Sunday will likely be Tim Tebow's last game as a member of the New York Jets, but that doesn't mean the Tebowmania phenomenon is going to end anytime soon. From the moment the Jets' 2012 season ends, there will be endless speculation about where the 25-year-old quarterback with a cult following will end up.
Yes, folks, that means Tebow Time is only in its infancy. Luckily, ESPN's Chris Mortensen is already reporting that it's a "virtual certainty" that Tebow ends up with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013, so maybe this saga will end sooner than we think.
But what if it doesn't? What if the plans fall through, Jacksonville spurns Tebow and he has to find another place to play?
Well, there are at least a few more options out there that could be intriguing. With that in mind, here is a look at the best non-Jaguars destinations for Tebow.
Playing for the Dolphins would essentially bring all the same benefits for Miami that it would for Jacksonville. Tebow would be seen as a patron saint who has finally come back to his home state, jerseys would fly off the shelves and Miami certainly wouldn't rank dead last in attendance percentage.
Unfortunately for Tebow, it's highly unlikely that a move to Miami would mean an instant ascent to the starting lineup. Ryan Tannehill showed more positive pocket-passing signs this season than Tebow has in three, and Miami just drafted Tannehill in the first round a year ago.
Then again, it's not like Tannehill has been a bastion of perfection. He's thrown only 12 touchdowns all season against an equal amount of interceptions and ranks as only the 22nd-best quarterback in the league, according to Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. That's a decent enough start for a rookie, but Tannehill is still raw and it's wholly unclear whether he'll develop any further.
It's not the most ideal scenario for Tebow, but the relatively shaky depth chart and thoughts of a Floridian reunion make the Dolphins an intriguing secondary option.
New England Patriots
If Tebow eventually becomes resigned to the fact that he'll be a backup in 2013, New England is hands down the young quarterback's best option.
Let's start our discussion by mentioning the one man who has believed in Tebow from the very beginning, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. It was McDaniels who drafted the former Florida star in the first round in 2010 when very few expected him to be taken before the late second or early third.
Tebow was sent packing in Denver before he ever had the chance to make an impact, but it seems like the two have a healthy respect and admiration for one another.
For those of you out there who don't think the Patriots would take a chance on Tebow even with McDaniels' influence, I have five words for you: Randy Moss and Chad Johnson. Bill Belichick will take value wherever he can find it on the football field. And if McDaniels can convince him that Tebow is a valuable commodity, then the Patriots coach won't hesitate to pull the trigger.
Belichick also effusively praised Tebow before the Patriots' matchup against the Jets in Week 7. Here is what the New England coach said via ESPN's Field Yates:
He doesn't always line up at quarterback when he's in there on offense, so you have to be ready to deal with him at other positions as well," he said. "He's a good runner, he's a strong runner, very strong. He's mobile in the pocket, (a) smart player, he can do a lot of different things. Different option plays and things like that, so you certainly have to be aware of him when he's in there.
Considering New England's penchant for using unique sets in the past, Tebow could be an intriguing option for Patriots while allowing him to grow under Tom Brady.
Behind Jacksonville, Oakland may be the place most likely to start Tebow if he signed with the team. Carson Palmer is owed a base salary of $13 million for 2013, but it's not guaranteed and the Raiders could theoretically move on if he declines a restructuring.
With Terrelle Pryor, who will start on Sunday, being the only other long-term option at quarterback, it would be interesting to see if the Raiders throw their hat into the Tebow ring. He and Pryor are similarly skilled and Oakland has an actual investment with the former Ohio State star, but Tebow actually has a track record of relative NFL success.
It's also not like the Raiders have ever shied away from a circus. Though the team has tried to move in a new direction since the passing of Al Davis, his son, Mark, would be hard-pressed to find a more marketable player in this year's draft or free agency.
As for Tebow? Heading to Oakland may be his only chance to start. The Raiders franchise might not exactly mesh with his golden boy image, but he's a football player at the end of the day. He'll go where his management thinks presents him with the best opportunity. If that's not Jacksonville, Tebow may well wind up wearing silver and black in 2013.