Commentary

Can Pats bring Tebow back to reality?

Belichick-Brady experience might make Tim realize he isn't full-time QB material

Updated: June 11, 2013, 4:09 PM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

There's no disputing that Tim Tebow got a raw deal in the year he was brought to New York and then demeaned and held hostage during his bait-and-switch stay with the Jets. It makes you hope he can resurrect his career. But I've long thought there was a problem with the subsequent talk about Tebow getting blackballed out of the NFL while he was twisting without a job. The talk ignored Tebow's role in it.

Tebow, who signed with the New England Patriots on Tuesday, would've had more suitors if he coughed up the dream of being a full-time quarterback. That seems clear. There's a get-over-yourself aspect to his shunning, too. Because if he abandons the QB-only talk, that circus that tails him goes away. The sniping from fellow players tired of Tebow's refusal to acknowledge what everyone else sees probably stops, too.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow and Tom Brady
Stew Milne/USA TODAY SportsWhat does a full-time QB look like? Tim Tebow will learn by watching Tom Brady each day in practice.

He becomes just another talented and committed guy trying to stick in the NFL, and a situational quarterback at best. And all those very real intangibles he could bring might have some traction -- not be used to mock him -- if he's actually on the field, making plays, rather than just being the pace-setting rabbit in every wind sprint and weightlifting drill his teams do.

Taken all together, it's enough to make you wonder if Bill Belichick might be the only man in the NFL who can cure Tebow of the quarterback-only dream.

Belichick did nothing to quash that feeling at his minicamp-opening news conference Tuesday, which was carried live by the NFL Network. (Get used to it, Beantown).

When he was asked what position Tebow will play, he responded, "We'll see."

After Tebow Question No. 10, Belichick cut loose an existential-sounding sigh and said, "We've already talked enough about him. We'll see how it goes, take it from there."

(Tebow gave a statement to reporters later in the day, but the Pats had him take no questions -- the first of many times this summer that people will slap their foreheads and say, "Why didn't the Jets think of that?").

Tebow wasn't willing to accept it when Denver boss John Elway didn't believe in his long-range future at quarterback, despite what Elway knows about playing the position. The Canadian Football League didn't want Tebow, either. He spent his summer getting throwing tuneups, as usual, this time from quarterback gurus Steve Clarkson and Chris Weinke.

But now, maybe watching Tom Brady every day in New England will help convince Tebow he has to let the full-time quarterback dream go and diversify to the point that he's the emergency QB, at best.

Maybe now that Tebow's on the same side, Belichick will pop in a tape of the playoff game in which New England dismantled Tebow and the Broncos just a week after the signature win of Tebow's NFL quarterbacking career -- an overtime wild-card game upset of the favored Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2011 season -- and then show Tebow exactly what the Pats saw and exploited about him.

Maybe the combination of Belichick's stature and the presence of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels -- who drafted Tebow in the first round as a first-time head coach in Denver -- can somehow reach Tebow, too. Tebow and McDaniels are linked by an anchor that doomed them both: Tebow's life would've been a helluva lot easier if McDaniels hadn't traded up and made him a first-rounder, and McDaniels might've at least lasted longer as Denver's head coach if he hadn't thrown all-in behind Tebow as his quarterback of tomorrow.

Tebow has to trust McDaniels. Especially since the Pats just threw him a lifeline. But if McDaniels tells him, after further consideration, he doesn't have full-time NFL quarterback skills, how does Tebow ignore that?

Especially since several league officials have already been anonymously quoted predicting that Tebow won't make it out of training camp with New England. Belichick kept only two quarterbacks last year, and incumbent No. 2 Ryan Mallett was drafted be their developmental quarterback. (But as Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com has noted, the Pats did keep three when Doug Flutie was around).

Either way, Tebow better justifies his roster spot by being a jack-of-all-trades backup quarterback. If he wants to call "playing quarterback" being the emergency backup if Brady and Mallett get hurt, or taking over some of those short-yardage sneaks that Brady, who turns 36 in August, is so exceptional at converting, fine. And Belichick saves himself from perennial griping that he risks getting Brady hurt by asking him to keep handling those runs.

In early May, a Yahoo! Sports column cited an unnamed Patriots source who said Belichick disliked Tebow as a player. When people were left to scour the record for what Belichick had previously said about Tebow, they found that Belichick said he liked Tebow's versatility, intelligence and character.

There was no explicit mention of his quarterbacking skills.

None.

Belichick could've been talking about what he looks for in a fullback.

Who knows? Maybe he was.

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