Naylor: Tebow in the CFL one day is not a far stretch

Dave Naylor
3/27/2012 3:32:35 PM
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He was the No. 1 headline grabber in North America's most popular league last season and his trade to New York just packed a practice facility for this week's introductory news conference with the Jets.

He's been a cover boy for Sports Illustrated, his jersey flies off the shelves of stores and no NFL player - with the possible exception of Peyton Manning - will be as closely scrutinized this upcoming season.

But don't be surprised if it's not too long before Tim Tebow is playing in the Canadian Football League.

Sound like a stretch?
Consider that as of right now, Tim Tebow does not hold a starting job in the NFL, despite a season in which he managed to lead his team to a string of victories and its first playoff win in six years.

Every NFL team has seen the highlights - they've all studied him on film. And not a single one is willing to build their season around him.

The New York Jets believe in Tebow enough to make him their backup quarterback next season and design a specialty package around his skill set.

But their move comes with considerable risk.
Is there any reason to believe that the Jets - who took one-year risks with Brett Favre and Santonio Holmes in recent seasons - are really committed to Tebow beyond this season? And if the Tebow experiment blows up in their faces this season, the back-up quarterback won't be the only one not returning to New York for the following season.

Maybe the Jets' gamble pays off. Maybe Tebow becomes the ultimate weapon off the bench or perhaps he takes over from Mark Sanchez and earns the starting job he so badly covets.

But if that doesn't happen, if this Jets experiment ends badly, what's the next NFL stop for Tim Tebow?

How likely is it that another team would opt to make him a starter then? Or, depending on how much drama unfolds in New York, how many NFL teams a year from now will want any part of the circus that inevitably comes with him?

Unless you're willing to make Tebow your starting quarterback - as Denver was in a unique circumstance last season - or invest in him as a specialty-package quarterback, as the Jets are now, having him on your team doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

In an ideal world, backup quarterbacks are benign players who serve the sole purpose of being a safe option in the unfortunate circumstance when a starting quarterback goes down. You don't want the fans screaming to see them. You don't want to see scrums of reporters around their lockers. You don't want them to be magnets for attention.

You want them to be Todd Collins, who attempted 182 passes over nine seasons as an NFL backup without anyone noticing he was in the league when he wasn't playing.

Tim Tebow can't help but attract attention. Like Doug Flutie, a generation before him, his aura simply does it for him.

One of the reasons Flutie ran out of NFL opportunities early in his career is because teams simply didn't want the distraction of him in their locker room as the backup quarterback.

Up until the very end of his career, Doug Flutie was incapable of being simply a backup quarterback. Which is why teams had to either make the starter or get him the heck out of town.

Same dynamic with Tebow.

It's not hard to imagine Tebow coming to the same crossroad as Flutie, and every other former college star who finds NFL doors slammed in his face.

There is no doubt that some team in the CFL would welcome Tim Tebow (Hamilton currently owns his CFL rights).

The matter of whether he could succeed in Canada is an intriguing question.

On the one hand, his ability to run and scramble suits the CFL game and, once he turns up-field, he'd be a load for the CFL's smaller linebackers and defensive backs to bring down.

On a bigger field, where it's easier for receivers to separate from coverage, perhaps his lack of accuracy or arm strength would be less of an issue.
There's another school of thought, however, that says any quarterback who completes less than 50 per cent of his passes in the NFL simply can't succeed in Canada where, with one fewer down, there is no down to waste.

And if Tebow's arm strength is an issue on the smaller field, it's going to be an issue on a larger one as well. Plus, if he's got issues reading coverage in a version of the game he's played all his life, just how is he going to adapt to an extra defensive back and the different coverages north of the border.

Back in January at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala, one CFL offensive co-ordinator bristled at the notion of Tebow in the CFL, convinced he would be an absolute disaster.

He may be right.

But there's little doubt someone will try.

And that day may not be as far off as it appears.

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