Tim Tebow warmsup in Buffalo, which may be as close as he ever gets to Canada. (Getty Images)
Tim Tebow's release from the New York Jets has provoked plenty of speculation about where he'll land, and with his NFL options apparently dwindling (although perhaps not non-existent), many are bringing up the idea of him heading to Canada. At first glance, this isn't a ludicrous idea given the history involved: quarterbacks once overlooked by the NFL such as Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia honed their skills in the CFL before finding success south of the border.
Moreover, there is some interest in Tebow on the CFL end: TSN's Dave Naylor reported Monday that the Montreal Alouettes still have Tebow on their negotiation list (meaning they're the only CFL team he can play for, barring a trade of his rights) and that general manager Jim Popp said the team would "take a look at him" if Tebow elected to come north. Canadian football has changed significantly since the days of Moon and Flutie, though, and there are particular circumstances in Tebow's case that might make heading to the CFL a poor decision for him.
The first argument against the Tebow to the CFL storyline is that heading to Canada isn't a quick path back to NFL stardom. The Canadian game is vastly different from the American version, featuring a bigger field, 12 men a side, three downs, expanded motion rules and several other changes, so that makes adapting to it a tough challenge for any athlete. That's why the CFL all-star list each year tends to have plenty of older players who have been in the league for years; experience in the three-down game can be just as valuable as raw athletic skill.
This is even more true for American quarterbacks, as they essentially have to relearn the route trees, coverage packages and reads they've seen all their lives thanks to the differences in the game (particularly the 12 men on each side). A standard CFL defensive alignment is four defensive linemen, two linebackers, a hybrid linebacker/defensive back, two cornerbacks, two halfbacks and a single safety; the reads against that package are incredibly different from anything seen in American football, and when you throw in the expanded motion receivers can use and the larger field (plus the need to get more yards on each down), it can be exceptionally difficult for quarterbacks to adapt. This is why it's exceptionally rare to see a quarterback even get a start in his first year in the CFL (and in the rare cases where that has happened, it usually hasn't gone well). Adjusting to the Canadian game takes considerable time for quarterbacks, making it an undesirable path for those looking to quickly get back to the NFL. It's notable that even legendary CFL quarterbacks like Moon, Flutie and Garcia faced substantial challenges in their first few CFL seasons, and all spent significant time in the CFL before heading to the NFL.
[Also: Jets show disdain for Tim Tebow]
The specifics of Montreal's quarterback situation make it even more unlikely that Tebow would quickly become a CFL star. The Alouettes' starter is Anthony Calvillo, professional football's all-time leading passer and a man who's still one of the league's best quarterbacks at age 40. Popp made it very clear in his comments to Naylor that Tebow would be competing to be the backup to Calvillo at best. He might be a long shot to win that role though, too, and it's far from a guarantee he'd even make it out of training camp with the team. The Alouettes currently have three very promising quarterbacks on their roster behind Calvillo in former South Carolina star Stephen Garcia, former Angelo State (DII) pivot Josh Neiswander and Canadian-trained pivot Kyle Quinlan from McMaster University. All have significantly more experience with the Canadian game than Tebow does, which could well give them an edge over him in camp.
So, what if Montreal trades Tebow to someone else? Well, the vast majority of CFL teams have a firmly-solidified starter. The only team that really has quarterback questions is Winnipeg, but oft-injured CFL veteran Buck Pierce is still the favourite there. The Blue Bombers just signed former NFL quarterback Max Hall and former Rice star Chase Clement, so it's possible they could pick Tebow up in a trade with Montreal and have him compete with those guys for a roster spot, but Winnipeg also has Pierce and Justin Goltz (DIII Occidental College, three years as a CFL backup so far) in the mix, and they might be favoured over any newbie. Thus, even the most plausible landing spot still wouldn't be an easy place for Tebow to shine or even make a roster, and that's presuming that the Bombers are both interested in him and able to acquire his rights. None of that is assured.
Perhaps the most compelling argument against Tebow to the CFL is based on his own skills. There's no denying that Tebow has found some success as a quarterback, most notably in Florida and then briefly in Denver, but most of that has come from his ability to run with the football. At every level, there have been significant questions about his passing game, and in particular, his accuracy. Passing is the primary focus in the CFL thanks to the three-down nature of the game, and accuracy's even more important than it is in American football, as incomplete passes become even more costly when you typically only have two shots to gain 10 yards. Tebow also isn't particularly known for his arm strength, so there are legitimate questions about if he can throw the wide sideline routes required in the CFL (and those balls have to drop into very narrow windows, further increasing the premium on accuracy). Thus, the CFL game would seem to exacerbate Tebow's weaknesses while minimizing his strengths.
Adding to all that, it's incredibly hard to become a CFL quarterback. Many big-name American quarterbacks have tried to succeed in Canada and failed, including Chris Leak(Tebow's predecessor at Florida), Ryan Dinwiddie, Jared Zabransky and Colt Brennan, and all of those guys had skills that were arguably more suited for the CFL game than Tebow. If Tebow does elect to come north, it's not completely impossible that he could earn a job somewhere as a third- or fourth-string quarterback, toil as a backup for a few years and eventually become a starter, but there are a lot of factors working against him obtaining even that modest level of success.
When he's not trying to become the next Milt Steagall, Andrew Bucholtz runs the 55-Yard Line, Yahoo! Sports' blog covering all things about the Canadian Football League. You can follow him on Twitter here.
NFL video from Yahoo! Sports:
Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
• ESPN analyst clarifies views on Jason Collins
• Relocation committee recommends the Kings stay in Sacramento
• AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel to vacation together
• German soccer club bans players for traffic violation
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Tim Tebow