ESPN’s Chris Mortensen: it’s a “virtual certainty” Tim Tebow goes to Jacksonville, not the CFL

Andrew Bucholtz

CFL fans may not have to debate if it's worth it for the league to pursue Tim Tebow this offseason after all, as ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Saturday night that it's "a virtual certainty" the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars will try to acquire him instead. Tebow has barely featured this year with the New York Jets and was recently passed over in favour of third-stringer Greg McElroy, but that apparently hasn't deterred the Jaguars. From Mortensen's piece:

League sources say it is a virtual certainty Tim Tebow will land a job back home with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013.

Tebow reportedly will be traded or released after the season, but league sources say the Jets are likely to honor Tebow's forthcoming request to be released and therefore become an unrestricted free agent.

Circumstances in Jacksonville have changed since Tebow chose the Jets over the Jaguars when he was traded by the Denver Broncos in March.

Jacksonville owner Shad Khan wanted Tebow, but there was no assurance that the former Heisman Trophy winner would get an opportunity to play because the team was still committed to 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert.

In 2013, the Jaguars will have an open quarterback competition and a team source conceded it's a "high likelihood" Tebow will be part of the mix.

That makes some sense: the Jaguars have previously been interested in Tebow, and he shone in college at the nearby University of Florida. However, this may not be as certain as it seems. Jacksonville is widely expected to look for a general manager to replace Gene Smith this offseason, and as SB Nation's Alfie Crow posits, that makes it extremely unlikely that anyone in the Jaguars' camp beyond owner Shad Khan knows what their plans at quarterback are going forward:!--more-->

I'm not one to question Chris Mortensen's sources on a topic, because they're generally impeccable, but who would know the Jaguars' plans going forward outside of Shad Khan? It's highly unlikely the Jaguars front office staff will be employed by the Jaguars in 2013. There have already been reports of the Jaguars being linked to front-office targets like Tom Gamble for a possible general manager position. If the thought is that Khan is going to get Tim Tebow no matter what and force the front office's hand, he's had two chances already to do so and didn't, so why would he do it now?

CBS' Mike Freeman also looked into this and found vastly different estimations of the chances of Tebow to Jacksonville within the Jaguars' organization:

While an ESPN report said Tebow joining Jacksonville -- Tebow's hometown team -- was a "virtual certainty," one team source estimated the chances of that happening at 20 percent. Another official estimated the chances are much higher because owner Shad Khan remains fascinated with Tebow. In fact, I'm told Khan already has broached the idea of bringing Tebow to Jacksonville.

The Jaguars could have massive turnover in the front office and coaching staff, and any new regime likely wouldn't want Tebow. If Khan overrules a new regime and orders them to get Tebow, then Tebow would have a home.

Where this gets really interesting is if Mortensen's report turns out to be wrong. As Deadspin points out, that's happened before. If the Jaguars don't want Tebow, Freeman reports other NFL teams might—but likely as a fullback. That could leave Tebow with an interesting choice: take substantial money to stay in the NFL as a fullback, sign in arena football or the UFL for decent money and a chance to be a starting quarterback, or come to Canada as a backup quarterback for very little pay. Presuming there's actually interest in him, it's extremely unlikely any team would start him at this point, given both his accuracy issues in the NFL and the usual learning curve quarterbacks face in adapting to a three-down, 12-a-side game; that's even more true with the Montreal Alouettes, who reportedly hold his negotiation-list rights but already have one of the league's best quarterbacks in Anthony Calvillo.

If the Jacksonville rumours fall through, if no other NFL team wants him as a quarterback, if other U.S.-based leagues don't make him a good enough offer, if the CFL interest in him is real and if Tebow's willing to be a backup while learning the Canadian game, then yes, he could possibly come north. Montreal head coach Marc Trestman, who worked with him before the 2010 NFL draft, might be even able to make him better. That doesn't mean Tebow is likely to come to Canada, and it doesn't mean he necessarily could even become an accurate enough passer to succeed in the CFL if he did; the position from this corner is still that he doesn't have the accuracy to succeed in a three-down, passing-focused league. However, that may well become a moot debate, at least for this year. Mortensen's report is certainly far from definitive, but it suggests there's a strong chance Tebow's days as an NFL quarterback may not yet be finished yet.