When the Philadelphia Eagles signed Tim Tebow to a one year, veteran minimum contract, many struggled to make sense of the move—the team already have three backups to presumed starter Sam Bradford prior to the draft—but the move may well be one of the shrewdest moves made by any team this offseason. We take a look at why.
The NFL just can’t seem to give up on Tim Tebow. The man veteran kicker Jay Feely recently called “the single worst quarterback I ever saw” in his long NFL career, somehow, against the odds, has another shot at winning a job in the NFL. Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles—a team who have been a non-stop source of news content all off-season—signed Tebow to a one year contract, reportedly the league minimum salary of $660,000 for a player with his experience.
On paper, the move is hard to make sense of. The Eagles have no fewer than four quarterbacks already on their roster, aside from Tebow. Sam Bradford, acquired from the St. Louis Rams via trade, is the presumed starter, with Mark Sanchez his expected backup. Competing for the third string spot are the once highly rated Matt Barkley and GJ Kinne, as well as Tebow. Carrying five quarterbacks on your roster prior to the draft is basically unheard of—at least two of these men will be cut, before the final 53 man roster being set.
None of the men on the roster are guaranteed home-run hitters, that order could change, but the signing of Tebow doesn’t signal good news for either Barkley or Kinne, and may even signal an unwanted extra participant in the position battle—at least in the eyes of the media, if not on field—for the starting job.
However, it is great news for Tebow, and for fans of professional football everywhere, and could just become one of the shrewdest moves that Chip Kelly, or any NFL coach/GM, makes all season.
Most NFL head coaches loathe signing players who love the spotlight—and the distraction and media circus it brings along with it. They endure it, if they must, for their biggest name stars—the prima-donna personalities whose on-field performance offsets their off-field persona, but will rarely do so for a second or third string guy. But Kelly isn’t most NFL coaches, in fact, he seems in many ways the exact opposite.
Kelly seems to love controversy, he does things which can only be explained by the fact that he want’s to be seen, noticed and talked about. He is a big, self-assured personality. He is convinced by his system, his players, and his coaching methods. He is convinced that he can get results where others have failed, and make superstars out of players others have given up on. He is a coach who about his own brand, and Tebow, therefore, could quickly become the poster boy for this.
Tebow is, without a doubt, a sub-par NFL quarterback, but this is an NFL where Bryan Hoyer, Charlie Whitehurst, and Josh McCown keep getting jobs, and Tebow isn’t that much worse than any of those. And more importantly, he is also a fan-favourite, and a proven winner.
Sam Bradford, in spite of having the inside track to the starting job, also has a history of injury, and under-achievement. There are already rumblings that the Eagles may offer Bradford as part of a package of players and picks in exchange for a first or second overall pick, to secure Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Even if the trade never materialises, the fact that there is even a discussion taking place shows that they are not entirely sold on Bradford as the future of their franchise.
Mark Sanchez, the presumed number two, is also a perennial underperformer, and many fans couldn’t fathom why Tebow wasn’t named starter in his place while the two were both at the New York Jets. Sanchez has thrown 82 TDs and 80 INTs in his 70 career starts. Tebow, on the other hand has 29 TDs—both running and passing varieties—for only 8 INTs in his 15 games as starter. He has led his team on eight game-winning drives during that time. Whatever you think about Tebow, he is clutch under pressure.
Tebow is a much more natural fit for Kelly’s natural style of offence than either Sanchez or Bradford, and reports are that Tebow has worked a lot on his passing technique during his time away from the game, and is a much more polished passer today than he was when he lead the Denver Broncos to the playoffs in 2011.
He has an unbelievable football IQ. While Tebow has a reputation for living by his Christian beliefs, by all accounts, Tebow’s true religion, that which he devotes his real time and attention to, is football. He is known to spend hours pouring over film, and soaking up the minutia of playbook. As he demonstrated during his time as an analyst for the SEC on ESPN, he understands the game in a way few other players can match.
If Tebow doesn’t work out for Kelly, he has other options at QB, but if he does work out—and there is every indication that he may—Kelly moves into the upper echelons of NFL minds. He becomes legend.
But even if Tebow never plays a single down for the Eagles, Kelly is already a winner. Tebow Eagles jerseys are already flying off the shelves, and he doesn’t even have a guaranteed place on the team yet. Tebow, and the media circus and fan-following that comes with him, is exactly what Kelly’s Eagles crave.
For a veteran minimum salary, a pittance in the grand scheme of things, Kelly has secured still more time in the spotlight, even more coverage for his team, even more column inches in tabloids and online. Pundits will continue to discuss what the Eagles plan for Tebow through the draft and into preseason. They will scrutinise the team more closely than they otherwise would, and will continue to discuss whether Chip Kelly is the NFL’s newest superstar head coach.