The Art of Misusing Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow may seem like the issue, but maybe he's just the latest to expose the real issue.
It's the unwillingness of NFL coaches to adapt alternative approaches to playing offense.
From his college days, Tebow has heard nothing but skepticism about whether or not he fits the NFL mold. Maybe the problem is the way the NFL stereotypes its positions is growing mold. Tebow is not a pure dropback passer like the Manning brothers, nor is he a prototypical scrambler like Michael Vick. He's a run-first quarterback.
The NFL seems reluctant to embrace change, and it isn’t without rationalization. It’s hard to be creative on this scale; a coach would truly need to craft a hybrid offense that would take advantage of Tebow's skill set, and traditionalists are not so willing to accept the notion of adjusting the established theory of the traditional NFL offense. (Among other considerations, if Tebow got hurt, there isn't another Tebow-like quarterback to replace him; the team's playbook would need to be über-versatile.)
Perhaps there is hope. Bill Belichik can be innovative, even when he's not planting cameras at opponents' practices. The true hargingers of change could be in the form of Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly. The 49ers' success has rewarded Harbaugh's boldness to use what he has in Colin Kaepernick's speed. Kelly has succeeded at every level of his coaching career, so all eyes will be on what he installs with the Eagles. The fact that he's traded notes with Belichick when he was still at Oregon has only enhanced the anticipation of his NFL coaching debut.
So far, with the Broncos and Jets, Tebow has been a square peg in a round hole. He was used as a wildcat, as if that didn't stack defenses against him the moment they saw him trot onto the field. He was used to deploy a short passing game, as if defensive backs and linebackers didn't know this would limit patterns. Tebow is a power runner. His game needs to be built around that unique trait in a quarterback. For what he's being paid, you'd think that already would have happened.
The NFL's first reaction to innovation is to try to make rules to penalize it. Remember Sam Wyche when he was coaching the Bengals? He's the one who first introduced the no-huddle offense -- outside the two-minute warning -- to the league. It didn't take long before the NFL tried to subterfuge it. Fortunately, it survived in one form or another before blossoming in full force once again.
The league had to be pulled and dragged into accepting this tactic, even though it made for a more exciting game.
Now, if only someone would go against the grain and design an offense for one-of-a-kind talents. More variety. More excitement. More fan buzz. All the stuff that keeps a popular league on top of its game.
Here's hoping Harbaugh and Kelly keep chipping away at the NFL's pre-ordained notions. Tim Tebow is no doubt dropping down on one knee for it.