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Why the CFL shouldn’t bother with Tim Tebow

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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Tim Tebow, seen being sacked Monday night, would not be a capable CFL quarterback.

Following Mark Sanchez's five-turnover Monday night meltdown, the New York Jets have elected to change starting quarterbacks—but to third-stringer Greg McElroy, not backup Tim Tebow. The move adds to Tebow's autumnus horribilis, and his awful year in general, which has seen him go from a starter in Denver to a passed-over option in New York. That's stirred further discussion that Tebow may not have an NFL job after this season, and of course, that has people talking about the CFL. Tebow was on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' negotiation list this spring, but his rights are now owned by the Montreal Alouettes. Tebow coming north is still an incredible long shot, though, and there's a strong argument to be made that no CFL team should even have him on a negotiation list.

Simply put, Tim Tebow is a terrible quarterback. His career NFL completion percentage is just 47.9 per cent,  and the 75.0 per cent mark he's notched this year is incredibly deceptive, as he's only thrown eight passes. Heck, even Pro Football Reference lists him as a fullback/tight end this year, which many of us would argue would be a better position for him. Yes, many quarterbacks who haven't found great success south of the border have gone on to shine in the CFL, and that has some talking up Tebow as perhaps the next in that line. The crucial difference, though? Those guys were effective passers.

[Update: There's a school of thought that a quarterback guru like Montreal head coach Marc Trestman, who's done well with the likes of Bernie Kosar, Scott Mitchell, Rich Gannon and Russell Wilson, might be able to make Tebow a decent passer. Yahoo!'s Doug Farrar lays out that case well over at Shutdown Corner. That argument isn't unreasonable; players can improve over time with good coaching. The question is if the Alouettes would really rather develop Tebow instead of another quarterback who's more proven as a passer, though, and if Tebow would bother coming north to play as a backup to Anthony Calvillo and make a tiny salary instead of going to an alternative league like the UFL or the AFL where he could sign a big contract, be a starter and have massive marketing value.]

The passing game's becoming more important in the NFL, as we saw last year when three quarterbacks threw for over 5,000 yards. That played a crucial role in the Denver Broncos' offseason decision to trade Tebow to the Jets despite the playoff victory he led them to over the Steelers. They opted to bring in a much better passer in Peyton Manning despite serious questions about the health of his neck, and the move's worked out spectacularly; Manning's having a season that makes him an excellent candidate for Comeback Player of the Year and has the Broncos atop the AFC West with an 11-3 record, while Tebow's largely been relegated to the Jets' bench despite Sanchez's struggles and has been utterly ineffective when he has played. Even with the partial swing back towards the ground game this year and the emergence of dual-threat quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick, it's still hard to see Tebow finding success in the NFL going forward. It's notable that while Wilson, Griffin and Kaepernick are known for their running abilities, all have substantially higher completion percentages (62.9 per cent, 66.4 per cent and 65.6 per cent respectively) this season than Tebow does for his career. They can both run and pass effectively; Tebow can only do one of these things, and that's what makes it difficult to see him as a good NFL fit going forward.

If that's true in the NFL, though, it's even more true in the CFL. With three downs, a bigger field and expanded motion, the Canadian game is even more passing-focused. Yes, some dual-threat quarterbacks have had success up north, most notably Damon Allen (Warren Moon, sometimes cited as an example there, didn't actually run very much in the CFL), but Allen was always quite capable in the passing game too. He was the CFL's leader in career passing yards until Anthony Calvillo broke his record in 2011, and his 56.4 per cent career completion mark (much of which was recorded in an era that emphasized deep, lower-percentage throws more than today's game) makes Tebow's look like chopped liver by comparison. It's hard to see why the Alouettes would even consider a quarterback who's such a poor passer, especially when they already have a great starter in Calvillo and a plethora of interesting backups, including Adrian McPherson, Stephen Garcia and Josh Neiswander.

The comedy of Tebow, a former Florida Gators star, being behind McPherson, who left rival Florida State following an infamous arrest, would be substantial, though. What would be even better would be if Tebow came to the CFL and had less success than another former Florida quarterback, the less-hyped Chris Leak, who infamously washed out in Montreal and then Saskatchewan. Beyond merely giving CFL fans a chance to laugh, though, there's no reason for the Alouettes to even consider Tebow. Simply put, Tim Tebow has done nothing that would suggest he'd be an effective CFL passer.

Of course, it's highly unlikely Tebow would come north anyway. There's so much bizarre, ESPN-fueled hype about him (which has been parodied in literature and musicals) that it's quite probable some other NFL team will pick him up if New York lets him go. Even if they don't, another U.S. based league like the UFL or the AFL will make a run at him and offer him way more money (and a chance to start) than the CFL could. His game might be a better fit in those leagues, too; it certainly isn't suited for the CFL. That's why it's so bizarre that teams keep putting him on a negotiation list. Tebow likely isn't coming north, and he wouldn't be any good as a quarterback if he did. The "Tim Tebow to the CFL!" discussion's going to continue unabated, of course, but it's much more of a joke than a serious possibility. However, the real joke would be if we ever saw a CFL team try to make Tebow into a starting quarterback. He can't pass, and last time we checked, that was a rather important element of the quarterback's job.

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