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Tim Tebow and Patriots, an unholy alliance? Well, it could work

The NFL's most devout figure has joined its most Machiavellian organization. A strange fit, sure, but they might be just the team to bring the best out of him.

June 12, 2013|Bill Plaschke
  • Tim Tebow has joined the New England Patriots where he's been reunited with Josh McDaniels, who drafted him in Denver, and he'll now study under the guidance of Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick.
Tim Tebow has joined the New England Patriots where he's been reunited… (Charles Krup / Associated…)

Rich in parable, rife with prophesy, it is a transaction of biblical proportions.

In hopes of saving his football soul, the NFL's most famously devout player is going to the dark side.

Tim Tebow is joining hands with Bill Belichick.


A celebrated quarterback mostly known for public prayers and lousy passes is joining a celebrated New England Patriots team not known for much of either. In a desperate effort to prolong a seemingly doomed career, one of the sporting world's warmest stars has signed a contract to work in one of its chilliest cultures.

A player with the league's most famous hugs will play for a coach with the league's rudest midfield handshake. A player who takes a knee in gratitude after touchdowns — remember Tebowing? — will play for a coach who uses those occasions to shrink into his hoodie and scowl.

Tebow is known for entertaining sick children before games. The Patriots recently cut a competent defensive tackle after learning he had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Tebow is known for unflinching loyalty to teammates. The Patriots once cut a wide receiver the night before the Super Bowl.

Tebow travels the country preaching honesty and integrity. The Patriots will be forever shamed by "Spygate," the incident in which Belichick was fined a record $500,000 for taping and stealing opponents' signals.

This appears to be a match made in you-know-where, and it's not that place Tebow points to after big plays, of which he made a few in his previous stops with the Denver Broncos and New York Jets. Even their first statements Tuesday belied the disparity between Tebowing and, um, Belichucking.

As Tebow said to reporters as he walked off the Patriots' practice field: "It's such an honor. . . . It's going to be a lot of fun."

Said Belichick after answering 14 consecutive Tebow questions at a news conference: "We've already talked enough about him."

The nuttiest part about all this is that it could actually work.

The Patriots are the one team with a culture cloaked enough to keep Tebow from becoming a distraction, callous enough to tell him he is no longer a quarterback, and unconventional enough to make him successful at other positions.

This is a team, remember, that has moved wide receivers to the defensive backfield, thrown nearly a dozen touchdown passes to linebacker Mike Vrabel, and once allowed backup quarterback Doug Flutie to convert an extra point with a drop kick. This is a team that, with the great Tom Brady starting at quarterback and emerging Ryan Mallett as his capable backup, can safely order Tebow's quarterback dreams to take a hike.

Tebow has consistently fought against changing positions. In going to the dark side, that fight has been conceded.

It is no coincidence that Tebow was signed when the Patriots' two best tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, are recovering from surgery and expected to miss the start of training camp. It is also no coincidence that Tebow is joining a team that just lost its best pass-catching running back, Danny Woodhead, who took his 446 yards receiving to San Diego.

If Tebow's strengths are utilized, he could play either position well. One can already imagine him catching short touchdown passes, grabbing Brady safety-valve tosses out of the backfield, or even bulling through the middle of the line on first and goal.

One Patriots coach knows those strengths better than anyone. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels actually started Tebowmania when, as head coach of the Broncos, he drafted him in the first round in 2010.

So Tebow has one friend there. He eventually will have more. The Patriots locker room is so tightly run by Belichick that even the most polarizing players seem to blend in. Randy Moss played here. Chad Johnson played here. For six games, the mammoth Albert Haynesworth played here.

It could actually work. Tim Tebow's saving grace could actually occur in the organization where grace comes to die.

Of course, he will have to stop smiling. He will have to stop giving gracious interviews. He might be allowed to Tebow — hey, Gronkowski is allowed to spike a ball with the mindless force of a caveman — but he certainly will be discouraged from being so darned happy.

And, oh yeah, as he learned during his first day with the team, he has to polish his footwork. During last season's AFC championship game, safety Ed Reed, then with the Baltimore Ravens, suffered a severe hip injury that later required surgery. Then, and again Tuesday, Reed said he believed the injury occurred when poster-boy Patriot Tom Brady kicked him.

Twitter: @billplaschke

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