Commentary

Tim Tebow is the ultimate challenge

If Belichick makes this work, it will be among his greatest success stories

Originally Published: June 10, 2013
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com

Bill Belichick thinks he's smarter than everyone else. Always has. He has the results to prove it. The decade of dominance, the five Super Bowl appearances, all those division titles, the unprecedented success in the free-agency era, Belichick has it all.

He knows how to identify and cultivate talent. He knows how to assemble a team. He knows how to motivate and control and get 53 guys to buy into the singular, unwavering goal of not only winning football games but winning championships.

And now, with the acquisition of Tim Tebow, Belichick can prove once and for all that, yes, he is smarter than everyone else in the National Football League. He can prove that he is smarter than John Elway and John Fox, and he is smarter than Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum.

[+] EnlargeBill Belichick and Tim Tebow
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesBill Belichick and Tim Tebow embrace after the Patriots beat the Broncos in the playoffs in January 2012.

If Belichick makes Tebow into something of a quarterback, if he takes a player with flawed mechanics and faulty footwork and an awkward throwing motion, and actually teaches him the nuances of the passing offense, it will go down as perhaps Belichick's most impressive accomplishment.

Tebow is the project to beat all projects, but if any one man has the clout and the conviction to make it work, it is Bill Belichick.

And this actually could work. If it doesn't, Tebow will have blown his best chance at having the career he maintains he is capable of having, because no one in the NFL believes in him more than Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. No one.

McDaniels has proved it. When he was the head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2010, McDaniels traded the Broncos' second-, third- and fourth-round draft picks to Baltimore for the opportunity to move back into the first round and select Tebow 25th overall. McDaniels really wanted Tebow, and he knew the only other coach who coveted Tebow as he did was Belichick.

The day before the draft, ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder asked McDaniels how he would feel if someone else drafted Tebow.

"It'd feel like getting hit in the gut," McDaniels said. "And you know what, Tebow will feel the same way."

McDaniels never got the chance to coach Tebow as a starter, but he worked with Tebow each day in practice in the one season they were in Denver together. McDaniels would spend 10 minutes of every practice working on one fundamental skill individually with each of his quarterbacks. Footwork, release point, whatever the point of emphasis for the day, McDaniels would drill and drill and drill.

And then the Broncos fired McDaniels 12 games into the 2010 season. When Tebow was enthralling the league with his play in 2011, he was doing it under Fox's guidance. The Broncos played Tebow out of necessity, but they didn't believe in him, either. When Elway won the Peyton Manning derby, Tebow was finished in Denver.

Now, Tebow will be reunited with McDaniels in New England and work directly with McDaniels and Belichick, who will not stand for any of the foolishness that went on with the Jets last season. Belichick won't ask Tebow to be the personal punt protector. He won't ask Tebow to move to fullback.

Belichick also won't tolerate a major distraction. He won't allow a media firestorm to ensue. He won't let Tebow-mania overtake the Patriot Way.

This is Belichick's team. It is also Tom Brady's team. Brady is the leader. He is the franchise. Belichick won't allow this to become all about Tebow. And with Brady, a three-time Super Bowl winner with plenty of life left in his career, Belichick won't have to worry about a quarterback controversy.

There will be no controversy in New England.

There will be an opportunity for Tebow to learn and grow and develop, something he really never had in Denver and definitely didn't have in New York. The three qualities Belichick values most in his football players are toughness, intelligence and versatility, and Tebow has an abundance of all three.

The ultimate question is, can Tebow actually play the quarterback position? Can he get rid of the football quickly on three-step drops? Can he read routes on five-step drops? Can he deliver the deep throws on seven-step drops? To excel in Belichick's offense, Tebow must do all three.

Tebow also must learn to deliver the football on target. He must work on his footwork and learn to make his progressions. And he must do it without becoming a massive distraction to a coach who doesn't tolerate distractions.

Tebow has much to learn and fix. Much of playing the quarterback position is instinctual, and some things can't be taught. Belichick and McDaniels feel that they can teach anybody anything, that with their coaching, they can build football players into what they want them to be. It is a mixture of arrogance and ego and confidence that makes Belichick feel this way, but it is inescapable that he has succeeded in the past.

Can he succeed again and make Tebow into a legitimate starter in two or three seasons, once Brady finally hangs it up? The feeling here is no, that what Tebow lacks can't be taught or fixed. But betting against Belichick can be foolish because he has been right more often than he has been wrong.