Sports coverage is an odd thing: we spend more time debating what might or might not happen next than we do dissecting what actually happened today. And so the morning after college football plays its national championship game we get projections of the next year’s top 25. Never mind that season that just wrapped up.
Same with the Peyton Manning watch. Within hours of its end, we cranked up the Tim Tebow watch. Manning has yet to finalize a contract, but we’ve already got lists of where Tebow may wind up next, and in some reporters’ eyes, he might be a fit in Philadelphia.
“This one makes so much sense to me that there's no way it happens,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter. “One, Eagles coach Andy Reid is prone to do the unpredictable (see, Michael Vick, 2009; or Vince Young, 2010). Two, Tebow has many of the same qualities as Vick (mobile, left-handed, strong-armed). Three, switching to Tebow from Vick if Vick were to sustain an injury … would not require a major adjustment to play-calling or blocking schemes.”
Normally I’m inclined to shoot down talk of such drastic moves, since I think there’s only so many times most organizations can make such a big splash, but ever since the Eagles swooped in to sign Nnamdi Asomugha – after already having two big name cornerbacks on the roster -- I’ve sworn to never rule anything out where the Birds are concerned.
And there are some elements of Tebow to the Eagles that make sense. For one, the team needs a backup quarterback and has plenty of draft picks they could trade. For another, we know that Reid and Marty Mornhinweg love to collect QBs and see themselves as quarterback whisperers (again, see: Vick, Young).
And while some have made the Vick comparison, I think Tebow and Young form a better parallel. Each is an athletic playmaker with shaky mechanics, but each has been labeled a “winner” despite their shortcomings as passers. (Young damaged that reputation in his limited appearances last season, but when he was signed he was touted as a credible backup because he had a winning record in Tennessee). The Eagles believed they could mold him, just as they did Vick, adjusting his throwing platform to help him become a more consistent passer who could still run.
Didn’t work out so well. But that doesn’t mean the Eagles would give up those kind of reclamation projects.
Tebow could also be more than just a backup waiting to play in case of injury. We know how much the Eagles love deceptive play calling. Imagine the possibilities that could be dreamed up by coaches who had Ronnie Brown throw a pass from inside the five yard line and on Kevin Kolb’s first snap as the Eagles starter put Vick at wide receiver (resulting, of course, in an illegal formation penalty). Tebow is athletic and big enough to run, and while his throws are awkward, and you wouldn’t want to see many of them, he showed that he can make plays in a limited role. You don’t think it would cross Reid’s mind to have a traditional backup QB but design a special package for Tebow – much like the quarterback had when he first arrived at Florida?
Of course, it’s possible Mornhinweg and Reid have seen enough of Tebow to believe that his throwing abilities are beyond saving, that there’s no fixing his accuracy and decision-making. In another city, that might not matter, because an owner looking to sell tickets might be drawn to Tebow’s fan appeal. Not in Philadelphia. For one, the Eagles sell out the Linc without needing a glitzy lure and for another Jeffrey Lurie gives Reid a free hand in football decisions. If the coach doesn’t want him, it’s not happening.
Only Reid knows what he really thinks of Tebow, and we know how frequently the coach publicly shares his thoughts on personnel moves.
Me? I wouldn’t do it, and if I had to bet I’d guess Tebow goes elsewhere. The Eagles have one of the most talented collection of offensive skill players in the league. Tebow’s weakness actually throwing the ball would diminish all of them.
Tebow also had his most success when he threw a limited number of passes: In six of his eight winning starts, Tebow attempted fewer than 25 passes while the Broncos defense kept the games close. The Eagles are built in exactly the opposite fashion: throw to get ahead, throw to extend the lead and let your defense play from in front. (Vick tried 30 or more passes in all but two games that he started and finished; the two times he had fewer attempts were blow out wins over the Cowboys and Jets). The Eagles are not equipped for grind-it-out games, and I have a hard time seeing a Tebow-led team even dreaming of outgunning the Packers, Saints or Giants in the NFC playoffs.
Lastly, after the “Dream Team” of 2011, the Eagles would be wise to keep the circus at bay in 2012. Wherever Tebow goes, you’ll have to get not just your popcorn ready, but some cotton candy and lion tamers as well.
But can I rule it out? Not with these Eagles, not when it comes to a quarterback.