Curran: If Tebow stays, it won't be for football


Curran: If Tebow stays, it won't be for football

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.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

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Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up


Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up

FOXBORO -- Once the Patriots traded AJ Derby to the Broncos for a fifth-round pick earlier this week, they were left with just two tight ends on their roster. While those two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett -- have played as two of the best tight ends in football this season, it's a position group that has been considerably thinned. 

Until coach Bill Belichick adds another player at that spot, James Develin would be the logical "next man up." A position group unto himself as the team's lone active fullback -- the other fullback in the locker room is practice-squad player Glenn Gronkowski -- Develin meets with Patriots tight ends and coach Brian Daboll on a daily basis because the fullback and tight-end responsibilities in the Patriots offense are similar, particularly in the run game.

As much time as he spends with that group, Develin tries to absorb what he can when it comes to the nuances of the position. 

"I always kind of try to prepare, obviously, for my fullback role, but then in any other role that I might be called upon for," Develin said on Thursday. "A couple years ago, we had a bunch of injuries during the offseason program, during OTAs, and I filled in a little bit at tight end. I try to keep myself familiar with all those techniques and that tight end role so if the day were to come where I needed to go out there and do it, I'd be able to go out there and do it."

When the Patriots began the season relying more on the run, Develin was called upon to play a relatively significant role in the offense. He averaged 21.3 snaps per game through the first three games of the season, but that number has fallen to 13.6 since Tom Brady's return from a four-game suspension. Still, his role can be a critical one. 

The Patriots' running game faltered last season after both Blount and Dion Lewis went down with season-ending injuries. Having Develin in the mix as an extra blocker would not have guaranteed a more efficient attack, but it may have helped the team's running-game woes late in the year. 

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now has the luxury of bringing Develin onto the field when he wants some added muscle for his blocking schemes, and should the Patriots need a tight end in a pinch, Develin could do that too.

"A lot of times, especially in the blocking game, really the only difference [between fullback and tight end] is that I'm five yards off the ball in the backfield and they're up on the line," Develin said. "The angles are a little bit different. But a lot of times the assignment is typcially the same thing. It's just the technique of getting there and the angles that you take.

"Then in the passing game, as a tight end, there's just a lot more routes and stuff like that. I try to work on that to help me as a fullback to be a little bit better in space . . . It's a sybiotic relationship." 

As it is, Develin will line up occasionally outside. Though not a threat as a receiver in that spot in the same way that Gronkowski or Bennett would be, he understands some of the different looks tight ends have to be comfortable with.

If an emergency arose and he was asked to fill that role, he wouldn't hesitate.

"There's a little bit of carry-over depending on what we're doing or whatever play we have called where I'll line up on the line," he said. "But that's kind of what a fullback has to do. You kind of have to be able to be thrown into whatever position on the field that you gotta do and you gotta just do your job."