Commentary

Is Tim Tebow more than a novelty?

For longevity in this league, he needs to develop as a quarterback

Originally Published: March 26, 2012
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

In some ways, I feel a little sorry about what is happening to Tim Tebow.

Going to the New York Jets to be a Wildcat quarterback won't help him develop as a quarterback. Jets owner Woody Johnson said the team traded for Tebow to acquire a winning player who could add versatility to the Jets' offense.

The last time we saw a move like this was when the Miami Dolphins drafted West Virginia quarterback Pat White in the second round. Although they said White would compete for the starting quarterback job, his role was to play in the Wildcat.

Although the Wildcat was a short-term success, the investment in White didn't work out in the long run. He played only one season and was cut after the next training camp. The Dolphins guaranteed $2.4 million of his $4.5 million rookie contract. White's NFL career consisted of only 52 offensive plays, and he never completed an NFL pass. He helped the Dolphins make the playoffs because of the Wildcat, but he never developed as a quarterback.

Jets coach Rex Ryan said Tebow could be used in as many as 20 plays in a game, but Mark Sanchez remains entrenched as the starting quarterback. Tebow could be used at different positions. Although he is a great football player, he isn't fast for positions other than quarterback. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds at the scouting combine two years ago. That's good speed for a quarterback, not a tight end, wide receiver or running back.

For longevity in this league, Tebow needs to develop as a quarterback, not as an offensive novelty. I don't know whether it would have been different if he had gone to Jacksonville instead of the Jets. You can only hope that Tebow isn't a novelty item discarded after one season.

From the inbox

Q: My question regards Matt Forte. When a team gets into a situation like this, with a player who's not happy and threatens to hold out of camp, why wouldn't you trade him to capitalize on his value? The Bears already added a capable runner in Michael Bush. I know he isn't at Forte's level, but if they could get a first-round pick for Forte, then wouldn't that just be smart business? In another year or two, they won't be able to get anything in return for him, and if he holds out through camp, then they likely won't have the same player in 2012 that they had last year anyway. Perhaps he is even worth more than one first-rounder? Do you think another team would give up multiple picks for him?

Jake in Enfield, N.H.

A: The problem is Forte is a running back, and running backs don't have great trade value. The way the league is now, most teams have two or three runners to use and aren't going to give up high draft value for a running back unless they are in the middle of the season and suffer an injury. Forte is a core group player for the Bears, but he might not net more than a third-round choice in a trade. He plays at a first-round value for the Bears. It's sad, Jake. Forte has been a total professional, but he might have to play out the one-year deal and not get long-term security.

Q: I know we've got a new, ironclad CBA that everyone is pretty happy with, but I'm also aware that negotiations still go on between the NFL and the NFLPA on anything from an expanded schedule to HGH testing. Usually, it's that the NFL wants something from the NFLPA. In these, I am under the impression that there is a certain amount of horse trading. One thing that I think the NFL needs to considering giving back to the players is the length of rookie contracts for the RB position (four years). The NFL needs to give this back. Not only do these guys hit free agency for the first time very late in their careers, but they also start considerably more over the course of their rookie contracts. So what do you think? Any chance these guys get the length cut down to three years?

Parker in Seattle

A: Not now. The collective bargaining agreement has the terms of rookie contracts locked in for four more years. The union tried to get three years, but the owners had enough leverage to hold off the players. The owners aren't giving anything back at this stage because they feel comfortable about the current economics of the game. You change things in the NFL with leverage. The union doesn't have leverage to change the rookie pool concept and the years of the contracts.

Q: Why wasn't the Saints' salary cap affected by this bounty scandal? A coach paid players, so shouldn't that which was paid go against the cap? I know it's not a lot of money, but over three years, 16 games, let's say $10,000 per game (and I think that is sort of low and I am not accounting for preseason), that's nearly $500,000. What do you think?

Dave in Seattle

A: The fact that money came from employees in the organization sealed the fate of the Saints' getting fined and suffering the big penalties. Digging into their salary cap was an option, but the league opted to stay with the fines, draft-choice penalties and suspensions. The max you can fine a team is $500,000. Taking away salary-cap money, though, also affects the members of the NFL Players Association. If the Saints have less money to spend, it's less money available for free agents. Teams always can work around the cap by restructuring contracts, so the impact might not have been that major.

Q: I know that many members of the media thought the Jaguars needed Tim Tebow and that the fans were desperate for him and he would somehow increase attendance. Some may even view the trade to the Jets as a failure on the part of Jacksonville. All I can say is I am so relieved, as are many other Jaguars fans. Despite the media portrayal of northeast Florida, there are just as many of us who did not want to see Tebow in a Jags uniform as there were in favor of it. I was prepared to completely lose interest in the team for such a poor football decision. Say what you will about Gabbert, but in the end he will be a far better QB than Tebow. And Jacksonville will be a better team without him.

Jon in Jacksonville, Fla.

A: I agree. Nothing against Tebow, but Tebowmania would destroy the development of Blaine Gabbert. At the cost of a fourth-round choice, the Jags would have destroyed last year's No. 1, a first-round pick whom the Jags had to trade up to acquire. It would make that draft-day trade look as bad as the Derrick Harvey deal of a couple of years ago. The Jags brought in Mike Mularkey to fix Gabbert. Kyle Orton, an established veteran, crumbled under the pressure created by Tebowmania. You get the feeling that football people didn't want Tebow, but ownership and the marketing department did, which is why they bid.

Q: With all the bad press surrounding the Dolphins' failed efforts to land a coach and a starting QB, could you see them panicking and making a deal for the Vikings' draft pick in order to grab Ryan Tannehill before the Browns get a shot? It seems like a huge overreach, but teams seem to throw draft-slotting logic out the window when it comes to quarterbacks, and this year's Dolphins seem primed for a desperate reach.

Daniel in Los Angeles

A: I could see it. They could fear the Browns taking Tannehill. Matt Moore and David Garrard are in one-year situations. If they want Tannehill, they probably can't gamble on waiting until the second round. If Cleveland doesn't take Tannehill at No. 4, the Dolphins definitely would take him if he's at their spot near the top of the second round. Fans in Miami have been complaining about the Dolphins' quarterback situation since Dan Marino retired. Leaving it in a one-year situation with Moore and Garrard would only prolong their wait.

Q: The Redskins just handed over three first-round picks and a second-round pick for the opportunity to select Robert Griffin III in this year's draft. So, clearly, this is a make-or-break move for them. However, wouldn't you have some pretty serious injury concerns regarding RG3 if you were Mike Shanahan/Dan Snyder? Like Michael Vick and Cam Newton, he is a running quarterback who will inevitably take some pretty ferocious hits. However, his frame is more comparable to that of the oft-injured Vick than it is to Newton's (who is a 6-5, 250-pound tank). Moreover, he has already had a major knee injury that caused him to miss the majority of his sophomore season and a concussion that caused him to exit the Texas Tech game at halftime last year. And it is common knowledge that the more concussions you have, the more likely they are to occur again (just ask Steve Young and Troy Aikman).

Marshall in Austin, Texas

A: What's the alternative? The Redskins have needed a top quarterback since Dan Snyder bought the team. Now he will have one in Griffin. Enjoy. Naturally, you worry about injuries. It's a physical sport. But to win in this league, you need to be bold. If you have a chance to get a top quarterback, you go for it. Some thought the Panthers were crazy in going for Cam Newton. That move has revitalized the franchise.

Q: I am a lifetime Browns fan and, despite losing out on the RG3 sweepstakes, I am excited about Tom Heckert's run as the GM. I think he is making vast improvements through the draft and I am happy he didn't try to get Matt Flynn. What do you think about the Browns getting Justin Blackmon with the fourth pick and then packaging their 22nd pick and their second-round pick to trade up to land Trent Richardson, too? I think this would be a great move for them and vastly improve their anemic offense.

Gabe in Philadelphia

A: Not a bad idea on the concept. The offense would improve with Blackman and Richardson. The problem is it's going to cost more than a No. 2 to move out of the 22nd pick. Richardson could go in the top 10. The Falcons packaged five draft choices to move up to get Julio Jones and the Browns benefitted as far as the draft choices. They clearly would have to throw in next year's No. 1 to make such a trade. Don't see that happening.

Q: I'm one who has loved the last couple of offseasons the Lions have had bringing in key free agents that have changed the culture of Lions football for the next few decades, it seems (based on what should be the lasting effect of their presence). However, I'm trying to get used to the idea that they really don't need to go out and pick anybody big up, but instead just focus on re-signing their own guys. I know the cap is an issue for them as well, and that is playing a part in their efforts in free agency. Can you offer any comfort to those fans that are trying to get used to this seemingly uneventful offseason for the Lions? Also, how is the draft affecting the Lions' decision-making with free agents given their position and needs?

Gary in Elkhart, Ind.

A: The comfort is that general manager Martin Mayhew seems to know what he's doing. When you sign free agents, you get players in their mid-to-late 20s. The Lions have some age along their offensive line, so they didn't want to make the line much older. They have concentrated on re-signing free agents, which is a good idea. What they don't want to do is sign a bunch of high-paid free agents and destroy a good locker room. They have a good, young group of key players. They need to be surrounded by good, young players coming out of the draft.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer