aNewDomain — Tim Tebow returned to the NFL on Tuesday with little fanfare. No press conference. No need for a sea of satellite trucks. No expectations of greatness. Just a photo released by the Philadelphia Eagles on their Twitter account of the prodigal son signing a contract with a thankful smile on his face.
Tebow will be an Eagles quarterback this season. Maybe. Chances are just as good that he will be back as an analyst on the SEC Network reliving past glory covering the conference he once dominated.
His contract is for one season but it could just as easily be for only a few months. While the players in front of him on the depth chart – Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley – have issues, all are more qualified to lead an NFL team.
Signing Tebow bears the hallmarks of a Chip Kelly move. The Eagles coach often seems as if he wants to be known as the smartest guy in the room. Kelly has a track record of success; he went 49-9 in college as the Oregon Ducks’ coach and has gone 20-12 with Philadelphia.
Kelly seems intent on being the coach who can get the most out of Tebow, the one who can make the former Heisman winner a legit NFL quarterback. Tebow made the postseason and even won a game once he got there as the Broncos’ signal-caller. That was before Peyton Manning came to town.
But the wins Denver racked up in 2011 with Tebow at the helm were more the result of a little luck and a lot of defense. Tebow received a lot of the credit, but the stats don’t lie. He completed just 46.5 percent of his passes and his unorthodox throwing motion was the subject of constant scrutiny. He has spent significant time since working with former major league baseball pitcher Tom House to improve his throwing motion.
Before working with Tebow, House’s biggest claim to fame came when he caught Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th career home run in 1974. House was an Atlanta Braves reliever at the time.
The last time Tebow played in an NFL regular season game was in 2012 for the New York Jets. He signed amid much acclaim as the New York and national media anticipated a quarterback battle between him and new teammate Sanchez. That scuffle never materialized as Tebow threw just eight passes and ran the ball 32 times. The organization showed him the door after the season.
Tebow hasn’t been on an NFL roster since being cut by the New England Patriots before the 2013 season started. After the release, after being cut, Tebow thanked the Patriots for the opportunity, saying: “I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback.”
Best-case scenario is Tebow somehow makes the team, hard to imagine as that may be, to serve as the equivalent of a fullback on short-yardage situations. Tebow takes the snap and bulldozes his way to first downs and touchdowns to save the brittle Sam Bradford from yet another season-ending knee injury. Tebow as cannon-fodder.
Sound familiar? It should. That was the game plan the Jets had when they signed him, and we’ve already gone over how that turned out.
Even ESPN seems to be a little self-aware about Tebow 2015. Network anchor Steve Levy started Sunday night’s SportsCenter with a joke about the 90-minute show not being completely dedicated to Tebow. A reporter for the network groused on social media that the network wasn’t given the chance to break the Eagles’ news. That honor instead went to FOX Sports.
Just to cover its bases, ESPN says it will welcome Tebow back to the fold “when his playing career is done.” The “worldwide leader” knows Tebow equals ratings, whether on the field or doing commentary.
At the age of 27, Tebow’s prayerful celebration has spawned “Tebowing.” He has co-authored a New York Times best seller, won a college national championship and started a television career. His squeaky clean nature both endears and grates. Some see his faith as a welcome relief in a league that has its share of bad actors. Others are annoyed by his constant mention of religion, maybe even offended by his pro-life commercials that ran during the Super Bowl five years ago.
Now, he has the opportunity to continue his dream of playing pro ball. He was all smiles Monday when signing his Eagles contract. But how long will that grin last when training camp starts in July and tough decisions have to be made?
It’s easy to bring in half a dozen quarterbacks to participate in offseason activities. There’s no risk and very little financial commitment. But when the rosters are set and the games start counting, there’s little chance Tebow will be happily standing on the Eagles’ sideline.
This time, he doesn’t seem to have a prayer.