Tebow in NFC North context

March, 2, 2010
3/02/10
11:35
AM ET
Tim TebowAP Photo/Darron CummingsCould Tim Tebow end up playing for one of the teams in the NFC North?
It wasn't my turn to cover the scouting combine this year. My Blog Network colleagues kept you apprised of the daily news, and the fellows over at Scouts Inc. broke down the actual workouts as they occurred.

Even from afar, however, it was hard not to see the NFC North connotations to the biggest story of the combine: The transition of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow to the pro game. I'm not ready to suggest Tebow is headed our way, but I think he could do a lot worse than ending up in any number of our cities.

Given the near-constant flow of Tebow-related questions you send to the mailbag portal, I thought he would be a worthy topic for our featured post of the week. In brief: We have one team in Green Bay that already demonstrated success in tweaking the mechanics of a successful college quarterback, and we have another in Minnesota that employs Tebow's favorite receiver.

Before we get to the Packers, Vikings and even the Lions, let's make sure you're updated on Tebow's combine performance. Although he is saving his passing workout for a March 17 pro day, Tebow did produce a 38.5-inch vertical leap -- tying a combine record for quarterbacks. He also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds. The showing mostly confirmed what we already know: Tebow is an elite athlete for the position whose aptitude as a pro passer remains a mystery.

Speaking Monday, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said nothing happened at the combine to alter his original view on Tebow as a secondary prospect who shouldn't be drafted higher than the third round next month. Tebow's elite college career forged a romanticized view of his pro prospects, McShay said on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning."

"It's funny because there are so many people that are trying to talk the positives on Tim Tebow," McShay said. "I understand because there are so many positives as a college player, and physically when you watch him in a setting like this. ... But then they follow up and say, 'As much as I love him, he's still a third-round pick.'

"The bottom line is that he's just not an elite prospect and has so much room to grow. As great as he's been [at the combine] and as good as his interviews have gone, ultimately his skill set is a mid-rounder at best as a passer. We've all moved him up in our minds because of intangibles."

Yet it is those intangibles that had Packers coach Mike McCarthy and even general manager Ted Thompson expressing what I believe to be honestly glowing assessments of Tebow's potential. Remember, McCarthy and Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements provided the modern template for developing a young quarterback prospect during two years with Aaron Rodgers. Among the improvements they made was smoothing out Rodgers' throwing motion, now considered one of the prettiest (and most successful) in the NFL.

According to my colleagues who attended the combine interview sessions, McCarthy admitted he doesn't know enough about Tebow to make a full evaluation yet. But, McCarthy said, "I would definitely love to coach him."

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Tebow may develop into a legitimate starter if he ends up in Minnesota.
McCarthy added: "I think the guy's a winner, just the way he plays the game. I know a lot's being said about his mechanics. Just the way he approaches the game of football, I think he'll do everything he needs to do to improve. But you look for football players. And his record in college, I think, speaks for itself. But I'd love the opportunity to work with a Tim Tebow."

Thompson, meanwhile, said Tebow's college success should merit more credibility than it seems to in public discussions.

"Based on his history," Thompson said, "I think that would be a little bit premature to start criticizing him and doubting his ability to play. He's been playing at a pretty high level for quite some time. Has to go down as one of the great college football players of all time, so let's don't sell him short just yet."

We all know better than to read into what any NFL official says about the draft. As the old saying goes: If they're not lying, then they're not talking. (Actually, I just made that up. But it sounds old and sage-like.)

What it does suggest, however, is that Tebow's ideal landing spot is a place like Green Bay that includes an established starter and a quarterback-friendly coaching staff with proven developmental success.

The Vikings haven't had much success developing quarterbacks -- see Jackson, Tarvaris -- but coach Brad Childress acknowledged he is drawn to Tebow's competitive spirit. Trust me when I tell you coaches revere the so-called "intangible" qualities of a quarterback as much as they do his ability to throw. If a strong arm was the only qualification for NFL success, Ryan Leaf would still be starting.

"I just think he's been -- taking everything else aside -- as good a competitor as I've seen," Childress said. "I've heard about his leadership skills and abilities. But he's as good a competitor as I've seen on the football field, and he competes in a different way and plays a physically-natured game."

In Minnesota, you would assume Tebow would have at least one year to develop behind starter Brett Favre, who seems more likely to play in 2010 than he does to retire. Regardless, I think Tebow would have the luxury of watching from the sideline for at least one year if he ends up in Minnesota.

Again, I'm not suggesting the Vikings will use a draft choice on Tebow, even with the presence of ex-Florida receiver Percy Harvin. But if he does land in Minnesota, Tebow has a better than average chance of developing into a legitimate player.

In fact, I wouldn't rule out Detroit as a positive environment for Tebow -- mostly because of the presence of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who will double as the Lions' quarterbacks coach in 2010. Linehan excelled in that role while working with Daunte Culpepper in Minnesota from 2003-04, and Tebow would be in good hands with him as well.

Should the Lions use a draft choice on a developmental quarterback? Given their needs across the board, the presence of young starter Matthew Stafford and coach Jim Schwartz's desire to have a veteran backup, Tebow might be a luxury the Lions can't afford.

But if I were going to draw up an NFC North motto for him, it would go something like this: "The Black and Blue: Tim Tebow could do a lot worse than here."

Ok, I'm off to my second job as an advertising copy writer.

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