Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
This offseason will not be short on drama. Sports radio and television will have a buffet of topics to discuss, as players, coaches, and general managers begin the annual carousel. Rumors of Jon Gruden and Mike Holmgren returning to coaching will definitely generate discussion, and the future of Mike Vick, Steven Jackson, and Alex Smith will generate plenty of buzz.
But nothing will top Tebow-mania.
Tim Tebow is almost certain to be on his way out of New York, and the hot topic for both the average and hardcore sports fan is the future destination of the former Heisman winner. Many reports have surfaced connecting Tebow strongly with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but with so much uncertainty in the Jacksonville front office, it is unlikely that any information on the Jaguars’ future is from a source that has any connections to the staff that will go to work this offseason to try and fix the youngest Florida NFL franchise. So that leaves the door open for other teams to get involved, and while it’s unlikely there is another situation where Tebow can walk in as a day 1 starter, there are certainly some options for the former Gator to compete for playing time.
One that has not been discussed very often, and I believe has some serious potential, is to bring Tim Tebow to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I know there is an entire army of Tebow haters out there. I know there are some people who will simply not be convinced. To be honest, a few weeks ago I was fairly certain I wanted nothing to do with Tebow in Tampa. But allow me to present a couple of key elements that have allowed me to convince myself that a Tebow acquisition worthwhile for the Buccaneers.
Filling a Need
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a need for a second consistent gainer of yardage. Doug Martin is fairly consistent at picking up yards for the offense, but if he’s on the sideline, or the opponent is keying in on the Dougernaut, the Buccaneers could use another option. LeGarrette Blount is the Josh Freeman of running backs; he is not consistent, and has regressed since his premature glory days. He is seemingly unable to find the correct channel to run through unless it is presented to him on a silver platter, and relies very heavily upon broken tackles for success. DJ Ware, Michael Smith, or anyone signed off the street is not going to have a major impact on the offense.
The play of Josh Freeman has called the future of the Buccaneers quarterback into question. Mandatory Credit: Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports
If Josh Freeman is set to be the starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we will undoubtedly continue to see inconsistent play and a lower than average completion percentage. This means that the passing game will never be a consistent gainer of yardage. Tebow provides a running threat that most other NFL quarterbacks do not, as Tebow has averaged 5 yards per carry in his NFL career. There would also be an increase in opportunities for Doug Martin, as the constant threat of a Tebow run would open up more gaps for the Muscle Hamster. Plus, it would let the Bucs name the package the “Wild Hamster,” which would be awesome.
I certainly understand the notion that Freeman could improve, and that he is young enough to further develop his skills. I disagree, but I understand. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s a franchise quarterback option this offseason that makes sense for Tampa Bay. This affords the opportunity to bring in a player like Tebow, and provide competition at the quarterback position to help determine the future of the QB position for the franchise. Most “experts” would say that bringing in Tebow “undermines” the starting quarterback, and is disruptive for a team. My response to that is…
Do Your Job
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
One of the Schiano-isms that I strongly agree with is the notion of every man on the team doing “his job.” We saw punt returners cut and benched all season for failing to cleanly field punts. We saw a player like the aforementioned Blount see a drastic drop in playing time after his fumble in Oakland. Players on the Schiano Buccaneers are expected to live up to the expectations of their positions. Bringing in Tim Tebow would simply be an opportunity for both Freeman and Tebow to do their jobs. Freeman has been provided all the “unopposed” time he deserves, playing ahead of Josh Johnson and Dan Orlovsky and feeling absolutely no threat upon his position. If he is unable to lead the Buccaneers to success with Tebow behind him, it would simply add further evidence to the case regarding his attitude and leadership abilities.
Tebow is the quintessential leader. He provides a strong personality and winner’s mentality. The Buccaneers need as many leaders as they can, as the team transitions from the “Youngry” Buccaneers of the Raheem Morris era, to the “Buccaneer Men” under Schiano. The Denver Broncos of 2011 were led to a playoff victory they would have never achieved under Kyle Orton, and Tim Tebow’s leadership had much to do with the turnaround.
Tebow’s ability to sustain offense and keep the ball in the hands of his team was the other major factor in the Broncos’ success. Under Kyle Orton, the Broncos turned the ball over around 2.5 times per game in 2011, but after Tebow took over, the Broncos only turned the ball over 1.5 times per game. In addition, the Broncos’ time of possession took a 3-minute leap in games that ended in regulation, and that number only grows when the overtime victories are factored in (I held them out of the comparison because there’s more minutes played in overtime games, and it skews the numbers a bit). This is the job that Tebow can do, and it’s a job that the Buccaneers need to hire an employee to help with.
Nothing to Lose
As I mentioned above, if Josh Freeman is unable to claim the quarterback job from Tim Tebow in the hypothetical situation presented in this article, the Buccaneers will have gained more than an alternative at the quarterback position. The Buccaneers would have learned that Josh Freeman is nothing more than his draft classmate Mark Sanchez, a weak leader with subpar skills who will likely never be a true franchise quarterback.
Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
If Freeman were able to keep a firm grasp on the starting job, the Buccaneers would have a viable option for wildcat packages (which were used previously with Josh Johnson, so Freeman is familiar with the nature of being subbed in and out periodically). Mark Dominik could then decide on the future of Josh Freeman, and still have Tebow available as a backup, and competition for the future quarterback of the Buccaneers.
Tebow’s presence at One Buc Place would lead to increased ticket sales, jersey sales, and buzz surrounding the team. These are obviously broad generalizations, but the franchise is in a position where the possibility for increased exposure and revenue cannot be taken lightly. The cost of Tebow’s salary is well worth the possibility of Tebow’s presence bringing fans back to Raymond James. There is also a circus that follows Tebow that will undoubtedly be frustrating for Buccaneers fans, but unlike Rex Ryan, Coach Schiano comes from the Belichick school of coaching, and his dry humor will be the only sound bites reporters will get from the Buccaneers about Tebow. “Tim, like the other men on our team, will do his job every Sunday,” would be a weekly appearance on the press conference recap.
If I’m realistic, I would say it’s unlikely that Tim Tebow will be a Buccaneer next season. Tim may not see it as the opportunity he’s looking for, and it’s reasonable to think that the Buccaneers have absolutely no interest. Realism aside, I think it makes perfect sense for the Buccaneers. The likelihood of a move for Tebow does not define it’s viability or potential success, and I believe that Tebow would provide a secondary running option Tampa Bay needs, and a leader’s mentality that Coach Schiano would love. He would also challenge Josh Freeman, who is at a point in his career where he needs all the motivation he can get, because his youthful promise can quickly turn into missed opportunities. So as you watch television this offseason, and as you scan social media for NFL rumors and news, keep in mind what Tim Tebow might bring to a team, and what the Buccaneers might miss out on if they fail to set their clocks to Tebow Time.
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