New England Patriots’ quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Tom Brady (right) run during a practice session in Foxborough, Mass., on Tuesday, It was Tebow’s first practice with the Patriots. — Photo by The Associated Press
By Barry Wilner THE ASSOCIATED PRESS So the New England Patriots now have a left-handed quarterback with a scatter arm, a flair for the dramatic and a feel for leadership. Yep, Tim Tebow. He might as well be Frankenstein’s monster, with Patriots coach Bill Belichick in the role of visionary doctor (or mad scientist). Tebow certainly isn’t going to unseat Tom Brady as the starter, and he probably won’t challenge Ryan Mallett as backup. Hey, Tebow couldn’t even get his favourite number — 15— for New England’s three-day minicamp because it belongs to Mallett. But if the Patriots see any quarterbacking promise in Tebow — he did, after all, lead the Broncos to a playoff berth in 2011, with a win over Pittsburgh in overtime — they have the luxury of developing it slowly. They will do it within their system, not with any extravagant shifts to the wildcat or any other funky offences; the Patriots aren’t about to take their certain Hall of Fame QB off the field for any significant snaps if Brady is healthy. Belichick likes the idea that Tebow’s skill set could lend itself to using him at a variety of positions: tight end, H-back, fullback, whatever. One thing Belichick can count on is Tebow’s work ethic, something the coach already knows because of his close friendship with Tebow’s college coach, Urban Meyer. Belichick wouldn’t say so, of course, but it’s very likely he consulted Meyer, now at Ohio State, before signing the Heisman winner. Belichick is enough of a football savant to spot strengths in a player that others have missed; some say that was true when he selected Brady 199th overall in the 2000 draft. Asked if a position switch was a reasonable assumption, Belichick, naturally, was mum. That’s the way of the world in Foxborough, as Tebow will learn. After thanking the Patriots for “giving me an opportunity,” which quite possibly is his last in the NFL after last season’s fiasco with the Jets, he told reporters on the field after practice: “I’m looking forward to working hard every single day, and getting a lot better, and learning under some great people. So, that’s all I got. But thank you so much and God bless. “I’m sure we’ll be talking more soon.” Don’t count on it. Belichick will do his best to prevent the Tebow media circus from pitching its tent in New England and causing distractions. Count this, too: Belichick will never provide the sounds bites and headlines Rex Ryan did when Tebow was wasting a year with the Jets, and he won’t let his players do it, either. Unlike the up-and-down performances of Tebow as a pro, Belichick couldn’t be more consistent, or dull, in his news conferences. He rarely gives out any useful information, and he was at his stonewalling best before a huge media contingent Tuesday. He was asked 28 questions relating to what, for now, is his third-string quarterback. Tebow has reached a crossroads after only three pro seasons. Several teams with quarterbacking needs, including Tebow’s hometown Jacksonville Jaguars, showed no interest in signing him as a free agent. Maybe he needs to bag this QB thing, accept that he maxed out when he won the 2007 Heisman and helped Florida win two national titles. He probably has mixed feelings about it. His legions of fans believe he got a raw deal, first in Denver, after guiding the Broncos to the AFC West title with spectacular comebacks before being dumped for Peyton Manning. Then in New York. His supporters argue Tebow was impressive in Denver. But that came in a run-option attack developed by coach John Fox and offensive co-ordinator Mike McCoy. They went that route because their other choice was the faltering Kyle Orton, not Tom Brady. Tebow might have a comfort zone with Patriots offensive co-ordinator Josh McDaniels, who, while coaching Denver, drafted Tebow 25th overall in 2010. Then again, Tebow did little under McDaniels before the Broncos fired him, and only flourished under Fox/McCoy. And only for a half-season or so. Many others, including people directly involved in the NFL, say he lacks the skills to be a pro QB. There never seems to be a middle ground when it comes to Tebow. It should be stressed, too, that Belichick has worked some successful reclamations throughout his 13-plus years in New England. Randy Moss and Corey Dillon both brought lots more baggage to the Patriots than does the diligent, team-oriented Tebow. Moss became an All-Pro again and Dillon a 1,600-yard rusher. Revitalizing Tebow as a Patriot would be a direct arrow through the heart of the archrival Jets, especially after the grand experiment fell apart last year. Belichick has never cared about popular opinion. Or being popular, for that matter. Which is why this most unlikely of pairings might turn out to be the right fit.