August 12, 2015
Tim Tebow is undoubtedly the most popular Eagles player among the fans at training camp. It's pretty incredible considering the guy has a sub-50 percent completion percentage in his three seasons in the NFL (35 games, 16 starts).
And even though he's hardly guaranteed a roster spot -- he still has to beat out last year's No. 3 QB, Matt Barkley -- Tebow has been brought up in nearly every press conference with head coach Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
Part of the reason for his popularity is obvious. He's Tim Tebow. He's won a Heisman. He's won two BCS National Championships. He was a media darling in every stop he's made throughout his career: in college, in the pros, when he was actually in the media, and now, again, playing in the NFL. There's the religion aspect, for better or worse. The guy has a damn meme named after him.
But there's also something else.
Tebow brings something you won't find in a lot of other quarterbacks. He's athletic. Not in the way all NFL quarterbacks -- at least the ones who aren't named Jared Lorenzen -- are, but in a way more reminiscent of a tight end (maybe he has more in common with Lorenzen that I thought). What he lacks in passing ability, he makes up for with size, physicality, and the ability to take a hit.
It's those aspects that have made Tebow the favorite to win the No. 3 quarterback spot. But that only applies if the Eagles plan to use him in ways that can take advantage of those abilities.
So far in practice, we've seen little [read: nothing] from the offense in terms of specially designed plays for Tebow, despite the fact that he's looked better than most people expected. Furthermore, some of his strengths are severely limited by the design of practice, and Shurmur acknowledged as much when he met with the media on Wednesday.
"That type of deal, you know, I could see Tim [Tebow] zone-reading something and pulling it," the offensive coordinator said when asked about the differences between what Tebow does in practice vs. in a game. "And then the whistle sort of gets blown here [at practice], but he might run a guy over, you never know. So that kind of uncontrolled type of stuff. You know, we could run a naked [bootleg] and he gets out on the perimeter, guy hanging off him, and makes a throw.
"You know, all that type of stuff that you say, 'Wow, that was really a terrific athletic play.'"
But because you're not allowed to hit the quarterbacks -- LOL Jets -- Tebow hasn't yet had the chance to show how physical he can be. But that doesn't mean Shurmur is unaware of how he can use Tebow.
To see that, all he has to do is turn on the SEC Network.
"I think there's pretty good evidence of what Tim is," he said. "He's been doing this for a long time. I got home a couple nights ago, and it was late. I was catching up on the college football stuff. So, the SEC channel had a bowl game, Florida playing Michigan in 2008, Lloyd Carr's last game. And they're standing there in empty, and Tim got the crap knocked out of him. But he was making plays and throwing it to Percy Harvin and all this crazy stuff where it looks like it shouldn't work and all the sudden they score a touchdown."
With a head coach in Kelly known for being as offensively creative as he is secretive, are the Eagles slow-playing their Tebow hand? Do they have plans to use him in certain formations and situations? Not according to Shurmur.
"What Tim can do is on tape," he added. "I don't know if we're hiding anything."
And while that's true, there's no footage of Tebow playing in a Chip Kelly offense. They may not be hiding Tebow's skill set, but there's certainly been little evidence that they have a special role designed for the former Florida Gator. Maybe that will reveal itself throughout the course of their four preseason games, beginning Sunday against the Colts.
But when pressed, Shurmur wouldn't admit to anything like that being in the cards for Sunday.
"We're not so worried about [how we'll use him schematically], because we can do with Tim, technically, what we can do with the other quarterbacks," Shurmur sad. "So from a scheme standpoint, not that big of a difference."
I don't entirely buy that, because if there are no special plans for how to use Tebow, then he doesn't serve much of a purpose on this team.
So why is the offensive coordinator watching old Tebow highlights at night?