Column: Tebowmania comes to an end
The free-agent market has made some huge splashes this offseason, the biggest of which is the Denver Broncos' acquisition of free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning. The move has instantly thrust the Broncos into the Super Bowl contenders mix, but perhaps more importantly has again brought up the issue of the player who will be replacing No. 18 in Indianapolis. Andrew Luck may have won the lottery with Peyton's decision to play in the Mile-High City. Not having to play the former Colt twice a year makes the potential first-round pick's chances much better.
More important than that is who No. 18 has already replaced, despite not taking a single snap. It is a foregone conclusion that Manning will start ahead of current No. 1 quarterback Tim Tebow.
Tebow, who exploded on to the NFL scene with his unconventional option-style offensive attack, started an explosive popular movement as the Broncos' signal caller. His future is in doubt, with trade rumors already circling. Many pundits and NFL top executives note that Tebow is unlikely to draw a high price on the market. The offensive scheme that Denver ran in 2011 is hard to copy and requires making over the offense entirely to fit Tebow's unconventional style of play.
Some might point to the Philadelphia Eagles as an example of where a pocket passer (Donovan McNabb) co-existed with a more option-style quarterback (Michael Vick), but the comparison isn't as applicable to Tebow. Vick's speed and mobility make him an excellent runner, and his strong arm nicely complements his running threat. Tebow lacks both the speed and acceleration to serve as a true run threat - his chief ability is scrambling long enough to keep a play alive.
An interesting market for Tebow might be the Miami Dolphins. Inventors of the Wildcat formation, the Dolphins are a club with a history of option football. More than that, Florida offers a unique business opportunity for Tebow, allowing him to capitalize on his immense popularity due to his success at the collegiate level at the University of Florida. A familiar stomping ground for Tebow, Miami offers an opportunity to play for a quarterback-desperate franchise that might be willing to adjust itself to him.
As for seeing Tebow at another position, one anonymous NFC executive said, "He's not fast enough to be an H-back/receiver-type guy. And as a fullback, he'd blow himself up. He's not a running back. He's not talented enough. As a quarterback, he's OK as a runner. But as a running back? No."
Then there seems to be another solution, which no one seems to be looking at. Is there a possibility that the pass-weak Tebow might be able to co-exist with the talented No. 18? Tebow isn't likely to be pleased with holding Peyton's clipboard for a few years, but at 24 he has a long career ahead of him that could really take off if he could pair his running ability and scrambling talents with a strong pass attack by learning from the veteran Manning. And at 36, it's unlikely that Manning has more than three or four good years left in him. Even if he were to be fully recovered from his neck issues and playing at full strength, Tebow would only have a little while to learn, and his game could be upped immensely.
One AFC executive raised the question, "Can you mesh it with things you might want to do from a prototypical sense? It's hard to project that, and that creates a dilemma. I can't answer it. You can determine the value today, and have some success, but is it sustainable? I don't think anyone can answer that. But in my gut, I'd be concerned with his lack of ability to be a pocket passer."
If he learns from Peyton, he has the opportunity to change that evaluation. Until then, Tebowmania will be on hold.
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