blog has some arguments for and against his fit in Houston, while these fans chose instead to make up a fake trade scenario with division-rival Jags andthese fans want Tebow in Houston as a change-of-pace QB.
I am not sure if Eli Manning is a elite quarterback, but I am sure that the New York Giants have many other needs to address. Eli has at least won a Super Bowl, so they will look elsewhere during the draft. Manning the Younger also isn't as widely recognized for his football acumen, so I am skeptical of referring to him as a 'mentor' for a young QB such as Tim Tebow. With Rhett Bomar and David Carr as their other roster QBs, they could use a better backup. But Eli is the man for the present, and enough into the future for this franchise to draft other needs. I'd also describe this destination as 'questionable' because of the likelihood of a negative reaction by Giants fans at the draft, and because the franchise has not given me any indication of being a good place to come of age as a QB.
The Minnesota Vikings were one of the teams that talked with Tim Tebow at the Senior Bowl. They'll likely be held hostage by Brett Favre all summer as well. This article lists Tim Tebow as an option should Favre leave.
The Cincinnati Bengals could certainly use some good guys in their locker room. And I'm not sure Carson Palmer is as good as fantasy owners think he is, so maybe they could use a QB to groom for the near future. But this is another situation where Tebow would lack a mentor. I think the Bengals are enough of a mess that they won't address QB until much later in the draft that Tebow goes. But it is interesting to note the tie between Tim Tebow, Sam Wyche, and the Bengals. Cincy residents also witnessed first-hand his prolific passing game in the Sugar Bowl.
Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News, at least, had heard enough ''Tim Tebow to the Dallas Cowboys'' talk that he felt inclined to write about it. I think it's a bad fit for a reason he doesn't talk about: Texans HATE Tebow. Don't forget, when he should have won the Heisman in 2008, many in the Big XII region purposely left him off their ballot so that Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford would have a much better chance. Jerry Jones has also always shown an affinity for Big XII and Arkansas stars... so I don't think he'd do it. I'm also not sure of the fit, as ''Jerry Jones'' and ''Dallas Cowboys fan base'' are not words I'd lump together with ''sanity'' or ''patience''. Tony Romo is, however, a sneaky 30, and the immortal Jon Kitna can't be his backup forever. Finally, ex-Arkansas Razorbacks and ex-Dallas Cowboys assistant David Lee worked with Tebow during the Senior Bowl. He and (former Cowboy, now Miami Dolphins head coach) Tony Sparano mean that there's at least some link between Tebow and Dallas, but I just don't see this happening.
The Philadelphia Eagles already have a QB controversy. They have Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and Kevin Kolb. Vick is almost definitely gone, and most around the NFL seem to think McNabb is gone as well. If that were to happen, this would be a good situation (as far as coaching) in that the franchise seems to develop QBs well, and they mixed in Michael Vick fairly well- meaning they'd be creative enough to work on integrating Tebow's unique skill set. However, having the young Kolb and the younger Tebow can't be a good long-term strategy. Being the 4th QB in a mix of QBs means Philly is less a 'wild card' and more of a 'questionable destination' for Tim Tebow. Despite this piece, this piece and this piece linking Tebow with the Eagles. And some fans, at least, want him there.
Potentially Great Situations, Not Likely
The New Orleans Saints are the NFL's flagship for offensive firepower. They also have an established QB (on top of the world, right now) who would not be threatened by a young newcomer. I think Sean Payton would be innovative enough to find a use for Tim Tebow's unique skill set. However, he's a little young (31) to worry about training a replacement, and even on a Super Bowl-winning team there are needs to be addressed. This Fox Sports mock, however, does show Tebow to the Saints in the 2nd round, which could represent good value, if he's as high as some think on some other team's draft boards.
What about the Pittsburgh Steelers? Ben Roethlisberger has to be considered an elite quarterback.Comparisons to Big Ben (probably has something to do with the fact that Tebow is probably bigger than 'Big Ben') have already been made. The franchise is a model of stability, and he'd represent an upgrade over Dennis Dixon. So as a situation for a young QB to learn, this is close to ideal. But Big Ben is only 27, and the Steelers missed the playoffs- they have other team needs. This just isn't happening, but I did want to take the time to point out how this is one of the better franchises to be drafted into for any player.
I've been moving teams around in these categories for weeks. Also, I spent the last few days monitoring random NFL team-centric message boards. So while some of these seemed crazy to me intially, they are less crazy to me now. I'm going to go with calling all of these 'wild cards', but understand some of them are wilder cards than others. Consider it the difference between suicide kings, one-eyed jacks, and bow-legged queens. Didn't play poker with bow-legged queens? Well, obviously you didn't have to play my grandfather in 7 card stud for your elementary school allowance...
The Arizona Cardinals are losing Kurt Warner to retirement. They have Matt Leinart in place, but is anyone convinced he's the answer there? The immediate playing time- and the recent success- mean there could be a lot of pressure for a young QB to be NFL-ready immediately. However, I bet anyone would want to play with that supporting cast, and the offensive pedigree of Ken Whisenhunt speaks to a strong coaching staff. About the only connection to the Cardinals (other than an SI mock draft) I could google for Timmy were sarcastic references to his faith and analogies to that of Kurt Warner. Unless you come up with a theory that we traded him for Teryl Austin. I don't yet know Mr. Austin, but I'm positive I'd rather have another year of Tebow eligibility.
The Seattle Seahawks have a new staff in place, led by Pete Carroll. Would he be more or less likely to break from conventional NFL wisdom and take a college star? Do Jeremy Bates' connections to UF make it more likely still? Unlike many nationally, it would seem, I think Matt Hasselbeck is still capable of performing as a top ten QB in the NFL- but he is 34. He's also frequently injured. Would the organization there pull the trigger on Tebow? A Puget Sound blogger makes the case for Tebow in Seattle.
I'm fairly positive the San Francisco 49ers like the progress of Alex Smith enough to give him some more time. He is sort of the Beta version of Tim Tebow, without all the athleticism, high school/recruiting hype, nor as extensive a track record of college success. However, Mike Singletary wants winners! And as that 49ers forum points out, Tim Tebow is certainly that... and could end up in SF.
The Miami Dolphins staff got an up-close look at Tebow in Mobile. And the Dolphins fan base stretches throughout Florida, as they are the oldest (and most successful) NFL franchise in the state. Who knows what Bill Parcells thinks of drafting a project-type QB at this point, and if they are satisfied enough with whatever combination of Chads (Henne, Pennington) and Pat White to address other needs. The tie to Florida and the lack of a definite 'franchise QB' is enough to make me think this scenario could happen, with some other moves.
It may be wishful thinking that I could one day own one of those powder-blue, lightning bolt-emblazoned jerseys, but I consider the San Diego Chargers a wildcard here. As an organization, they have a history of (1) taking a young QB even though a more established, also young QB is in place; (2) taking a QB with a funky throwing motion; and (3) handling the draft in an intelligent fashion, handling the salary cap well, and otherwise evaluating personnel on their own terms. If they feel they are getting fantastic value for Tim Tebow (consider comparisons to high-end first rounders Vince Young, Alex Smith, etc., then consider that Tebow will likely drop out of the first round entirely), this is definitely an organization I could see drafting Tim Tebow. How they then handle their two QBs- and if they then do another deal- I have no idea. I just know that if I were watching the draft pick by pick (I don't)... I'd be on Tebow watch every time the Chargers came up.
I consider the Tennessee Titans a wildcard as well. They took Vince Young in an attempt to drum up interest in the franchise. If they really wanted to work in some option plays, the common theory is that the NFL game would require several option-oriented QBs to spread out the violent collisions. I think Tebow and Young could work together that way, and Nashville is an SEC town that would embrace Tebow. I think you have to consider them a wildcard just based on their history of taking Young so highly, despite concerns over the passing game, and intelligence to adapt to the next level. The situation isn't ideal as far as giving Tebow a veteran mentor, but Kerry Collins and Jeff Fisher could be enough. They certainly have gotten more out of Young (character issues aside) than some NFL talking heads thought they would. More on the similarities between Young and Tebow here.
The Wildest of Wild Cards
Is there any other way to describe the way everyone will feel every time the Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock with Tim Tebow still available? We know the situation with attendance. We know the situation with season ticket holders. We know that Jacksonville is the smallest market in the NFL, and that keeping a team there could be an issue without changes. We also know that Tim Tebow playing in his hometown would instantly sell a large number of jerseys and give national exposure to a struggling franchise. Despite what at least one current Jaguars player thinks of the likelihood, it could happen.
On the football side, I don't see this happening without David Garrard getting traded- which would be bad news as those people buying tickets to see Tim Tebow would want to see him on the field. The best way this works from a football standpoint is for the Jags to get a veteran to tutor Tebow, or to use Garrard as that tutor. I can't see how it would benefit the entire roster to spend that many resources (acquiring a Donovan McNabb-type free agent PLUS committing the high draft pick to Tim Tebow) on one position. However, desperation is a crazy thing. And there are at least 481 fans of this page on facebook. Plus, you know, itcould be a done deal.
Kansas City Chiefs personnel man Scott Pioli is upset Tebow's not doing the workouts at the combine, and I think he's questioning Tebow's competitive side? That doesn't seem smart to me. Pioli has the link to the Patriots, who have the link to Urban Meyer... but is Matt Cassel anything more that a stop-gap? He's not a franchise QB. Tebow could be that guy, and there's a lot of material linking Tebow and the Chiefs as a good idea. He's on their radar. They are also one of the teams that met with him during the Senior Bowl. Perhaps Pioli's comments were his way of trying to depress the value for Tim Tebow in the NFL Draft.
I was going to include the Denver Broncos in the wildcard section. I have been thinking about this match since the Jay Cutler trade, because of the connection between Urban Meyer and Bill Belichick, and the likelihood some of the Gator-love may have rubbed off on Josh McDaniels. The idea has gained considerable steam since then, so I can no longer consider it 'wild'. Here you can read Broncos fans talking about why Tebow should be their choice.
The Cream of the Crop
These are the absolute best situations for Tim Tebow. Aging QBs in situations where Tebow could learn in what amounts to a QB Doctoral program, but situations that need a young understudy to take over the franchise in a few years. Additionally, I think there could be a small role for Tim Tebow immediately, similar to the 2006 season, but more on the mop-up duty side than a real commitment to a set number of snaps per game.
During the AFC Championship Game, Peyton Manning got stuffed on the goal line, and the Indianapolis Colts settled for a field goal. I immediately sent a text message to several people, as it dawned on me that Tim Tebow would be a great fit for the Colts. Tebow is familiar with Manning (he attended Manning passing camp), and the people of Indiana would love everything about him. Peyton would not be threatened to have a famous understudy. Tebow could provide an immediate help in situations like the one above, and- if he were to develop into a franchise QB- would be ready to go by the time Peyton's ready to hang it up. Anyway, I came to the conclusion independently, but it's hardly original. Here is one piece and another on Tebow to the Colts.
We know about the connection between Bill Belichick and Urban Meyer (the connection is so close,Tebow listened to Belichick's advice to go back to school). We know the New England Patriotsevaluate football players differently than most NFL minds. We also know the Pats have 3 second round picks in this year's draft. They also have a history of turning backup QBs (Matt Cassel) into stars. Learning behind Brady would be great for Tebow. The Pats have had enough problems in the running game to make me think they could creatively find a way to work Tebow in as well. This is easily one of the top two places Tebow could end up, for his sake.
You can view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl