It came down to solely football for the Patriots with quarterback Tim Tebow.
Tebow’s presence on the team was widely viewed as a positive, a message that came straight from the top in owner Robert Kraft, but, as it turns out, that presence alone wasn’t going to be enough for Tebow to stick on the initial 53-man roster.
There was on-field progress from Tebow over the course of the preseason, and his second-half performance Thursday night -- in which he went out on a high note with a touchdown pass on his final throw -- was easily his best.
But coach Bill Belichick often says there are two things that are most important to quarterback play -- decision-making and accuracy -- and Tebow was up and down in those areas throughout the preseason. In three games, he finished 11-of-30 for 145 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Based on that work alone, it was hard to imagine Tebow sticking on the initial 53-man roster (he wasn’t on our final projection).
Yet it was also fair to wonder whether perhaps the Patriots had other things in mind, such as Tebow’s presence being positive, especially in the wake of a tumultuous offseason. Or maybe they saw enough as a scout-team quarterback running the option, or to take a long-range view to develop him with 2014 in mind.
Saturday’s decision to release him provides clarity on those areas; those weren't as big of a factor.
So the Patriots will enter the 2013 season with just two quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett) for the fourth time in the past five years. If there is an injury to either of them, it’s fair to think Tebow would be close to the top of the emergency list of replacements should he still be available. (The Patriots might also consider a quarterback for the practice squad; Tebow isn't eligible based on his level of experience.) We’ve seen plenty of examples of that in Belichick’s 14-year coaching tenure.
Thus, although Tebow isn’t on the team’s initial 53-man roster, this doesn’t necessarily mean the door is permanently closed.