In anticipation of reaching the limit of the 53 players they must be at by the start of the upcoming season, there has been much speculation about who will make the final cut. Quarterback Tim Tebow has been frequently mentioned as being on the bubble, but it's unclear why there is such a rush to have him off the team.
Tebow was a 2010 first-round draft choice of the Denver Broncos out of the University of Florida. After two up-and-down years there, he spent a miserable season with the New York Jets in 2012, rarely getting off the bench.
The southpaw came to New England this offseason on a two-year free-agent contract -- not to vie for significant playing time, but as a long-term project. Although he has largely struggled this preseason (5-of-17 passing for 54 yards and no touchdowns), that shouldn't change the end game with the plan to develop him.
The Patriots are set with Tom Brady as their starting quarterback. Third-year man Ryan Mallett is entering his second season as the primary backup. What harm is there in giving Tebow the third spot on the depth chart, when there is little to lose compared to the possible benefits?
There's no arguing Tebow isn't a traditional quarterback. He struggles with his mechanics and is at his best when using his mobility. What does set him apart is his drive to win. That may sound obnoxiously anecdotal, but for a player with such questionable skills, how does that explain his two college BCS national championships, the 2007 Heisman Trophy Award, and an 8-6 career record as a starter in the NFL?
He is still just 26. There are legitimate reasons to believe he could still possibly be developed into a useful NFL player.
With his pedigree and reputation for being a coachable hard worker, stashing him on the end of the bench for a season to see what may be there isn't a bad idea. Additionally, being reunited with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was Denver's head coach when Tebow was drafted, could be a positive relationship that pays off.
Football is all about developing players and trying to mold skill sets to systems. There should not be this much controversy over a player whose ceiling this year is one that would be lucky to get more than a handful of snaps during the regular season.
No rational person is advocating for Tebow to receive significant playing time right now. If he can't have 2013 as a de-facto redshirt season to see if he can be developed, who else could the team bring in to be a glorified clipboard holder as the third quarterback?
Unless the Patriots want to take on an undrafted free agent, the best the thin market has to offer is retreads like Tyler Thigpen, Byron Leftwich and J.P. Losman. It's difficult to argue that any of them could bring more as a third quarterback than Tebow.
A well-respected teammate, Tebow has served as a lightning rod during his time with the Patriots. While he attracts media attention like moths to a flame, his presence has helped mute stories like tight end Ron Gronkowski's health, which would typically dominate the preseason. For a team that loathes the spotlight, redirecting attention to a player whose role would really be that of a non-story would be an interesting strategy.
Tebow is a flawed player who may never make a suitable NFL player, let alone a quarterback. However, he is still young and currently in a situation where he could have an opportunity to prove his long-term worth. He could either become an asset to the Patriots on the field or as a trade chip, or wash out and ultimately be released. It's simply too soon to make that call now.
Letting Tebow occupy the third quarterback slot is not a lot to ask. Keeping him on the team in that capacity is a low-risk move with some upside. He shouldn't be handed anything, but the Patriots also shouldn't waste the unique opportunity to see if they can do something with the NFL's most highly scrutinized enigma.In addition to the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports. He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.
You can follow Andrew on Twitter @historianandrew.
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