With just two games remaining in the regular season in the NFL, teams and fans are already beginning to look ahead to see how their teams can bolster or rebuild their team’s roster with potential draft picks, free agent acquisitions, and trades. For the second year in a row, fans are going to be hearing the name Tebow being thrown around to different teams in the league, but where would be the best fit?
Last year, Jacksonville seemed his likely destination. It made the most sense. It was his hometown, and owner Shahid Kahn seemed enamored with him; however, the Jaguars coaching staff did not feel the same and Tebow instead was made the backup QB on the New York Jets. Or so he thought.
In New York, all year, fans could be heard chanting “Tebow” in the background of every Jets home game. Rex Ryan stuck with Mark Sanchez throughout, limited Tebow’s role to special teams and a few wildcat formations here and there. Last week, Sanchez looked dismal yet again, throwing four interceptions in a losing effort to the Tennessee Titans in what may have been one of the ugliest Monday Night Football games we have ever seen. With the loss, the Jets were finally put out of their misery and mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Now, with just the two remaining meaningless games, the sports world figured we would finally get to see Tebow moved up to the number one spot in New York. Rex Ryan, however, had different plans.
Today, Ryan announced he would go with Greg McElroy as the starting QB for the final two games. This move may be confusing to many, but it likely makes the most sense for the Jets. McElroy, the second year QB out of Alabama, like Sanchez, is a pocket passer, Tebow is not. The Jets would have to completely revamp their offense to fit in into Tebow’s style, and there is simply not enough time left in the season to do that. On top of that, Tebow has not been happy with his role with the Jets this year, and many speculate that he will ask to be traded or released after this season. If the Jets play Tebow in an offense not designed for him, he has a much higher chance of failing, and his trade stock would fall dramatically.
So, where will Tebow end up next year? If it is anything like last year, we will all be wrong. Numerous teams voiced interest in him last time around. There are a few teams who will be looking for a new starting QB next year, and with a weaker QB draft outlook than last year, some may prefer an experienced QB to fill that role. My guess is Tebow will not be that QB. He is likely bound for another backup position on another team next year, but which one makes the most sense?
First, you have to look at the teams that are already familiar with the Wildcat formation, or at least, utilize the mobility of their starting QB. Teams won’t want to be in the same position as the Jets find themselves currently in; an able QB that doesn’t fit into their offense scheme. The teams who use their QB in rushing situations more than any others are the Redskins, Panthers, Seahawks, and 49ers. These would be the likely places for someone like Tebow to end up.
First we will take the Redskins. They would be the most unlikely team to get Tebow. RGIII, the number two pick all around in 2012, is the starter, there is no question about that. The Redskins also surprised many by taking a second QB, Tim Cousins, in the fourth round of the same. Those people who questioned the pickup of Cousins were answered over the last two weeks, seeing Cousins play exceptionally in RGIII’s absence. Unless the Redskins use Cousins currently high trade value in the offseason, they will not be in the market for another backup QB.
The Carolina Panthers seem like a good fit. They have a very mobile QB in Cam Newton, with pocket passer backups in Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen. Anderson is currently in a one year contract with the Panthers, while Clausen will remain with the team through 2014. Neither QB is a mobile QB like starter Cam Newton, so bringing in Tebow may make sense. If the Panthers do not resign Anderson, and have given up on the Clausen experiment, Tebow could find himself playing in Carolina. The arguments against him playing there is that Carolina has invested a lot into different QBs over the last few years, and most likely they will concentrate on shoring up their other needs to become competitive. I would highly doubt the Panthers would give up any draft picks in a trade for Tim Tebow.
The Seattle Seahawks may be an even better fit. Russell Wilson seemed to come out of nowhere and take the NFL by surprise this year. The surprising Seahawks, led by Wilson, seem playoff bound this year, much improved over last year. Wilson is 4th in the league in average rushing yards per game for a QB, behind only RGIII, Cam Newton, and Colin Kaepernick. Overall the Seahawks have over performed what most pundits thought they would accomplish. Pete Carroll has turned the franchise around drastically since taking over as head coach.
The Seahawks backup, Matt Flynn, has only started two games in hi professional career, none being with the Seahawks. With Wilson excelling this year, many think that Flynn, who is only guaranteed two million dollar in his contract next year, may be cut or traded by Seattle. Tebow would be a good backup to someone like Wilson, and would fit into their offense scheme. While Carroll was a coach at USC, he heavily recruited Tebow to come play for him before he went to Florida. When Tebow entered the NFL draft, Carroll expected him to be taken in the first round. However, more recently, Carroll has called Tebow a distraction to the Jets and Mark Sanchez. Would he feel that Tebow would be the same distraction in a Seahawks uniform? Also, many feel that Carroll may go after USC QB Matt Barkley in this year’s NFL draft. If they do, they simply would not necessity for Tebow on their roster.
Now for the 49ers. Last year, in his first year as head coach of the 49ers, Jim Harbaugh turned the team around and got them to the NFC Championship game, and was only one botched punt return from going to the Super Bowl. Before he came on to coach, 49er fans were calling for Alex Smith to be cut. After years of dismal performances, they were unwilling to give him any more shots. One of the first moves Harbaugh made, during the brief reprieve of the NFL Lockout, was to give Alex Smith his playbook and tell him he would be his starting QB, frustrating 49er fans all around the world. What happened next amazed 49er fans. Jim Harbaugh made Alex Smith a winner. He devised his playbook around Smith’s abilities and turned him and the team around. Fans were now praising Alex Smith and calling Harbaugh the QB Whisperer.
In the 2011 draft, the 49ers also traded up picks to draft Colin Kaepernick in the second round. Kaepernick was an exceptional rushing QB for Nevada in college. Many 49er fans were hoping to see him under center in his rookie season, but Harbaugh stuck with Smith and excelled with that decision.
In 2012, again, Harbaugh stuck with Smith, until last month, when he was taken out of a game against the Rams due to a concussion. He was ruled out of the next game against the Bears in which Kaepernick took over and got his first win. Immediately, there was a new QB controversy in San Francisco. Most thought that as soon as Smith was cleared to play, he would resume his role as the starting QB; however, Harbaugh decided to stick with Kaepernick who has kept the momentum going for the 49ers going 4-1 since taking over.
Smith obviously feels shorted. He claimed the only reason he lost his starting job was due to injury. Where does that leave him for next year? Smith has two years remaining of his three year contract, and much of that money is in incentives which will be difficult to obtain if he is not the starting QB. Many think he will want to be traded or released after this season, which brings me to the conclusion that the 49ers may be the best fit for Tim Tebow next year.
If both Tebow and Smith are unhappy in their current positions, the 49ers and Jets swapping them may work out beneficially for both teams. Smith would bring a veteran QB with playoff experience to help groom McElroy for the Jets. For the 49ers, Tebow would fit into a similar style as Kaepernick, so if Kaepernick is ever injured, which is often the case, Tebow could slip into his role pretty seamlessly. Plus, if Harbaugh is truly the QB whisperer that people claim him to be, he could work out the kinks in Tebow’s throwing style, bringing out his full potential.