Having unalienable comfort in his starting position does a lot for an NFL starting quarterback. It makes him a better leader, gives him more security to be vocal in the locker room and lends him a critical air of confidence when things aren't necessarily going his way.
One more benefit: That comfort seemingly makes him more able to deal with the phenomenon known as Tebowmania.
When the New England Patriots shocked everyone and grabbed Tim Tebow off the scrap heap in June, most wondered how the locker room would take it. Tebow's presence comes with juuuust a little bit of fanfare, something the Patriots usually frown upon—especially from players unlikely to take a major role.
But with a week down in training camp—and some far, far more important distractions looming in the background—the reaction to Tebow has been overwhelmingly positive. There have been no snide remarks, no snickers shrouded behind the cloud of anonymity.
If you're looking for a reason for that, it doesn't necessarily start with coach Bill Belichick. As much as we credit the Hoodie for keeping his players' mouths zipped, there's one man whose words arguably carry more weight—quarterback Tom Brady.
As ESPN's Mike Reiss points out, the All-Pro signal-caller has been nothing less than supportive of his new backup.
"I've really enjoyed it. He is a great guy. He is fun to be around," Brady said. "He's had a lot of experience and a lot of productivity. We have good conversation. He loves playing football and that's usually the type of guys who do well here."
To hear Brady say something positive publicly is no surprise. He's studied at the Belichickian pulpit of media platitudes for almost a decade-and-a-half now. Brady is well aware that any even remotely tepid comments about someone with Tebow's kind of following will make their way onto every sports blog in the history of everdom. Some defunct ones would probably come out of retirement.
But even if Brady is just toeing the company line in this case—highly doubtful, though, considering there's no way Tebow was brought in without pre-approval—it still marks a vast improvement over what the former Heisman winner dealt with a year ago.
While Tebow's nightmarish one-season stop with the New York Jets has already been covered ad nauseam (and then past that point), it's easy to forget what his acquisition meant at that time. Tebow wasn't a third-string quarterback hoping for a roster spot. He was coming off a triumphant run to the divisional round of the playoffs and a season that saw him pull off some fourth-quarter heroics that remain unexplainable to this day.
Some folks were still bearish (in retrospect, rightfully so) about Tebow's ability to be a long-term starter under center. Yet there Tebow was, fanbase and all, coming to New York in hopes of returning to a starting position. Standing in his way was Mark Sanchez, a former first-round pick with some playoff wins in his back pocket but a performance level that had him teetering on the edge of the bench.
If you want to know the difference between a quarterback on the hot seat and one fully comfortable in his position, look no further. Sanchez's quotes on Tebow were tepid and mostly professional, but the moment he allowed himself to slip, the tension between the two became wide open.
“Selling seats, man. Selling seats,” Sanchez said of the Tebow situation last September, per the New York Post's Brian Costello.
While Sanchez tried to play it off as being facetious, that quote was a glimpse at how the situation overtook the Jets locker room. When the Jets finally parted ways with Tebow—after Sanchez "won" the "battle" for good—the incumbent quarterback spoke with Mike Garafolo (then of USA Today) about his feelings toward the former Florida standout.
Let's just say they're not BFFs.
"It's just hard when you're competing like that. There's just a professionalism about it," Sanchez said. "You don't get too close to guys like that. You're professional, and you're cool.
"If the guy's got a flat tire on the side of the road, I'm going to stop, I'm not going to blow by him," Sanchez continued. "But at the same time, I'm not sending him gifts on his birthday."
If you don't think Sanchez's competitive approach to Tebow, rather than embracing him, affected the Jets locker room, you're wrong. Perhaps the most divisive thing for an NFL roster is position controversy. The higher-stakes the position, the more likely it is to create a behind-the-scenes schism. And when you're losing as the Jets were last season, that fractured relationship only worsens. It only took until November for someone to toss Tebow under the bus a year ago.
There won't be such issues in New England—and the biggest reason is Brady. Barring injury, Tom Brady is the starting quarterback of the Patriots from now until he damn well pleases. No two-interception first quarter will have fans clamoring for Tebow, nor will his presence on special packages draw calls for increased action.
Tim Tebow is the No. 3 quarterback on the roster. He's firmly entrenched behind Brady and Ryan Mallett. Belichick isn't changing his depth chart now or at any point in the future.
That doesn't necessarily put Tebow in danger of being cut nor his NFL career on the precipice of ending. The Boston Globe's Ben Volin laid out the multitude of reasons the Patriots won't send him packing this summer, and I tend to agree. Tebow is a pet project of Josh McDaniels dating back to his days as Denver's head coach, he's a great locker room presence and he could—repeat, could—help out on inventive packages if the offense chooses to go that way.
If not, he's a third quarterback. And that's just fine. Everyone is comfortable. Tebow is no longer the biggest distraction in the room. He's no longer a looming presence hanging over the shoulder of an incumbent starter. He's no longer the annoying gnat brought in to "sell seats, man."
He's a backup quarterback—and for the first time in his career, that sense of comfort could lead to some tangible development. If not, at least he won't get thrown under the bus on his way out.
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