It's easy to assume that Tim Tebow won't succeed as an NFL quarterback.
The slew of negative opinions from player-personnel types, coaches and media provide the easy way to form an opinion about the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner from Florida. They focus on the massive, if not impossible, task of shortening that long, looping throwing motion that presumably won't work against NFL defenses. They focus on the multiple seasons he needs to develop, time that most coaches and general managers don't have.
Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, who the St. Louis Rams are expected to make the top overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, or Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, who could go fourth overall to the Washington Redskins, bring their own set of issues, although nothing as extensive as what has been attached to Tebow.
The reality, however, is that a team will draft Tebow. He might even be selected earlier than the third round, which is as high as many scouts and draft prognosticators think one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- players in the history of college football is worthy of being selected.
Where Tebow lands is a big guessing game that only figures to grow as he visits NFL teams and takes advantage of the opportunity to sell himself and boost his stock. He is going to have a match, and while several clubs could be connected with him for various reasons, one that seems as logical as any is the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills did a little bit more than give Tebow the standard, pre-draft treatment that NFL teams do with prospects they invite to their facilities. Besides having him meet with coaches and giving him the grand tour, they also arranged for their most prominent ambassador, Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, to take Tebow to dinner. That extra touch was significant, because the organization clearly values Kelly's opinion when it comes to quarterbacks. The Bills' decision-makers wanted Kelly's up-close impressions of Tebow as both a person and a player.
And why not? Since Kelly's retirement in 1997, the Bills have been conducting a seemingly endless (hopeless?) search for another quarterback capable of taking the team where Kelly took it: To being a perennial contender.
By all indications, Kelly liked what he saw and what he heard, which is consistent with what most people in and out of football conclude after being around Tebow. Big. Strong. Tough. Confident. A young man of high character.
Of course, being an official ambassador of the Bills means being a bit of a diplomat. Kelly has to be careful about gushing publicly over Tebow or any other quarterback not on the Bills' roster because it would put him -- and, by extension, the team -- in a potentially awkward position with the quarterbacks on the roster. The Bills could very well end up sticking with some or all of the players they already have at the position. Trent Edwards, their starter for most of 2009, could easily return to that role in 2010.
Still, the Bills are clearly giving a great deal of thought to drafting Tebow.
"I think it's obvious to everyone he's an engaging young man," new Bills coach Chan Gailey said Wednesday. "He's an intelligent football player, and I really enjoyed the short time I had with him talking about football, talking about life, and just what he's all about. You can see why he was an excellent leader at the University of Florida, and I think he's well ahead of a lot of people and headed toward a good career in the NFL."
Here are a few reasons why it might make sense for that career to begin in Buffalo:
» The "Splash Factor." The obvious reason for attaching Tebow to the Jacksonville Jaguars is that the franchise, in desperate need of something positive to sell, would have a natural drawing card in a highly popular, homegrown product. In their current state, the Bills also face an uphill challenge filling seats. There is a general sentiment in the community that season-ticket holders and luxury-suite owners are less-than-excited about what's in store for 2010. A year ago, the Bills made a strategic marketing splash by spending $6.5 million on a one-year contract for Terrell Owens, whose arrival provided a strong boost to ticket and merchandise sales. They entered their search for a coach to replace Dick Jauron with a similar philosophy, as evidenced by their very public pursuit of Mike Shanahan and Bill Cowher. When they ended up with Gailey and Buddy Nix as general manager, there was obvious disappointment. Barring a miracle that would allow them to draft Bradford, getting Tebow would likely generate more excitement than anything else the Bills could do between now and the start of the season.
» Gailey knows how to develop a quarterback, and time is on his side. The Bills didn't merely hire Gailey because he wanted the job, which wasn't the case with other candidates. They hired him also because of his ability to make offenses better and because of his expertise in the passing game. Their offense has long been a standing joke. They desperately need improvement at quarterback, which, at the very least, they're hoping will come from Gailey's ability to bring the best out of Edwards. In addition, they chose Gailey because they anticipated the very real possibility that they will add a rookie quarterback and expect him to do plenty to enhance his development. According to most experts, Tebow will need at least two seasons to develop into an NFL quarterback, and Gailey will have the time to work with him.
» Gailey and Tebow should see eye to eye. Both are highly religious men, which is a common ground for the kind of close relationship that tends to be very helpful between a coach and a quarterback.
» Tebow is built for Buffalo's climate. Although he hails from Florida, Tebow has the thick physique of someone who should be able to stand up to the often harsh weather with which the Bills must deal for part of their home schedule. Too many times that seemed to be a problem for Edwards, a California native. Frankly, no quarterback the Bills have had since Kelly, generally regarded as a linebacker with a great arm, has had what it takes to tolerate the worst of what Mother Nature can dish out in Western New York.
» The Bills own the ninth and 41st picks of the draft. Conventional wisdom suggests that if the Bills want Tebow, they shouldn't use anything higher than their second-round choice. The problem is, the 41st spot might be too low. There is increasing speculation that Tebow could be selected either high in the second round or low in the first. So would the Bills consider using the ninth pick on him? If they do, they open themselves to considerable second-guessing. But if they have a conviction that Tebow is their eventual franchise quarterback, so what? We've certainly seen enough flops among so-called, sure-fire quarterbacking prospects taken in the same vicinity and higher. Is selecting Tebow No. 9 a greater risk than taking Clausen there? Maybe. Maybe not.