Lefko on NFL: Tebow should give up football

Tebow handling questioned by Giant's co-owner. (AP/Elaine Thompson)
April 30, 2013, 1:34 PM

Tim Tebow should do himself a favour and give up football.

Not just abandoning playing quarterback for another position or trying his luck in another league, but leaving the sport and pursuing some other career.

He should have so many opportunities available to him, none of which would devalue what he is doing or trying to do. It seems the National Football League has taken Tebow and discounted him, perhaps the all-time underappreciated or overrated player to play his position.

As a football player, it is obvious he has some talent, but not enough to succeed as a frontline starting quarterback over a sustained period of time. In Denver, esteemed Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, the team’s executive vice-president of football operations, dumped Tebow after winning the bidding to sign free agent Peyton Manning last off-season.

Both moves were the right thing to do. Clearly Manning had faith in Elway to come to Denver despite other suitors. That’s the respect Elway has in football. His decision to release Tebow was merely a product of separating emotion with objectivity and, to a certain extent, subjectivity. He played the position with such élan and leadership, the decision to release Tebow came with enough foundation and reason.

Elway preferred to look at the body of Tebow’s work rather than just the body.

The dysfunctional New York Jets took a flyer on him and it turned out to be another slight for Tebow. Forget about all internal and external issues that have made the Jets a Gong Show – and this includes all that has been done trying to prove Mark Sanchez is a bona fide starter – the reality is signing Tebow only created massive distractions for the organization.

Tebow never really had a shot to succeed in New York, where expectations were great and fell far short. This is not to say the Jets will be better without Tebow, but the hoopla he brought with him are gone. The Jets are quite content to let someone else have him.

So once again he has been mercifully dismissed. The Jets can make the argument they did it after selecting quarterback Geno Smith in the second round of last week’s NFL Draft, making Tebow a surplus part. It’s surprising it took this long anyway.

Tebow is not the worst quarterback in the NFL. He just might be the one with the most exaggerated profile. Tebow is more of a brand than a player, so any team that includes him in their plans is doing so at their own risk. Yes, he has a following, but he has to be evaluated purely on what he’s shown so far, which has been good in some spurts but lacked sustainability. His mechanics have been criticized and it’s been said he can only operate in a certain type of offence, one that emphasizes mobility, in particular with the zone-read. But a good defensive co-ordinator can scheme to force Tebow in the pocket. This is not his strength. To use him in some packages is really a luxury some teams do not want for their backup.

Most teams have already established themselves with their starting quarterbacks, second-stringers and further on down the depth chart, so at this point it’s hard to figure where Tebow might fit. His connections to the market in Florida, where he starred in university, might make sense as a future place for him, but neither Miami nor Jacksonville seems interested. Not that both couldn’t use help at quarterback or with the free promotion that Tebow would bring.

Chicago Bears’ new head coach Marc Trestman has worked with Tebow in the past and received credit when the quarterback had some positive results during his run with the Broncos. Trestman already has veterans Jay Cutler, Josh McCown and second-year pivot Matt Blanchard on his roster. If Tebow is brought in it would create a circus that Trestman really doesn’t need.

The Montreal Alouettes have Tebow’s Canadian Football League rights, but they have an established veteran in Anthony Calvillo, who has been the team’s starter since 2002. At best, Tebow would be joining the Als as Calvillo’s backup.

Some CFL personnel people claim Tebow’s skill set is tailor-made for the three-down game because it would allow him to run and make use of his bulked-up body. But he’d still have to learn the nuances of the CFL, which has enough idiosyncrasies that have fooled pivots with far greater backgrounds than him.

The new Ottawa franchise, scheduled to start in 2014, could possibly be a future home for Tebow, through an acquisition of his rights from the Alouettes, or some other transaction. Much will depend what happens to Tebow this year and whether he is still playing football.

Doug Flutie came to the CFL once the NFL had disposed of him and did well enough to come back to the NFL, which was starting to change the way it evaluated quarterbacks. Maybe this could work for Tebow, but this is not to suggest he should be compared to Flutie, who seemed tailor-made to the CFL game, particularly because of his awareness, unique talents and ability to make plays on the run, whether designed or purely fabricated. He embraced the CFL, which accepted him without prejudice, disregarding the size issue – and to a certain extent arm strength – that was deemed a deficit by the NFL.

In 2006, Jesse Palmer came to the CFL to extend what was left of his declining pro career. He, too, had had some NFL starts, but was known more from his appearances in The Bachelor reality series. Palmer had done enough to position himself for a career beyond football. He has succeeded as a broadcaster and has marketed himself into other ventures. Tebow’s profile is significantly greater than Palmer’s. The opportunities are there for him now and always will be regardless of his football career.

He is only 25 and heading into his fourth year in the NFL. This is a point when some quarterbacks are starting to emerge and when some have shown they can only go so far as legitimate talents. If he joins a new club, it will be his third in three years. That’s a lot, even in a business in which movement from team to team is frequent.

Some players are given the luxury of time and can stretch out a career, but the spotlight that has shone on Tebow has been immense and the expectations greater. He really hasn’t been given the benefit of time and, perhaps, opportunity. He could have been a backup to Manning in Denver, but clearly Elway didn’t want him around, perhaps even Manning, too.

What awaits Tebow now is an NFL team willing to take a chance on him. It may happen. Or he may sit around waiting. Or he may decide the CFL or possibly some other league is where he needs to test his talents.

Or he may just come to the realization that football doesn’t need him and he doesn’t need it.

Tebow has shown a mental resilience so far, probably built up because of his strong religious faith, and it will be put to the test again. What role he believes God has for him, he does have the ability to make choices, which may or not include staying in the game of football.

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