Reports on the death of Tim Tebow's career were greatly exaggerated.
On Monday, ESPN ended months of speculation about whether Tebow had played his last NFL game, reporting that the New England Patriots had signed the former first-round pick to an undisclosed contract.
While most thought the Canadian Football League was Tebow's best (or only) option to keep playing, the Patriots decided that he deserved another shot after the New York Jets dumped him earlier this year. That Tebow ultimately landed in New England, despite throwing only eight passes all last year, makes sense for a number of reasons.
In coming to New England, Tebow will be reunited with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels, the former Denver Broncos head coach, was instrumental in convincing that team to trade up in the 2010 draft to land Tebow in the first place.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick — who is good friends with Tebow's old Florida coach, Urban Meyer — had long been considered a secret Tebow fan and a possible suitor. He defended Tebow one week ago following a report that claimed he "hated" the quarterback. And though he didn't exactly praise Tebow at the time, the foreshadowing in his pushback is evident now:
I wouldn't get into the probability of us pursuing any free agent. Every single player has strengths and weaknesses but regardless of that, for anyone to have represented that is the way I feel about Tim Tebow is completely untrue, baseless, and irresponsible. It is unfortunate that something so inaccurate was reported. [Patriots.com]
New England is also not New York, meaning Tebow will be free from the pervasive, toxic media environment that surrounded him for the past year. With the Jets, Tebow was an enormous distraction. His mere presence was a constant reminder of the team's debate over whether starting quarterback Mark Sanchez was good for anything besides running into his own teammates' butts. And that was despite the fact that Tebow hardly ever played, serving instead as a backup, and, eventually, the backup's backup.
That won't be a problem in New England, where franchise centerpiece Tom Brady has more job security than just about anyone else in the league. And as ESPN's Ed Werder, who broke the news of the signing, pointed out, Belichick is one of the few coaches in the NFL who could safely take a flier on signing Tebow as a backup. Belichick's three Super Bowl titles and stony rapport with the press will immunize him from the inevitable questions that would have dogged virtually any other coach.
"Nobody controls the message and media like Bill Belichick," Werder said.
Plus, as CBS Sports' Mike Freeman reported, league sources told him that Belichick, with his notorious ego, had signed Tebow "solely as a middle finger to the rest of football," and that he wanted to prove he could make the much-mocked castoff a useful contributor. What that means, Freeman said, is Tebow will likely be used more in a utility role than as a quarterback, seeing some time at tight end and wherever else the Patriots' quirky offensive schemes dictate.
Some had suggested earlier this year that Tebow, with his natural running ability, could hang around the league as a fullback or tight end. With the Patriots' top tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski rehabbing from injuries, they could use some help at that position.
The terms of Tebow's deal have yet to be released, and we've yet to hear exactly how the Patriots plan to use him. But if Belichick and McDaniels can work their magic, we could soon see Tebow Tebowing once more.