The Curse of Being Tebow: Versatile but Useless

Miami — The miracles Tim Tebow performed a year ago seem like distant memories.

Nobody could take their eyes off him. Now, nobody knows what to do with him.

Tebow is kind of a quarterback. He’s more like an eighth back. Passing, in the conventional drop-back sense, is not his strength.

The NFL — especially in this passer-extraordinaire era — has no use for a player with his combination of talents. He’s too versatile for his own good: He runs, he throws, but he does neither well enough to specialize.

Tebow’s greatest asset is his ability to lead. But no position exists that would allow him to run out to the huddle, impart his can-do spirit and then — on the count of one-two-BELIEVE! — direct the play with inspirational gusto from behind the line of scrimmage without ever possessing the ball.

Tebow is like a pair of sunglasses in an umbrella factory. He’s out of place. A hybrid, an alien, a throwback, a futureback? An electrifying athlete for whom no role has been scripted.

Beloved as a two-time national champion Florida Gator, befuddling as a pro.

He’s no Michael Vick, Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III, despite hopes that he could be a dual threat. Nor is he a classic college star gone bust in the manner of Ryan Leaf because he never had Leaf’s arm and he barely has thrown any passes.

The New York Jets’ experiment, which began with such fanfare and head-scratching, was a predictable failure. Tebow threw six passes and ran 32 times for a total of 141 yards of offense. His main role was punt protector. His collaboration with Mark Sanchez never materialized. Tebow’s presence made Sanchez tight during a miserable 6-10 year of regression for the draft pick the Jets had staked their future on.

When coach Rex Ryan benched Sanchez, he inserted third-string quarterback Greg McElroy while Tebow continued to idle on the sideline, all suited up with nowhere to go, reduced to distraction and punch line.

Tebow became another marker of the Jets’ mess. Nothing went as planned during his season in New York because nothing was planned. Ryan didn’t use Tebow creatively. The franchise is left with a salary-cap ball and chain and an unstable quarterback situation.

Tebow is like a solid, shiny, multifaceted gemstone that can’t be fashioned into anything practical, so it becomes a paperweight.

It seems ludicrous in hindsight to think that the Denver Broncos considered tapping Tebow as their main man. Back then, signing Peyton Manning and his rehabbed neck was a gamble. John Elway must spring out of bed with a huge sigh of relief every morning. Manning has made the Broncos into Super Bowl contenders. Fans besotted with Tebowmania during the winning streak that got Denver into the playoffs last season have a new hero.

Thanks, Tim, fans in the Mile High City say, for that short pass to DeMaryius Thomas that turned into an 80-yard touchdown and overtime upset of the Steelers, but fairy tales have a short shelf life in the NFL.

So, what does Tebow’s future hold? The Jets are expected to trade or release him.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, in desperate need of a makeover, dismissed the notion of signing Tebow as soon as the new general manager took office. It would make ticket-selling sense to bring Tebow home, but the fact that the Jags don’t want him a year after they did says volumes about his lack of utility.

He could be a career backup — to a backup.

Fill in for injured RGIII in D.C.?

He could be a gimmick player — Wildcat man for the Patriots? — and be frustrated.

He could switch positions, try tight end or fullback.

He could work on intense modification of his throwing mechanics, perhaps under Jim Harbaugh. But Tebow is 25 years old, 6-2 on tiptoes. If a transformation was to occur, coaches would have seen it by now.

One option: Go the Canadian Football League, freelance on a bigger field, with ample playing time.

Tebow wants to play quarterback, but two teams have decided he can’t. His NFL career might be over.

He could be a dynamic preacher, continue his family’s missionary work and have a more powerful influence on lives than as a quarterback.

Governor of Florida?

Tebow isn’t just a rare athlete but a rare human being. He has a genuinely good soul. His religion, his values, his Tebowing on the field may be polarizing. The Tebow Effect — the light and compassion that emanate from him — is real. He shouldn’t be wasting away on some practice squad.

Mock his slow release, but don’t doubt his determination. Tebow will find a place where he’ll make a difference, even if it’s not in the pocket.