Tim Tebow's career as NFL quarterback could be nearing its end

Nine years ago, when this massive boulder of hype began as nothing more than a mere snowball, Tim Tebow didn't like the situation he'd unknowingly created for himself. So he and his family re-evaluated their decision.

They prayed. And they contemplated. And they talked it through. And ultimately, they decided, since the football team at Trinity Christian in Jacksonville, Fla., wasn't going to let Tebow compete for the occupied quarterback job, he'd transfer to nearby Nease High School instead.

"In high school, they said I couldn't be a quarterback," Tebow, who spent a year as a middle linebacker, once told me three years ago. "I've come a long way since then."

But has anything truly changed? Oh, sure, he has two BCS titles, a Heisman Trophy, seven NFL game-winning drives and an unforgettable playoff win against the Pittsburgh Steelers last year under his belt. The questions, though, have never stopped. They've only relented when Tebow's success has left his doubters without any legitimate fuel.

Now, as the New York Jets bypass Tebow and supplant an insufficient Mark Sanchez with Greg McElroy, Tebow is likely left to revert to a line he has repeatedly recited for the past decade: "I don't know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future." And for those wondering, he isn't talking about Rex Ryan.

So what does his future hold? We can only guess at this point, but it is nonetheless a conversation that will require some of those within Tebow's rabid fan base to accept one difficult possibility: Is Tebow's career as an NFL quarterback nearing its end?

Loyalists will scream in defiance, of course. Critics probably will suggest his career as a quarterback ended when he left the University of Florida. The reasonable response, as usual when it pertains to Tebow, can be found somewhere in between.

Let's start with some facts:

A source close to Tebow said the Jets' decision to bypass him is "still too fresh," and will necessitate digestion and contemplation before he makes his next move. Asking for his release or asking for a trade are two potential options that would help him accomplish the very strategy he employed after his freshman year of high school.

It is "highly unlikely," according to another source close to Tebow, that he will sit idle beyond this season in the wake of the team's decision to go with McElroy. Then again, the Jets could keep that from mattering and choose to cut him on their own.

Either way, his departure is predictable. What happens next is not.

According to one Denver Broncos source, when that team floated his availability on the trade market earlier this year, three other teams inquired about his services: the Jets, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the St. Louis Rams. Of those teams, the Jaguars naturally still make the most sense, particularly since their own quarterback situation is even more in flux now than it was when they originally proposed their trade offer in the first place.

Tebow could return to his hometown, while the organization would benefit from his marketability. Tebow would also benefit from the international exposure he would gain from Jacksonville's pact with the NFL to play one game each year in London until 2016.

It makes sense, right? Well, that's fine. But what if it doesn't make sense to general manager Gene Smith anymore?

This isn't high school we're talking about. Tebow doesn't have a plethora of options that will allow him to compete for a job as a starting quarterback -- particularly not when he brings the type of attention that has surely left the Jets organization wishing it had never dipped a toe in this massive, powerful riptide.

As one NFL personnel man said Tuesday, "It only takes one team to keep his career alive, but I think everyone in a position of power knows he can't play quarterback."

So here we are again, nine years after Tebow transferred from Trinity to Nease to pursue success as a quarterback, still talking about -- you guessed it -- his pursuit of success as a quarterback. Perhaps it is wise, then, to maintain patience in this process, just as Tebow's camp itself is attempting to do.

During Tebow's first season at Nease, nearly a decade ago, one Jacksonville sportswriter said, "Anyone could have bought a ticket to the (game) and left with the feeling, through Tebow's performance alone, that the price of admission was a bargain."

Maybe it will all come full circle. Maybe Tebow's career will be rejuvenated in Jacksonville, just as it was in 2003, allowing him to once again pack the house by providing the kind of entertainment he's capable of providing. Or maybe we'll be left to begin embracing the realization that Tebow's time as a quarterback in the NFL is running out.

Feel free to anticipate the latter. But be warned, if you do: A high school coach at Trinity Christian in 2003 once told Tebow he couldn't compete for the quarterback job, just as the Jets also did Tuesday.

And we all know how that worked out.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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