It looks like Florida’s Superman will get one last shot- and it may be his best one yet. It also could be his last.
UPDATE: TEBOW has signed the contract. He is officially an Eagle.
Adam Schefter has reported that Tebow has reached a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, which he will sign tomorrow. Great timing, just in start for their off-season program! But oh, it gets better: Philly wanted to get rid of Matt Barkley via trade, but “couldn’t get enough in return,” says Schefter. So their plan B was to add Tebow to a QB depth chart that’s overloaded. If the NFL season started tomorrow, Philly’s active QB’s would include Tebow, Matt Barkley, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford. In other words, a Gator, a former teammate with the New York Jets, the guy that succeeded his former teammate with the Jets in college and the guy Tebow outdueled in a sloppy national championship game.
It does seem like a good fit for Tebow; Eagle head coach Chip Kelly has coached a laundry list of dual threat QB’s, including Jeremiah Masoli, Darrin Thomas and everybody’s favorite, Marcus Mariota. He’s also coached Michael Vick for (basically) a year in Philly. He loves to dream up all sorts of creative things to do with quarterbacks who can run, and he obviously saw something in Tebow to make him want to bring him onboard. Oh, and he’ll also be reunited with his college roommate and top receiving threat at Florida, Riley Cooper.
So yes, this is certainly a time to be happy for Tebow. He put a lot of work in the past year and a half even as his NFL future seemed bleak. It’s good to see all that work be rewarded, and it’s great for kids to see that never giving up will someday lead to good things, as fleeting as Tebow’s Eagle career may be (or not). But as much as I love Tebow, and will always remember his time in Gainesville fondly, when I think about it objectively, he’s got a lot of work to do if he wants to make it.
For one thing: that damned throwing motion. We’ve been hearing about it since he was training for the NFL Draft, and he still hasn’t corrected it. He could usually get away with it in college (although Arkansas DE Jake Bequette made him pay for it once by slapping the ball out of his hand as he dropped it to his thigh pad) but he still did it as recently as in his preseason tryout with the Patriots in 2013.
Then there’s his footwork, ability to read defenses, recognition of certain defenses and his overall status as a dual threat QB that may get him killed if he isn’t smart enough about it. Tebow’s a hard worker, sure, and he’s smart and is able to take coaching, but there’s one thing that he needs to be able to do to be successful in fixing these issue.
You can learn new things in the NFL and use them on the field when things are going smoothly, but when hell breaks loose and you have to improvise, more often than not, you revert back to what you grew up doing- after all, Tebow did win a Heisman and two national championships with it- and it’s going to cost you. In Tebow’s case, it’s been more publicized because of the icon that he is, but it still holds true. In the heat of battle, he can’t panic and just “forget” everything the QB gurus have been telling him for years. Granted, he has small fractions of seconds to make these split second decisions, but he has to or else the various areas of his game that Todd McShay criticized in the spring of 2010 are going to wind up hurting him and his team.
The answer to the question “can Tebow be successful as an Eagle?” will be determined by whether or can override the muscle memory he’s carried for years. His muscle memory is what tells him to drop his arm low on his winding release when he’s running for his life in the backfield on third and 23 and finally sees a receiver open. The idea is to drive a new technique or skill into his head repeatedly until when he faces a situation of distress, the muscle memory he reverts to is that one, i.e. what he was taught by NFL coaches. So on the same line of thought, he can play around with shorter, more compact releases all he wants, and take as many reps with this new release as he wants, but we won’t be able to know if he’s really fixed the problem until we see him get chased or face a fourth and four in a preseason game. What he does under duress in a live game with real consequences, even in the preseason, will let us know if he’s got a real shot with Philly.
You guys all know how much I grew up adoring Tebow. And even if I am a Giants fan and he went to Big Blue’s biggest rival, I can never bring myself to root against him. But he’s got to learn to be an NFL QB by any logical definition of the term, and fast. He’s running out of chances, and being released by three separate NFL teams in the span of two and a half years (even if one of those teams, the Jets, was at the time widely recognized as the joke of the NFL) is an unfortunately strong indicator that he didn’t learn from his mistakes enough. He’s taken a year and a half off to lick his wounds, learn some new tricks and come back fresh to try again. But he’d better be ready this time, because this appears to be the best chance he’s going to get.
And his best chance may be his last.