Chip Kelly sees a roster spot and wants to maximize its existence. In the case of the No. 3 quarterback job on the Eagles depth chart, maybe Kelly wants more than a down-to-an-emergency player to utilize the roster position. Maybe that's why Kelly wanted quarterback Tim Tebow, who signed a one-year contract with the Eagles on Monday morning.
If he weren't Tim Tebow, this news would be not much more than a one-line announcement as the Eagles look to add competition at quarterback, bring in another arm for the post-draft workouts and see if a player who has been out of the NFL for two full seasons can earn a roster spot.
But this is Tim Tebow, and this is making headlines everywhere.
The Eagles worked out Tebow a month ago, on March 16 to be exact, a private session in the bubble at the NovaCare Complex. Tebow, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Florida who has not played since he was released by New England on August 31, 2013 as the Patriots trimmed their roster to 53 players, did enough in that session to convince the team he was worthy of a contract.
How it plays out remains to be seen, and the speculation is rampant. The sense here is that Tebow is on the roster to compete for a role on the quarterback depth chart, along with Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne. There are no guarantees with Tebow, a first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2010 who was traded to the New York Jets in 2012 and then joined New England for a failed roster run in 2013. Tebow has been working in television with ESPN and the SEC Network since.
The Eagles signed former first-round pick quarterback Tim Tebow to a one-year contract on Monday ...
He's also been training as a quarterback, reportedly working with noted throwing coach Tom House. Tebow hasn't played in an NFL game since 2012, but he's a legendary competitor and a winner. Tebow, the college roommate of wide receiver Riley Cooper, led the Florida Gators to a pair of national championships before Denver selected him in the first round of the 2010 draft.
Tebow's NFL numbers: 35 games, 173 completions in 361 attempts (47.9 percent), 17 touchdowns, nine interceptions. Tebow started 11 games for Denver in 2011, passing for 1,729 yards, 12 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He also ran for 660 yards and scored six touchdowns and helped the Broncos beat Pittsburgh in a playoff game.
Whatever Tebow has done in the past, however, is merely a historical footnote. To wonder how Kelly will use him here is the story, the fascinating subplot as we consider the quarterback picture. Sam Bradford is the starter, recovering from the ACL injury, his second in two seasons, that sidelined Bradford for all of the 2014 season in St. Louis. Mark Sanchez – a teammate of Tebow's in New York – is the quality, veteran backup who is competing for playing time after compiling a 4-4 record as a starter for the Eagles last year.
Who's number three? Will it be Barkley, a fourth-round draft pick in 2013 who has been in the system for two seasons? How about Kinne, an athletic prospect who has been on the practice squad for two years? Maybe it's Tebow, who has the "move" ability to give Kelly some creative freedom designing packages to use Tebow's versatility.
So what is Kelly thinking? Since we haven't yet heard from Kelly regarding the move, here are some thoughts:
- 1. Maybe Kelly sees Tebow as someone who can be an active third quarterback on gamedays. He can run down and cover kicks, something he did with New York when he was the personal protector on punts. He can be a short-yardage and red-zone threat as Kelly puts in some X's and O's that, at the very least, defenses will have to prepare to defend each week. The Eagles, remember, ranked among the league's worst in the red zone last season. They've added physical, north-south running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews to the backfield. Maybe Tebow is another weapon to utilize, or not. At the very least, defenses would have to account for those "mobile-quarterback" packages if Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur can put something together to take advantage of Tebow's skills.
- 2.Would it be crazy to think that Tebow could be used, at the very least, as a personal protector on punts? He had success in New York at the posiition. It could be a too off-the-wall idea for special teams coordinator Dave Fipp to consider, but we're thinking out loud here, having fun. If Tebow, a sturdy 235-pound man, can at least be a threat as an up-back for a direct snap, couldn't that have a positive impact?
- 3.The NFL owners are mulling over some radical changes to the extra point, and one idea on the table is to move the line of scrimmage for two-point conversions to the 1 1/2-yard line. Could Tebow be an option in that scenario? Having Tebow running some read-option plays, getting him to the edge and having defenses wondering whether he will hold the ball or pitch it back to Murray or Mathews or Darren Sproles? It's interesting food for thought.
- 4.Is there something else Tebow can bring to the table? Does Kelly envision him as another "Swiss Army Knife" who can play as a "move" tight end to get the ball in his hands in some other fashion?
The Eagles have made a bold move here, a top-of-the-page decision, to sign Tebow. The way Kelly sees it, maybe, is that there is no risk, other than a lot of attention (wasn't there going to be a lot, anyway?) directed toward the quarterback position and Tebow, in particular. It's a one-year deal. The money is minimal, by NFL standards. There are no guarantees that Tebow even makes the team. This is, as coaches like to say, about competition.
Kelly, then, wants to take the third quarterback position – one that means trouble in the NFL when a team gets that far down the depth chart – and maximize its scope. Tebow can now be a full participant in the team's offseason conditioning program, get a lot of reps when the time comes to get on the field for Organized Team Activities, and then Kelly can really see what Tebow can bring to the Eagles' offense.
There is always a "why" with Kelly, and he clearly sees something in Tebow that the rest of the NFL has not embraced. As the offseason continues, and Tebow gains his footing in the offense and Kelly evaluates him on a daily basis, we will have more clarity. Right now, it's all speculation, and it sure is tantalizing and fun and fascinating.