Never before could two games mean so much for one player, and tonight’s match-up against the Detroit Lions happens to fall into that category for Tim Tebow.
For the most part the exhibition games during the NFL Preseason tend to be meaningless games for the starters to hone their skills, while the younger and unknown players are generally the ones battling for a roster spot and a chance to play pro football.
Unfortunately for the veteran guys who aren’t playing well, sometimes they end up being the ones who find themselves without a place on the final 53-man roster.
Tebow hasn’t exactly had the best preseason. Granted it’s only been two games, but for a guy who waited so long for another opportunity to play football again after his messy divorce from the New York Jets, it couldn’t have gone much worse.
Last week’s preseason game against Tampa Bay wasn’t exactly Tim Tebow’s best. (FILE:USA TODAY Images)
He’s had one mediocre performance and another that was just a complete disaster. In his first outing against Philadelphia, he played just over a half of football and it at least went moderately well from the standpoint that he ran the option and lead them on a scoring drive and also put them in field goal range on another. As bad as it was, there were actually a few things to build on and a couple of positive things to take away.
In the second game – which took place in front of the home crowd – Tebow couldn’t do anything right. In that game he once again played the entire second half but spent much of the evening working on his own side of the field and never made it past the Buccaneers 45 yard line until the final drive of the game. He also had a huge interception where he completely overthrew his receiver and gave Tampa Bay the ball deep in New England’s own end. A classic mistake that drives Patriots head coach Bill Belichick crazy.
Overall he finished the night with just one completion, which was for -1 yard as well as a quarterback rating of 0.0.
That can’t happen tonight against the Lions. As a matter of fact, it can’t happen against the Giants next week either.
Coming into New England one would have to believe Belichick knew that Tebow needed some work and was O.K. about investing some time and energy into helping him develop. After all, the former Broncos quarterback was reunited with Josh McDaniels, the guy who believed in him to begin with and as a result, drafted him. Belichick also knew Tebow was a high character guy and had some of the intangibles he looks for in terms of players who are leaders and love playing the game.
However, it’s hard to fathom that he expected things to go the way they have so far.
Belichick defended him earlier this week when asked if he felt Tebow was making progress.
“Yeah, definitely,” said Belichick on Tuesday. “I think if you look at the entire week last week that it will look different than the game did. In some cases, the game looked better for some players; in some cases, the game didn’t maybe look as good as some things during the week. We’ll just have to try to take all that into consideration. ”
Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration has been Tebow’s lack of success on third down. He’s 1-of-5 throwing the football in that situation and has yet to convert through the air, with his only two conversions coming on the ground thanks to a third quarter run by himself for 12 yards during the Philadelphia game, and a fourth quarter run by Brandon Bolden last Friday.
When they’ve gotten into the red zone (which has only happened twice), they’ve taken the ball completely out of his hands and he’s yet to even have an attempt in scoring territory.
That all needs to change tonight. While many believe his job will be safe by the time the dust settles in a couple of weeks, another performance like last week might be enough to make Belichick and McDaniels realize that Tebow’s issues extend well beyond the level of time they can invest. This is a football team and a coaching staff focused on winning a championship every season. This is a team with a ton of talent and as we’ve seen in recent years, depth has become a major factor when they’ve run into injuries. As a result they need every available slot, and it’s hard to justify taking one away from a player who could help them now and give it to a player who hasn’t shown he can perform in game action at the NFL level.
Some will make the argument that he’s done it before. But in this league players are judged on how they’re playing right now, not what they did two years ago. They don’t earn a job based on their past. As a matter of fact, if a team does take a chance on a guy who’s playing poorly, it’s usually because they at least believe in their potential. Tebow needs to at least make them believe he’s got some better football left in him, because too many more games like last week could cost him not only a shot here, but probably elsewhere as well.
The good news for Tebow’s fans is, it’s all in his hands. He’s in control of his football future and he’ll likely have enough of an opportunity to prove he belongs over these next two games. But he’ll need to at least do something tonight to give the Patriots coaching staff a reason to believe things are finally going to start heading in the right direction.
Said Belichick, “In the end it’s about production and being able to do enough things to be successful.”
So far he hasn’t done that. Tonight we’ll find out if that’s finally going to change.