The Tebow Issue remains for the New England Patriots.
With all teams cutting to 75 players by Tuesday at 4 p.m. and 53 by 6 p.m. on Saturday, interminable speculation about whether Tebow would make the Patriots will -- mercifully -- terminate.
The Tebow Conundrum (like the Bourne Conspiracy, but with less subterfuge and more overthrows) has only grown more mystifying. Creating a role for him in the Patriots offense is like giving up your car so that it can get an 8-track installed.
Don’t need it. Won’t use it. And not very good at its job (in the 8-track’s case, playing music; in Tebow’s case, playing quarterback).
Everybody’s got an opinion on Tebow’s future. Some are delivered as fact.
But since camp began, virtually all evidence submitted by Tebow himself proves he doesn’t belong on the Patriots roster.
He’s gone 5 for 19 in his two appearances. Only one -- ONE OUT OF 19 PASSES -- could be classified as too difficult for a middle school quarterback to execute. That was a 17-yarder to Aaron Dobson against the Eagles. Of the four other completions, all traveled less than 5 yards. Thirty-two of his 54 preseason passing yards came on middle screens to Leon Washington and Bolden against Philadelphia.
Tebow’s run for 61 yards on 10 carries, but he’s also been sacked three times and thrown a pick in limited action. When trying to read defenses, he’s been decisive as a stoned Price Is Right contestant relying on the studio audience. Not a single aspect of anything related to playing the position has been done consistently enough in practice or games to allow a reasonable person to say, “You know, on football merits, Tebow deserves a spot on the Patriots.”
When I consider Tebow, I keep thinking of players who could conceivably go if Tebow stays. Like Brandon Bolden. Bolden is a second-year player signed as an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss in 2012.
Bolden absolutely has NFL talent as a running back. He presents as very smart, engaging and diligent. He’s made mistakes -- a four-game PED suspension last year being a primary one. And he’s not been outstanding in this preseason -- a running-into-the-kicker call against the Eagles that extended a drive; a fumble inside the 15 last week against the Lions.
But he’s also had positive plays, with 11 carries for 58 yards and a presence on multiple special teams units.
Brandon Bolden deserves to be on the Patriots more than Tim Tebow. I hate to begrudge a person who is so unfailingly decent, upright and spiritually blessed his opportunity to keep chasing his NFL dream, but I’m doing it with Tebow. And I’m not pretty sure about it, I’m convinced. Tebow hasn’t earned it.
If I know that, one can imagine Brandon Bolden does as well. And running backs coach Ivan Fears. And special teams coach Scott O’Brien. And Bolden’s teammates in the running backs room.
If Bolden goes and Tebow stays (please note, I’m using Bolden as a “for instance” -- this could be any player on the bubble), it has to be viewed through the lens of who would have made a bigger contribution for the team,
Belichick’s mantra -- his fallback and his shield -- has always been “I do what’s best for the football team…”
On football merit alone, Tebow is currently the worst Patriot.
One square inch of Belichick’s brain carries more football knowledge than my whole noggin. So, if Tebow is on the team past Saturday at 6 p.m., a non-football reason will be the driving force. And Tebow’s values, work ethic and off-field example could be the reason.
The Patriots’ locker room bottomed out in 2009. Players were selfish, cliquish, immature and the chemistry sucked. After fumigating the locker room prior to the 2010 season, New England was a less talented team but wound up going 14-2. Chemistry and attitude had a lot to do with that.
The 2012 Patriots were nowhere near as bad as the 2009 edition, but there was an immaturity and an entitled air seeping into their locker room. The pursuit of individual attention became a focus (Rob Gronkowski is the best example but he’s not been the lone one). Average guys acted like Pro Bowlers (hellooo, Brandon Deaderick) and other guys were just jerks (Brandon Lloyd). Even before Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder, you could see the Patriots addressing the personality deficiencies with the players they drafted (who all presented very professionally) and the ones they released.
Nothing is absolute -- LeGarrette Blount doesn’t have the resume of a Boy Scout and the Patriots traded for him -- but in general, you could sense a different type of person being imported.
Less conspicuous than the signing of Tebow has been the presence this year of a team chaplain. I first noticed him in Philly on the sidelines during practices and have seen him with the team frequently since. That’s not unprecedented for the team but this chaplain has been more visible. Whether that’s his particular style or he’s been asked to be a visible presence is unknown. It’s just noteworthy in the context of Tebow’s role.
To me, if Tebow ends up on the 53, it won’t be because he’s a valuable football player. It will be because he’s a valuable presence. Doing what’s best for the football team doesn’t have to mean keeping the best players -- Brandon Lloyd and Adalius Thomas are proof of that. But if Tebow remains because he’s a good person, hard worker and spiritual example, the fact he plays badly will be a cross for him -- and the Patriots -- to bear.