December 17, 2012, the New York Jets' penultimate game of the season. On 3rd-and-1 from the Tennessee Titans' 25-yard line, Tim Tebow, lined up in shotgun formation, takes the snap and barrels forward in a most Tebowian way for a two-yard gain.
The 25-year old former Heisman Trophy winner briskly trots off the field, allowing Mark Sanchez to take his place back at the helm of the Jets' sinking ship.
That was the last we ever saw of Timothy Richard Tebow in a regular-season NFL game.
That could have been the end to the 2007 Heisman winner's NFL story—still might be—but with an official statement Monday, Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles officially resurrected "Tebow Time," as the Eagles' official Twitter feed noted:
Signing a quarterback who can't throw—in terms of completion percentage, Tebow's 47.9 percent ranks as the 13th-worst for any quarterback with at least 350 attempts since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, per Pro-Football-Reference.com—would typically seem odd, but this is Chip Kelly's world, where odd is the norm, and "normal" has no place.
Tebow was able to achieve some modicum of success with the Denver Broncos, thanks to a strong 17-to-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio, his presence as a legitimate ground threat (47.1 RY/G led all NFL QB in 2011) and a stout defense.
That all fell apart when he moved to the Jets in 2012, forming an unholy (sorry, Tim) quarterback alliance with Sanchez that seemed doomed from the very start.
The Tebow bashing has been heavy over the past two days. Apparently everyone missed having their favorite quarterback punching bag around. Fox Sports' Petros Papadakis and even former kickers, such as Jay Feely, have gotten in on the hate:
"He was the single-worst quarterback I ever saw in my career in the NFL," Feely quipped during an interview on The Jim Rome Show on Showtime.
But Kelly is making this move not for headlines—his peculiar offseason has already done enough of that, and even Adam Schefter agrees the "media circus" angle has been overplayed—but because he thinks it can benefit the team in some way:
No one is sure exactly how Kelly plans to use the former Florida Gator, but Tebow has proven useful before, albeit in unconventional ways.
So, let's take a strange journey into the NFL's most Seussian football mind in an attempt to decipher just what Kelly believes Tim Tebow can bring to Philly.
Leadership, Work Ethic and Locker-Room Presence
Look, no one brings in a player just because he's upbeat and charismatic, but desiring those traits isn't necessarily a bad thing when looking to fill out a team.
"If you've spent any time around him whatsoever, you're pulling for him," Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, Tebow's former quarterbacks coach at Florida, told Nancy Armour of USA Today.
Tebow is joining a crowded quarterback carousel in Philadelphia. Initially, he'll be behind Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne, but with Tebow's reputation, no one believes being the bottom base of Kelly's totem pole will bother him one bit.
The NFL Network's Jeff Darlington reported that Tebow, as one might expect, is thrilled to get another chance in the league—though that alone won't be enough to satisfy someone as competitive as he is:
Truthfully, Tebow is a perfect fit for Philadelphia's newly constructed "Island of Misfit Quarterbacks." He doesn't necessarily need to transform into Steve Young to have a positive effect here.
As the above video can attest to, Tebow has always lacked the basic quarterback fundamentals (decision-making, timing, accuracy), but he has never lacked for work ethic.
Tebow's arm and "accuracy" will never scare his competition, but the way he strives to better himself can push those around him to do the same, lest they end up looking worse than a guy who has been an ESPN analyst for the past two years.
"I just know this: I know the guy is probably in top-notch physical shape. I can promise you he's been working on his trade and his throwing mechanics," Loeffler said. "Knowing him, I know he'll put every ounce of energy into it."
At the very least, whether he improves as a quarterback or even makes the roster, Tebow can help cultivate a positive attitude in the Philadelphia locker room for as long as he's there.
Despite some fervent backlash over the signing, many, including Bleacher Report's Bryn Swartz and a sizable contingent of Eagles fans, are hoping that signing can facilitate just that type of culture change:
Tebow Can Play a Legitimate (If Minimal) Role
The man is not useless. He's far from starting, or even being backup-quarterback material right now, but Tim Tebow has some legitimate, desirable NFL skills.
Sports on Earth's Ross Tucker believes Tebow still has value as an NFL player, if everyone can just temper their expectations a bit:
I love that the Eagles signed Tim Tebow -- and I don't even think he's a good NFL quarterback.
To me, that is part of the beauty of this arrangement. Tebow doesn't have to be good. He just needs to potentially fulfill a role and provide some value to the team, and I think he absolutely has the ability to do that.
Obviously, Tebow's strength lies on the ground. His 6'3", 236-pound frame has already screamed full back or tight end, rather than quarterback, a fact Tebow has shied away from when the inevitable “switch positions” questions arise.
But he knows how to put his body to use, and he's unafraid of contact, especially in short-yardage situations, as the video below shows.
Tucker believes this is the exact reason Tebow will stick on the Eagles roster, even over a more prototypical passer like Barkley:
He sets up blocks and reads holes well and is strong enough to plow forward for a couple of extra yards. The fact that he is a quarterback by trade means there is just enough of a threat of the pass to keep teams honest.
That's the value I think Tebow will provide the Eagles if he makes the team (and I suspect he will). The 27-year-old QB will be an asset in short-yardage and goal-line situations, as well as two-point plays, especially if the NFL changes the extra point rule as anticipated.
Kelly infamously utilizes the read-option, an offense Tebow ran throughout college, with varying degrees of success. His mistakes were easier to cover up at Florida, but an inability to make quick, accurate reads will doom a Kelly-run offense.
Grantland's Bill Barnwell isn't sure Tebow can adapt to Kelly's offense in the fast-paced NFL, but that doesn't entirely eliminate Tebow from doing some of the yeoman's work on the ground for Philly.
Though Barnwell, like most, is skeptical, he sees what Kelly might hope to get out of Tebow:
Tebow can be a very effective weapon in between the tackles, where he's agile enough to slip into small creases but big enough to push the pile when he gets there. I've suggested in the past that Tebow could carve out a role as a short-yardage runner, and if he did make the roster, it wouldn't be shocking to see Kelly use him in a specialized role as such.
Tebow's scrambling antics always seemed like more of a sideshow than anything, even when he was leading magical comebacks a mile high. The Twitter account His And Hers shared Tebow's record-setting QBR:
But, if the recent reports regarding a mystical quarterback guru are to be believed, Tebow may have added a few new tricks to his one-trick pony act.
Maybe, Just Maybe, He Can Sling it Now
Tebow's journey back to the NFL all begins with Tom House, "a former journeyman major league pitcher who has turned into the country's leading biomechanics guru," per a report from Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman.
The 67-year-old House and the 27-year-old Tebow have been intertwined ever since the former Heisman winner was cut from the New England Patriots in 2013.
Tom Brady, a decently famous pupil of House's, suggested Tebow refine his mechanics with a man who has worked with everyone from Nolan Ryan to Drew Brees. According to Swartz, House refers to Tebow as the "strongest quarterback he's ever worked with":
The training was as mental as it was physical.
"We allowed him to understand why the ball goes right or left, why the ball goes high or low and how to spin the ball and how to physically prepare from feet to fingertips," House explained to Feldman.
"Does the term muscle-head make sense? He muscled everything. He can muscle it when he needs it, but now he's got kinematic sequencing. He's muscled down for efficiency."
House went more in-depth on The Sports Show with Woody Paige and Les Shapiro, explaining how Tebow has gone over the mystical 10,000 reps needed to achieve expertise in a given subject:
According to House, Tebow now, finally, has confidence in his throwing ability. He no longer needs to rely strictly on his feet, but rather, he can use them in conjunction with his new found passing prowess (if House is to be believed). The Orlando Sentinel's Charles Whitley discussed his thoughts on the Tebow signing, calling it the "Philadelphia Experiment," as well as House working with Tebow:
As there will be, and should be, cynics abound around any report citing Tim Tebow and "passing prowess." Most of the world will doubt until they see, so it will be up to Tebow to make them.
Back on the Sidelines?
Ultimately, this resurrection of Tebowmania will likely have little bearing on Chip Kelly's season.
He's on a veteran's minimum contract, with no bonus or incentives attached. No one expects Tebow to even contend for anything more than a third-string position. CBS Sports' Jason La Confora pointed out Tebow's contract details:
Really, the pressure is solely on Tebow, no one else.
This is likely Tebow's last chance, and with that fact gnawing away at him day and night, I don't expect the man who doesn't know when to quit, to quit.
You might not see him in any game action, and his most important contribution might be keeping his fellow quarterback's head up after a blunder, but come September, Tim Tebow will be playing football, rather than calling it.