For football purists, media talking heads, the devoutly religious, evangelists and atheists alike, it’s a name that incites either manic adulation or pure hatred. There is no middle ground when it comes to the enigmatic signal caller.
Tebow has seemingly inhabited one distant side or the other of the cavernous spectrum between Heaven and Hell. Football’s most famous backup recently cleared waivers and is a free agent, able to sign wherever he likes. All of this begs the question; would Tebow fit in Green Bay?
The answer may not be as unfathomable as you might think.
By now, we’re all intimately familiar with his story. Tebow was a highly-touted prep quarterback who ended up winning the Heisman Trophy while guiding the Florida Gators to a pair of National Championships. Tebow’s seemingly improbable rise from SEC wonder kid, to surprise first round draft pick by the Broncos, to surprise starter midway through the 2011 season captivated the sports world. It was Tebow who famously wore eye black inscribed with biblical verses. It was Tebow praising his Lord and Savior and then his offensive line after games, in that order. And it was Tebow who, following every touchdown or inexplicable set of late-game heroics, would hit the turf, crouched on one knee, head bowed low in deference, in a wildly popular cultural phenomenon that became known simply as “Tebowing.”
During the pre-draft process in 2010 literally every element of his game, from his throwing motion to his release, to his footwork, arm strength and vision came under intense scrutiny from scouts and coaches. His character, including his home-school upbringing, political views, religious beliefs and even his virginity became public spectacle. Given the amount of attention Tebow garnered before he ever played a down in the NFL you’d think he was the second coming.
Or at the very least the next Elway.
Tebowmania ensued as he led an unconventional offense – tripping, regaining his balance, spinning and then pump-faking defenders out of their shoes before tucking the football and racing downfield for a usually game-altering and often game-winning play that simply defied logic. Tebow frequently underperformed (usually in spectacular fashion during the first three and half quarters) during that miraculous run to the AFC West Title. He ultimately then willed the Broncos a playoff win, by throwing a laser that went for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime against the Steelers. A postseason win is something even current starter and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning failed to do in his inaugural season in the Mile High City.
In 2012, Tebow was shipped off to quarterback purgatory to suit up for the New York Jets. Many pundits predicted he’d compete and eventually overtake ineffective starter Mark Sanchez. The pundits were half right, with Sanchez underperforming. But it was unknown quarterback Greg McElroy who ended up getting significant playing time, and not Tebow, to close the dismal season for New York.
Tebow was unceremoniously cut by the Jets following the NFL draft recently and he’s now free to pursue a job with any team in the league. Interest appears to be minimal at this early stage and almost guaranteed to be devoid of an opportunity to start. His football career is undeniably at a crossroads. To be sure, Tebow has the intangibles and leadership capability of an elite-level signal caller which masks his obvious mechanical shortcomings.
We know this: the NFL is a passing league. Super Bowls are won on the arms of the golden boy with the cannon arm and devastating good looks. Just ask Aaron Rodgers. And Tom Brady. And even Joe Flacco. Defenses simply don’t outright win championships these days.
So, barely a week after the NFL draft, we’re left to prognosticate about the goings-on back home at 1265 Lombardi Avenue, where Ted Thompson is surely doing his due diligence on the situation. And it could be ideal for both the Packers and the former Gator. Aaron Rodgers is the unquestioned starter in Titletown and with a new mega-contract he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So there’d be no quarterback controversy like Tebow faced in Denver and New York. A change of scenery would also likely quiet Tebowmania, like a Wisconsin winter snowstorm quells the last vestiges of fall.
With only a handful of local media outlets covering the Packer news beat, Tebow would have a chance to settle in, collect himself and focus on learning how to really play quarterback in an environment where he watches and learns. Green Bay has long been a hotbed of signal caller development, producing NFL-capable players such as Mark Brunell, Ty Detmer, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Brooks and recently Matt Flynn.
The Packers also need depth behind Rodgers. Since the departure of Flynn, the backups have proven little. Current number two Graham Harrell fumbled in his only live regular season action a year ago and B.J. Coleman is gifted but extremely raw. Tebow could come in and quarterback through osmosis. Perhaps McCarthy even draws up a few gadget plays somewhere down the line. Financially, the risk would be minimal, with Tebow likely having to take a minimum salary that would include limited, if any, performance escalators given that he’d see little playing time barring a wave of injuries.
Finally, if the Packers were to groom Tebow and he succeeds, then Ted Thompson adeptly demonstrates yet again that he has the best evaluation skills in the game today. At best, the Packers could trade him down the line for a draft pick and at worst he gets cut – no questions asked. Tebow gets his shot to hone the craft he loves. And the Packers add necessary depth in their quest to compete for another Lombardi.
In a town built on championships, the penultimate goal is to bring as many of them home as possible in the coming seasons, during Aaron Rodgers’ prime. Two straight early playoff exits and a lack of proven depth behind our otherworldly superstar field general leads me to believe that bringing Tebow to Titletown makes a whole lot of sense.