Tim Tebow's odds of making the New England Patriots' 53-man roster were not significantly reduced when the third-string quarterback failed to play a single snap against the Detroit Lions on Thursday night.
However, Tebow remains less than a 50/50 bet to make the team, and he'll likely need a strong performance in New England's fourth and final preseason game to convince the Patriots that he's worth keeping around as the third quarterback.
Overall, Tebow's absence from New England's 40-9 loss to the Lions has been mostly overblown in terms of its impact on his eventual roster spot.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Patriots' plan was to always play only two quarterbacks. That script played out as planned. Starter Tom Brady played the entire first half, completing 16 of 24 passes for 185 yards and an interception. Backup Ryan Mallett, who threw for 96 yards and a score on 22 attempts, took the third and fourth quarters.
One reason Tim Tebow didn't play last night? Plan was always to play 2 QBs in Week 3. Patriots did the same thing last year in Week 3.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 23, 2013
Tebow was one of just three healthy players who didn't see a single snap Thursday.
Bill Belichick's decision to keep Tebow nailed to the bench during the preseason's third week certainly doesn't bode well for his chances of seeing the field once the regular season begins. Teams typically treat the third exhibition game as a dress rehearsal for the real games, with those players expected to play meaningful roles getting an extended regular-season tune up.
However, the decision does not doom Tebow's chances of being one of the 53 Patriots selected for the final roster come Aug. 31.
Last season, Belichick also played only two quarterbacks during the third preseason game. While Brian Hoyer, the third-string quarterback back then, was cut the next week, New England's roster situation is certainly different this summer.
The Patriots' decision to keep or cut Tebow will likely rest on Belichick's affinity for the depth at running back, receiver and tight end. If there aren't enough roster-ready players at those three offensive positions, New England could still keep Tebow as a developmental third quarterback.
There's always the possibility of Tebow's roster spot hinging on the fate of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is currently recovering from offseason back surgery. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, any decision from the Patriots to put Gronkowski on the regular-season PUP list could create the roster flexibility needed for a third quarterback on the roster.
Still, Tebow needs to make a statement during New England's preseason finale against the New York Giants.
Of course, he'll first need to make it to next week, but that should be expected. The NFL's cutdown to 75-man rosters comes Tuesday, and the Patriots are currently at 84 players. Tebow isn't likely to be one of the nine cuts, especially considering New England is carrying just three quarterbacks currently.
Brady won't play in the fourth and final preseason game, leaving the quarterbacking duties to Mallett, who will be expected to start, and Tebow, who should get extensive playing time in the second half. Cutting Tebow beforehand would force New England to either play Brady and Mallett in the finale or snag a street free agent and hope for the best during next week's second half.
Both scenarios seem unlikely.
Last August, Mallett played the entire first half before giving way to Hoyer, who put together an uninspiring second half. He completed nine of 15 passes for 96 yards and an interception. He was also sacked three times while the Patriots failed to score a single point over five Hoyer series.
There's little doubt Tebow needs to be much, much better against the Giants. If anything has doomed his odds of making the team, it's been his work on the exhibition field.
So far this preseason, Tebow has completed just five of 19 passes (26.3 percent) for 54 yards and one interception (17.7 passer rating). Of the 91 quarterbacks who have played this preseason, zero at the position have completed a lower percentage of his passes or compiled a lower passer rating than Tebow.
Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, Tebow finished with negative passing yards while completing just one of seven attempts.
He also has 61 yards rushing on 10 attempts over two exhibition games.
If there's been improvement in his game as a pocket passer, the preseason hasn't displayed it.
Will Tim Tebow make the Patriots' final 53-man roster?
Tebow still struggles with accuracy, timing and decision-making while operating within the confines of an NFL pocket. He can run in space, captain the read-option and occasionally scramble, but the Patriots need to see a lot more from Tebow as a thrower of the football to really consider taking up a valuable roster spot on him to start the season.
He'll get a final chance to show that against the Giants in a game that may be the most important to date in his effort to stay in the NFL.
Another poor performance could push the Patriots' patience over the edge, while also relegating Tebow to unknown status around the league. Before New England signed Tebow in June, he went unsigned with little to no interest for roughly six weeks.
Based on two preseason performances, Tebow's chances of making the Patriots roster remain below 50/50.
Those odds weren't affected by his absence from Thursday's contest, but his showing against the Giants—and the performances of other players at running back, receiver and tight end—will factor heavily in the decision-making process. Tebow has one shot at making a final impression.