Over the past few years, there, quite rightfully, has been plenty of talk about Tim Tebow, the college quarterback. In the lead-up to his controversial Super Bowl ad, there has been tons of talk about Tim Tebow, the political advocate/religious activist. The Patriots should be most interested, however, in the prospects of Tim Tebow, the professional football player.
And so far, the returns aren't too promising.
The former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion at Florida finished off his final college season by playing in the Senior Bowl on Saturday in Mobile, Ala. The final numbers? Eh. Tebow finished 8-of-12 for 50 yards in the air while splitting time with two other seniors. He also ran for four yards on four carries, but he fumbled twice as the South fell to the North 31-13.
Tebow had practiced throughout the week despite battling strep throat and struggled mightily at receiving the ball under center. See, Florida's offense operated largely out of the shotgun, but conventional NFL quarterbacks spend most of their time under center. And with NFL coaches leading the squads and introducing pro-style offenses at the Senior Bowl, Tebow had little time to adjust.
Skeptical to begin with, critics were underwhelmed by Tebow's performance, but that didn't hurt the 22-year-old's confidence. In fact, he put a positive spin on the progress he made.
"I feel like I improved every day," he said.
"I think I'm definitely open to improving my fundamentals," Tebow said when asked about his problems under center. "I think I definitely showed that by being here. If you just watched the way I played, you could see there is room for improvement and what I need to work on."
Most would at least agree on the "room for improvement" bit, including ESPN scouting guru Todd McShay.
"He's out there every drill and he's showing improvement getting snaps under center, and he's working at it," McShay said. "But he's just not there. I thought coming in that maybe all the intangibles and all the little things he did and showing signs of improvement could help his stock, but I would say, unfortunately, that he's hurt his stock."
As a pro-style pocket passer, McShay told NFL.com, Tebow is "no better than the fourth-best here."
But that hasn't stopped Patriots fans and local talking heads from suggesting that Tebow might be an intriguing fit here in New England. No, they admit, he's not immediately going to overtake Tom Brady as the starting signal-caller, but he would have a few years to learn under one of the best in the game. In the meantime, Tebow's flexibility could allow Bill Belichick to introduce his own version of the Wildcat offense.
Back in November, Belichick himself told SI.com that he'd be intrigued by Tebow's ability as a hybrid passer/runner. But, as Belichick told writer Tim Layden, "To win in the NFL you have to be able to throw the ball."
Layden suggested, though, that Tebow "represents a potential [author's emphasis] evolutionary step in offensive professional football" because "the complexity and athleticism of NFL defenses challenge the passing game in such ways that smart offensive minds are constantly trying to find a means to make the quarterback a more effective and dangerous player. [Coaches] all would love to find a quarterback who is a threat to pass or run on every snap. All of them."
And who could argue with Tebow's intangibles?
"Obviously this guy knows how to win," said Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, who coached the South team in Mobile. "That's not something that you take lightly at all. When you get a player the caliber of him, that comes with the stripes he has and has won as many games as he's been involved in winning at Florida, that says an awful lot."
Whether or not the Patriots are interested in instituting a Wildcat and regardless of their need for "character guys," Tebow is seen by most analysts as a probable second- or third-round pick in April's draft. So it's fair to say he'd be a major stretch for the Pats with their first-round selection, No. 22 overall.
Let's remember, this isn't a 14-2 Patriots team coming off a Super Bowl victory, solely looking to add yet another offensive weapon to its arsenal. More immediate needs for New England would seem to include a pass-rusher, wide receiver or running back. For example, defensive end and Senior Bowl MVP Brandon Graham of Michigan — who had five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble — is reportedly on the Patriots' radar. That makes sense. Cincinnati wideout Mardy Gilyard, who posted 103 receiving yards and a score on Saturday, has moved up in the ranks as well.
But while some players are rising in the estimations of so-called draft experts, Tebow may be headed in the other direction. That doesn't seem to faze him, however.
"I believe in myself," Tebow told reporters at the Senior Bowl. "I believe in my ability and my ability to be coachable and my ability to work hard. So I feel with those things I can be an NFL quarterback."
He may well end up an NFL quarterback. But with the Patriots' needs at other positions on the field, all signs point to Tebow doing it somewhere other than New England.