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Patriots should take a look at Tim Tebow

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  April 29, 2013 10:43 AM

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Well, suddenly I can think of someone who'd be ideal to take Gronk's spot on the extra-point blocking unit ...

My apologies for contributing to the inevitable Tim Tebow-to-the-Patriots speculation/saturation that's sure to ensue now that the scatter-armed, charismatic semi-quarterback has been released by the Jets.

It's just that to some small degree and with a couple of caveats, I do agree with the sentiment that he makes some sense for the Patriots.

And not just because any time you can acquire an inconsistent relentlessly over-hyped quarterback/occasional ball-carrier/punt-protection specialist/lone receiver Mark Sanchez actually hits, you have to do it.

mrichaljuanfinn427.pngIf you saw him at Florida -- and how could you miss him? -- you know Tebow has a superb collection of football skills. Unfortunately, they're not the set of skills that translate to success (or even usefulness) in the ultra-specialized National Football League. He has a strong arm, but he winds up like a southpaw Juan Marichal (see figure 1) and struggles to throw strikes. He runs relentlessly, but who knows if he could actually be a running back at that level. He looks the part of a tight end, but can he catch better than, say, Lovett Purnell in 1998?

He has talent. Just not the right talent, at least in a league in which skills for particular positions are generally rigidly defined.

It will require an open-minded and innovative thinker to pry real value out of Tebow -- and that's where the Patriots come in. They have a fondness for extraordinarily versatile players (Aaron Hernandez) and football misfits (Matt Slater, Nate Ebner), and Tebow fits both profiles.

And Bill Belichick has always thrown praise Tebow's way. Here is what he said about him in April 2010, prior to the draft and his selection with the 25th pick in 2010 by Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos:

"I think he's got real good ability. I don't think there's any question about that. He's the second- or third-leading passer in SEC history, so his record speaks for itself. He's an outstanding football player and he's an outstanding person. I've met and talked to Tim on a number of occasions. Obviously, we didn't talk about pro football when he was still in college, but now that he's eligible for the draft, we talked to him about being a professional quarterback."

I'll always wonder whether Belichick's open appreciation for Tebow was entirely genuine (you can see Belichick admiring his distinctive skill-set and dedication), whether it was a favor to Florida coach Urban Meyer, or even whether he was baiting McDaniels into drafting him.

This moment, right now, with Tebow available, his NFL career teetering in the balance, and the additional bonus of sticking it to the Jets hanging there like a pinata, will tell us what how Belichick truly feels about the player.

Maybe he'll decide the noise-to-production ratio won't be worth it. Tebow's followers can be a particularly irrational cult of fans. But you know Belichick will stonewall Tebow questions like a champ until they are no longer asked. The sideshow will be silenced here, and quick.

And remember: it's not out of the realm of possibility that Belichick -- or McDaniels -- is on the fringes of that cult, ready to rescue Tebow from the fringes of the NFL and send a message that Tebow can be a valuable asset to a team that knows how to use him.

The temptation of Tebow could be too much to resist. I hope they don't resist. I'm curious to know if he can play effectively in the NFL.

No team will put him in a better position to answer that question than the Patriots. All we know now? That the position isn't quarterback.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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