Tim Tebow, New York Jets would benefit from position change

Joe Nicholson/US Presswire
Despite Mark Sanchez's lackluster play, Tim Tebow (above) has received limited playing time for the New York Jets.


 

New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has a history of winning, a great work ethic and a highly competitive nature. He just doesn't stack up as an NFL signal-caller. If he's going to remain in the league, I think he'll have to find another position.

Such a move would not be unprecedented. Billy Cannon, a Heisman Trophy winner like Tebow, was drafted as a running back in 1960 (with the first overall pick, no less), but was eventually converted to the tight end position. And he became a pretty good one for the Oakland Raiders, making the Pro Bowl. Tebow could also take heart in the story of Todd Christensen, who had been a running back at BYU before becoming a top-notch tight end in the NFL.

I was working for the Dallas Cowboys when they drafted Christensen in the second round in 1978. We wanted to move him to tight end, but he didn't want any part of it. We ended up cutting him. He had a short stint with the New York Giants before winding up with the Oakland Raiders. Al Davis nurtured him for two years, finally turning him into an excellent tight end. When all was said and done, Christensen caught 461 career passes for 5,872 yards and 41 touchdowns, making the Pro Bowl five times.

Yes, Tebow did take the Denver Broncos to the playoffs as a quarterback last season, but he looked terrible doing it. This season with the Jets, he's hardly seen the field. He's had occasional moments of brilliance in his career (the pass that Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas turned into an 80-yard, game-winning scoring strike in a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season was as pretty a throw as you'll see), but he's too inconsistent. He's like a golfer who can't hit a two-foot putt to save his life, then turns around and sinks a 25-footer.

There's got to be a place for Tebow in this league, because he does have talent; he did, after all, win two national championships with Florida. But he simply has too many flaws as a quarterback, all of which popped up when I judged him according to the criteria commonly used to evaluate players at the position.

Here are 10 traits in which Tebow has a demonstrable deficiency:

1) Accuracy: When I worked with the Dallas Cowboys, we thought this was the most important trait when it came to the success of a quarterback. Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys, had unbelievable accuracy. Today's best quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees) all have it, too, completing around 65 percent of their passes. Tebow, on the other hand, has a career completion percentage of 48.1.

Tom Landry had a theory that accuracy cannot be improved. Whenever people would challenge him on that, he'd ask them to show him someone who became more accurate over the course of their career; they'd usually find none. The odd thing with Tebow is that he seems to have gotten worse, at least since his time at Florida, where he completed 66.4 percent of his passes.

2) Anticipation: Great quarterbacks display great anticipation. They must, because in today's NFL, defensive backs are too fast and too smart to be beaten any other way. Tebow, for some reason, just seems to have trouble in this area. He almost waits until his guy is open before he throws the ball. I know people have been trying to help him fix this problem, but I don't know if it's correctable.

3) Awareness: This is such a crucial attribute for successful quarterbacks. Try to fool, for example, Brady or Manning. (You can't.) Tebow is a smart guy, but he seems to really lack awareness. Players can improve in this area with experience, but usually it's something one is born with.

4) Ability to make any type of throw: Good quarterbacks must be able to throw the ball deep or short with touch, and they need to have good timing for crossing routes. Tebow does not have natural passing skills. There's no arc on the ball when he throws it. That's one reason he struggled against the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs last season, when he completed just nine of 26 passes.

5) Quick release: A quarterback must get the ball out of his hand quickly; Dan Marino was one of the best at doing this. Tebow will over-stride and has a very long, baseball-type release. He's just not fast enough.

6) Ability to fit the ball into tight spaces: Anyone who's seen Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler play knows why this is important. Cutler gets the ball to his receivers in a hurry, and can fit it through small openings. Tebow can, from time to time, make such throws (the touchdown to Thomas during the playoffs last season was an example), but they come too few and far between.

7) Ability to read route concepts: As is the case with awareness, Tebow seems to have trouble understanding concepts as quickly as he needs to. Brady and Manning, by contrast, have an unbelievable ability to really know the route concepts, and when and where a guy is going to come open.

8) Taking snaps under center: I don't know that Tebow ever took snaps under center in college, but he seems to struggle doing this in the pros. He does not have great footwork and seems to have problems transferring his weight. The Houston Texans' Matt Schaub is one quarterback who stands out in this area; when he hands the ball off to Arian Foster, there are no lost steps.

9) Poise: I think Tebow makes questionable decisions at times, and that probably stems from a lack of poise. One moment this season was especially telling in this regard. A screen pass was called, and it looked like he had an opportunity to make a big play. However, when the defense came with pressure, Tebow took off for a short gain. This should not happen; he has to realize that dealing with pressure is part of running a screen play.

10) Touch: Tebow seems to throw everything with one speed, no matter what type of pass he's trying to throw, though he seems to be getting better in this area. Then again, he's thrown just seven passes in game action this season, so it's tough to know for sure.

I just don't see how an NFL team, whether it's the Jets or someone else, can keep Tebow on the roster if he's contributing as little as he has at this point.

So where can he play? Well, I could see Tebow possibly succeeding as an H-back or a short-yardage fullback, but I would try him at tight end, where he can put his big hands to good use.

Tebow is an enigma, a talented football player whose best position has yet to be discovered. I do know one thing about him, though: He's not an NFL quarterback.

COLLEGE CLIMBER

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: In the Sooners' win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, Jones threw for 500 yards and three touchdowns, marking his second straight game with 500 or more passing yards. A four-year starter with good size, Jones will be one of the most talked about players heading into the 2013 NFL Draft.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

» I noticed two unsung heroes during Week 12. On the defensive side of the ball, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks came up big in a win over the New Orleans Saints, returning an interception 50 yards for a touchdown right before the end of the first half. Brooks finished with 1.5 sacks and five tackles. On the offensive side of the ball, Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton scored two touchdowns in a win over the Buffalo Bills: one on a pass reception and another on a punt return.

» St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins became just the fourth rookie in NFL history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a single game on Sunday, and the first since Bobby Franklin did it for the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 11, 1960.

» Colts quarterback Andrew Luck notched his seventh win as a rookie, tying the record for rookie quarterbacks taken first overall in the draft. Sam Bradford also won seven with the Rams in 2010.