Tim Tebow signs with Patriots, the one team unafraid of Tebowmania

Tim Tebow has reportedly signed with the New England Patriots, which is perhaps the only team that can handle his off-the-field celebrity – and which still has faith in his abilities.

Wade Payne/AP/File
Then-New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow warms up before an NFL football game in Nashville, Tenn., last season. Tim Tebow is joining the New England Patriots, according to a report by ESPN on Monday.

The New England Patriots will sign Tim Tebow because their coach, Bill Belichick, could quite possibly be the antidote to Tebowmania.

The New England Patriots will sign Tim Tebow because their starting quarterback, Tom Brady, would have to release a trove of sensitive US security documents and flee to Hong Kong for there to be even the whiff of a quarterback controversy in New England.

The New England Patriots will sign Tim Tebow because their offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniel, still thinks he made the right call when he drafted Tebow in the first round of the National Football League draft in 2010, then as head coach of the Denver Broncos.

In the end, Tebow the football player – for all his faults as a drop-back passer – could probably have helped any number of teams in the NFL. But in the end, he will sign for the Patriots, because they are quite possibly the only team that is bigger than he is.

Multiple news reports say Tebow will sign for the Patriots and be ready for their mandatory minicamp Tuesday. From a football perspective, the move fits on many different levels.

If Tebow is going to have any chance at succeeding in the NFL as a quarterback, what he needs is time and someone dedicated to his success. In New England, he'll have both.

For as long as Brady is with the Patriots – and that's likely to be another three years, at least – there will be no questions about whether Tebow is going to start. Online petitions? Chants from fans? Questions from the media? The moment Tebow's pen goes to paper in Foxborough, Mass., they end.

To be honest, Tebow won't really even be competing for the backup role. That's Ryan Mallett's job. Instead, he will have a window of relative calm in which to hone his craft under the tutelage of the very man who thinks he is most capable of doing it in McDaniel.

There's also the fact that he gets to Tebow on the sidelines next to perhaps the greatest quarterback of his generation. For a man who has been criticized for lacking the ability to read defenses, that amounts to a Harvard-level master's degree.

If that's not a recipe for success for Tebow, then there is none.

Weeks ago, there were rumors that Belichick "hated" Tebow as a player. Those were quickly squelched by the man himself. And there's little mystery as to why.

Back in 2011, before the Patriots met Tebow's Broncos in the playoffs, Belichick was asked about Tebow's unorthodox style – code for his much-maligned passing mechanics and his need to run the ball because he is so inaccurate. "Yeah, I don't agree with any of that" was the response.

More insightful, though, was another comment he made in the runup to that game: "There’s not another quarterback in the league who has Tim Tebow’s skills."

That might not be true anymore with the introduction of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick. But it points to Tebow's greatest allure to Belichick: his versatility.

Whether or not Tebow eventually makes it as a quarterback, Belichick surely sees that a 250-pound slab of man-flesh who breaks through the line like an Abrams tank and believes he is impelled by a higher power – and yes, can throw the football – could be useful in the meantime.

This is the man who once used a wide receiver, Troy Brown, as a defensive back in 2004. More recently, he did the same thing with Julian Edelman. He drafted tight ends who play like wide receivers. He developed another New York Jet castoff, Danny Woodhead, into one of the most productive third-down running backs in the league.

Taken along with Belichick's propensity for drafting somewhat obscure players from unsung programs, all this gives the impression of a man determined to prove he is the smartest person in the room. And that, too, could make Tebow more appealing to Belichick. (Not to mention pulling one over on the hated New York Jets, the team that released Tebow earlier this year.)

But in Tebow, Belichick also gets a man who could play linebacker in a pinch. Or fullback. Or special teams. Or ... tight end. With pro bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski having just had his fifth surgery this offseason, perhaps missing as much as half the season, could Tebow be "free" insurance? In short, Tebow is like a new Swiss Army knife for the boy scout in Belichick, a new tool for the consummate tinkerer. 

Of course, any team in the league could have had the same. But Tebowmania off the field, it seemed, was too much of a deterrent for what was no sure thing on the field. Was he dating Lindsey Vonn? Was he quoting scripture to teammates? Is he really that gosh-darn good-looking?

Just picture asking that question to Belichick in a news conference. The answer, if audible, would not be safe for work.

No, the Patriots can handle Tebow. Bear in mind that Brady is married to Gisele Bundchen, the most highly-paid model in the world. That's gone OK.

Patriots are told what to say, when to say it, and to whom. And most likely, what they say won't be very interesting, by design. Former Patriot receiver Wes Welker makes it sound like moving to the Broncos this offseason was like a breath of fresh air.

"I feel like I can be myself a little more for sure," he told the Broncos website.

But the flip side is that Belichick can take on intriguing players with baggage, as he did with receiver Randy Moss. That worked out historically well.

This might not work out at all. Certainly, at this moment, Tebow doesn't appear to help the Patriots become much better next year.

But the Patriots aren't signing him as a savior. The question is: Is one of the most motivated and potentially versatile players in pro football – by all accounts an excellent teammate and a player with potential upside – worth giving up a third-string quarterback for?

The Patriots, apparently, are the only team in the NFL that thinks the answer is "yes."

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