Now that the New York Jets have benched Mark Sanchez, passed Tim Tebow by, and decided to go with second-year, seventh-round quarterback Greg McElroy as their short-term answer at the position, one must wonder what Tebow’s future might be as an NFL passer. Under offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in Denver in 2011, Tebow was the beneficiary of a structure that worked — Denver’s coaching staff brilliantly welded the option concepts Tebow learned at Florida with just enough of an NFL passing tree to make it work.
When the New York Jets traded for Tebow in March, the marriage was doomed from the start — head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano insisted that they had plans for Tebow, but they clearly didn’t. Now, according to more than one report, Tebow feels that the Jets misled him — perhaps their only intention was to use him as a publicity stunt — and if McElroy starts the last two games of the 2012 season, Tebow very well could ask for a trade or his outright release.
Of course, he’d then need another NFL team willing and able to deal with his severe limitations as an NFL-level passer, while dealing with the circus that envelops him. Tebow, for his part, will have to be cognizant of the fact that other NFL teams (hello, Jacksonville Jaguars) would be perfectly willing to throw him on their roster as a seat-filling mascot, with nary a thought to his professional development.
[Related: Why the CFL shouldn't bother with Tim Tebow]
Unless Tebow wants to give up the ghost and concede that his football future lies in another position, his best chance to get back on his feet as a quarterback might be in the Canadian Football league. Currently, the Montreal Alouettes hold the rights to Tebow were he to become available and decide to head north of the border. And Marc Trestman, the Alouettes’ head coach and former NFL quarterback guru, is a big believer in Tebow’s potential.
“Based on what I’ve seen, I believe that in the right environment, and with a chance to go through the right process, that Tim Tebow can develop into being an elite quarterback in the NFL,” Trestman told Yahoo’s Mike Silver in 2010 after working with the then-draft prospect.
In 2005, Trestman — then the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State — tried to recruit Tebow to his program. Didn’t happen. Trestman got better results with a kid named Russell Wilson a few years later, but that’s a story for another time. When Tebow was preparing for the draft, his father Bob called Trestman and asked the longtime quarterbacks coach to work with his son. As a man who had worked with quarterbacks such as Steve Young, Bernie Kosar, and Rich Gannon in a 20-year coaching career with eight different teams, Trestman could give Tebow tips on the next level, and assess his NFL future.
As he told Silver, there was a lot to like.
“We sat in a meeting room before the Senior Bowl, and the first thing I found out was that he was extremely knowledgeable football-wise,” Trestman said. “He has an ability to talk football at a high level in terms of protections, pass routes, adjustments and concepts – basically all the things an NFL quarterback has to be able to talk about. It was easy for him to go to the [chalk]board and communicate with me on what I would call a ‘pro’ level.
“So the first thought was, ‘I could get excited about going into a meeting room every day coaching Tim Tebow, and he’d be excited about being coached. With a guy like that, there’s going to be a very high standard of performance in your meeting room, and that’s exciting, because that’s how football teams get better. It starts in the quarterback meeting room.”
But when it goes out on the field, and it has weird mechanics, and it’s limited as a passer? Well, Trestman — like Denver’s McCoy — seemed to be able to see beyond that.
“He knew exactly what he wanted to do,” Trestman said of Tebow’s elongated delivery. “He wanted to shorten it up – bring the ball higher, earlier. He didn’t want to change it dramatically; he just wanted to tweak it. He wanted to shorten his backswing – that’s the analogy I’d use. Once we got onto the field, what was easily seen was his ability to be coached. You could tell him something once – ‘Do this drop. Do this with the ball’ – and he’d instantly be able to do it.”
Trestman said that Tebow had no issues with running an offense under center, and praised the coaching he received at Florida. Maybe that’s all Tebow needs at this point — someone who will take the still-raw clay and try to mold it. A move to the CFL wouldn’t hurt in one other way — there’s been a move to a higher percentage of option plays in Canada for a number of years, and teams like the Winnipeg Blue Bombers look very much like something drawn up by Mike Leach or Chip Kelly.
Of course, Tebow would be behind another big-name quarterback in Montreal — the Alouettes recently inked quarterback Anthony Calvillo, the CFL’s all-time passing leader, to a two-year contract extension. Adrian McPherson, Calvillo’s longtime backup, is a situational short-yardage guy who scores more on the run (nine rushing touchdowns in 2012) than through the air.
Perhaps that’s the key — Tebow divorces the Jets (or vice versa), gets into an entirely new environment in which the pressure isn’t as high, works on his game in an offensive hothouse, and comes back swinging in a few years.
Whether Tebow succeeds or not in that scenario, at least he’d have a chance. That’s more than the Jets were ever willing or able to give him.
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