Tim Tebow has been a lightning rod for New England fans and media ever since his arrival in Foxboro. "Great guy, horrible quarterback" has been the mantra. Radio and television sports talk shows have dedicated far more time than they should on how Tebow should best be utilized or if he should even make the team.
Yet here I am writing a column on Tebow, right? I know. I'm a hypocrite.
I'm confident in saying I've never written a column on Brian Hoyer, Kevin O'Connell, Matt Gutierrez, Rohan Davey, or any other third-string quarterbacks the Patriots may have had in the last decade. The last time a third-string quarterback drew this much attention was, perhaps, Michael Bishop when Tom Brady was an anonymous fourth-string quarterback on the 2000 Patriots roster.
Many doubted why Tebow was even brought in by Bill Belichick. Was it to play tight end? Fullback? Safety? Certainly it wasn't to play quarterback, right?
It doesn't matter that you or I know that Tebow simply cannot throw a football. I saw most of the Patriots team managers throwing better spirals down the field than Tebow in practices. It doesn't matter.
The fact of the matter is Bill Belichick likes Tim Tebow. Belichick reportedly met and dined with Tebow in the North End prior to the 2010 draft. At the time, Belichick showered Tebow with compliments. "I don't know what a team would do with him, but I think he is a real interesting player," Belichick was quoted as saying at the time.
Perhaps in response to his mentor's interest, then first-year head coach Josh McDaniels traded to get ahead of the Patriots in the first round of that year's draft in order to draft Tebow-- an incredibly long stretch by any draftnik's imagination. Did McDaniels believe Belichick was ready to draft Tebow with the Patriots first round draft pick that year? I believe so.
Have you seen some of Belichick's reaches in the draft in recent years? Belichick has a close circle of friends he trusts and has shown tendencies to reach for players in the draft from schools in which he has ties. In 2010, Belichick drafted three players from the University of Florida. In case you didn't know, Tebow played his college ball at... envelope, please... the University of Florida.
There is no doubt in my mind Belichick would have drafted Tebow in 2010-- maybe not in the first round, but it wouldn't have shocked me. Belichick has drafted players in the second and third rounds of recent drafts which weren't projected to be drafted, if at all, until the sixth or seventh rounds.
Now that we've established that Belichick likes Tim Tebow, let me repeat-- Bill Belichick likes Tim Tebow. That's all, really, that needs to be said.
Belichick also knows he is smarter than all of us and feels the need to ram it down our throats at every opportunity. Humility is not in his vocabulary.
Belichick doesn't care what we think. He doesn't see what we see. We see Tebow complete one pass in seven attempts for -1 yards (is it yard or yards?) on Friday night against Tampa. Yet, in all likelihood, Tebow will make it to Week Three of the exhibition season.
I know what you are thinking-- Belichick doesn't let emotion factor into his business decisions. Spare me all the "look at Lawyer Milloy being cut" and "how about Belichick choosing Brady over Drew Bledsoe?" comments. Yes, I even remember when Belichick was coach of the Cleveland Browns and chose Vinny Testaverde as his starting quarterback over fan-favorite Bernie Kosar.
Belichick is human just like all of us. You think there might not be any better qualified candidates to be a coaching assistant on the New England Patriots staff than, oh, let's say, Belichick's son, Steve? Yet, then 25-year-old Steve Belichick joined the Patriots' staff in 2012.
How about explaining Belichick keeping Chad Ochocinco around for the entire 2011 season? He was so bad that year (15 receptions in 15 games) that he changed his name back to Chad Johnson. Here is a reminder how affectionate Belichick and Johnson (then with the Bengals) were before Johnson's arrival in Foxboro (clip).
I could cite other examples such as Belichick keeping 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde (remember him? See three paragraphs above) on as third-string quarterback the entire 2006 season. Remember when Belichick brought him into a game in the final minutes of a blowout victory in the final week of that season in order for Testaverde to be able to throw a touchdown pass? That would be the only TD pass Testaverde threw that year and allowed him to extend his streak to twenty consecutive years throwing at least one touchdown pass. That was awesome.
How about local legend Doug Flutie's drop kick extra-point at the end of the 2005 season? Wasn't that great? It was the first successful drop kick since 1941. Flutie was 43 years old that year, too. I'm sure there were no better, younger quarterbacks around in those seasons.
How about Troy Brown getting into the Patriots final home game (the only game he played that year) at the end of an injury-riddled 2007 season just so the future Patriots Hall of Famer could get a proper sendoff? It was an emotional day.
So spare me the argument that Belichick is all business. He has a heart just like all of us. If he views, as I believe, Tebow as a son, the coach will find a spot for him on the roster. It's that simple. I don't care if he throws as many completions to the opposition as to his own teammates the rest of the preseason.
Belichick is reluctant to admit defeat or mistakes. He thinks he is better than everyone. Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, and Albert Haynesworth were considered coach-killers? Belichick will be the one to straighten them out.
Belichick did not bring Tebow here to be cut before the season even starts. It would be an admission of defeat. He, along with now Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, will devise a way to use Tebow in some manner. If not, he will carry a clipboard all season long and stand alongside Belichick singing inspirational hymns.