Since April 29, the day Tim Tebow was released by the Jets, there has been speculation the polarizing quarterback would end up in New England.
On Monday, that speculation became fact: a league source confirmed the Patriots will sign Tebow. He is expected on the field when minicamp starts Tuesday.
Given the history Tebow has with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, the signing isn’t a huge surprise — what remains to be seen, however, is if he will stay at quarterback or change to a new position. Another question is whether Tebow has a real chance at making the roster or if he’s getting a favor from two men who truly like him as a person.
New England released third-string quarterback Mike Kafka Monday, so perhaps Tebow has a chance of sticking.
Listed at 6 feet 3 inches, 236 pounds, the Jacksonville native is on the record as saying he only wants to play quarterback. Clearly he is not going to challenge Tom Brady for snaps, and he’ll likely be behind Ryan Mallett on the depth chart as well.
In 23 games (14 starts) with Denver over the 2010-11 seasons, Tebow completed 47.3 percent of his 353 pass attempts, with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions; he also had 165 rushes, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and adding 12 more touchdowns.
Traded to the Jets last year after the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, Tebow was used sparingly on offense despite the struggles of quarterback Mark Sanchez. Tebow also played on special teams.
Tebow was brought in for Wildcat-type packages in New York last year, but the idea that the Patriots would pull Brady off the field even for a couple of snaps seems unlikely.
In 2009, when there were rumblings the Patriots might be interested in signing Michael Vick following his prison sentence, Robert Kraft closed the door on adding the scrambling QB to the mix.
“For us that’s an academic problem, because we’ve got the No. 1 player at that position in the world, as far as I’m concerned, and why would we ever want to do anything that would take him off the field for one play?’’ Kraft said.
On Monday night, when an AFC scout was asked for Tebow’s positives as a quarterback, the answer was: “Competitiveness . . . honestly, that’s it.’’
It seemed odd last Thursday that Belichick suddenly decided to dispute a Yahoo! Sports story from nearly a month earlier that cited a Patriots source who said Belichick “hates’’ Tebow as a player. Belichick told ESPNBoston.com that was “untrue, baseless, and irresponsible’’ to report that he felt that way about Tebow.
Now it makes a bit more sense.
Tebow brings a cult-like following to New England, revered for both his career at the University of Florida and his strong Christian beliefs. Those who are critical of Tebow as a player are frequently shouted down by a fan espousing his off-field virtues, and his jersey has been a best-seller in the NFL since he was drafted, though sales declined last year as his playing time took a major hit.
Belichick and the Patriots generally avoid players that bring that type of attention, but if there is any team that can put a lid on Tebowmania, it’s the Patriots.
When Tebow was at Florida, Belichick was a frequent visitor to Gainesville, where his friend, Urban Meyer, was the coach. Belichick spoke glowingly of Tebow leading up to the 2010 draft, and even took the unprecedented step (for the famously taciturn coach anyway) of having dinner with Tebow at Tresca in Boston’s North End, a high-visibility location.
A few weeks later, McDaniels, who was then the Broncos head coach, made Tebow a first-round draft pick. Although Tebow was incredibly successful at Florida, where he was a part of two national championship teams and won the 2007 Heisman Trophy, there have long been questions about his passing ability.
McDaniels took Tebow, but the rookie’s first start came in Week 14, after McDaniels had been fired as Broncos coach.
He started 11 regular-season games in 2011 and became known for his late-game heroics, never more so than in the AFC wild-card round against Pittsburgh, when an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime sent Denver on to the next round.
A week later, against the Patriots, Tebow completed just nine of 26 passes for 136 yards and zero touchdowns in New England’s 45-10 win at Gillette Stadium.