There is no denying the fact that Tom Brady will be the New England Patriots' starting quarterback this season. But an interesting battle to decide his backup has come to light, as Tim Tebow and Ryan Mallett are engaged in a competition. Although Tebow isn't a traditional quarterback, he should be given every opportunity to win that job.
According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, it remains uncertain how Tebow will be utilized when the Pats face the Philadelphia Eagles in their preseason opener on Friday night, and it isn't yet know how much playing time he will receive.
When asked about what role he might play on Friday night, Tebow claimed that he wasn't sure, but he said that head coach Bill Belichick urged him to be prepared:
"I don’t know, it’s not something we’ve really talked about," he said.
According to Tebow, Belichick told him, "Just be ready when your number is called."
While that may just be coach-speak on Belichick's part, it's a bit bizarre that he hasn't filled Tebow in on how he'll be used. Since Brady figures to play just one series, if he even plays at all, there will obviously be a lot of game left for the backups to play.
New England only has three quarterbacks on its roster, so there should be plenty of series for both Mallett and Tebow, but Belichick may be planning to lean heavily on Mallett rather than Tebow by the sound of things thus far. Belichick has always been one to play things close to the vest, so maybe he is trying to downplay the situation in order to benefit both of his backup candidates.
If the backup job is truly up for grabs, then Mallett and Tebow should each be given a half on Friday. If Belichick allows Mallett to play significantly more than Tebow, he will be doing a disservice to the competition, as they both deserve an equal chance.
It's certainly possible that Belichick favors Mallett, as the Arkansas product is far more similar to Brady than Tebow is. Like Brady, Mallett is a pure pocket passer with a big arm, so he could conceivably run the base offense more effectively than Tebow. But at the same time, Tebow has had success at the NFL level and has earned the opportunity to show what he can do.
As expected, Tebow has generated an even larger media presence at Patriots training camp than usual. But Brady has enjoyed his company and believes that he is good for the team, according to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com:
Tom Brady on having Tim Tebow on team: "I've really enjoyed it. He is a great guy. He is fun to be around. He's had a lot of experience...— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 2, 2013
The fact that Brady is comfortable around Tebow bodes well for him, as Brady will probably have some say in the backup quarterback situation. Belichick will obviously make the ultimate decision, but Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, so common sense dictates that Belichick will at least listen to his input.
What will Tebow's status with the Patriots be by the end of the preseason?
Because Belichick is so innovative, though, there is some concern that he could try to get cute in his usage of Tebow. While Tebow is viewed as a versatile football player, he proved incapable of excelling at positions other than quarterback last season with the New York Jets. The experiment failed miserably, and New England shouldn't try to resurrect it.
There is no doubt that Tebow has some shortcomings as a quarterback, but he did lead the Denver Broncos to the playoffs in 2011, and he even helped them score a huge playoff upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It isn't always pretty when it comes to Tebow, but he has found a way to get the job done more often than not over the course of his career.
If Mallett manages to beat out Tebow in a legitimate competition for the backup quarterback position, then Tebow can tip his hat and take his medicine. But both players should be on equal footing. Belichick hasn't made that clear one way or another, but hopefully he does so on Friday when the Pats and Eagles square off.
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