A week after not seeing the field in the Patriots' 40-9 preseason loss to the Lions, Tim Tebow will have one last chance Thursday to convince coach Bill Belichick that he's earned one of the 53 roster spots. The Pats face the Giants in the final game of the preseason, and Tebow is expected to get the bulk of the work at quarterback.
Unfortunately, the same issues that have plagued him throughout his career -- namely, accuracy and deciphering defenses -- continue to be a problem in New England. In the first two preseason games, Tebow has completed 5-of-19 passes for 54 yards (this includes a -1 yard performance against the Buccaneers), no touchdowns, an interception and three sacks. Nowhere else in the league is a team considering keeping a backup quarterback completing 26 percent of his passes.
But with Tebow it's about more than the on-field production. Patriots owner Bob Kraft conceded as much recently.
“Anyone who's met him, he's a very special young man,” Patriots owner Bob Kraft said. "I'm rooting for him. I'm in his corner. I have the privilege of letting Bill (Belichick) make that decision. He's got a pretty good record doing that.”
Tebow's record includes leading the Broncos to the AFC West title in 2011, as well as a wild-card playoff victory over the Steelers. But the wheels came off in 2012, after the Broncos traded Tebow to the Jets. New York parted ways with Tebow earlier this offseason and the Pats signed him this summer, two weeks before Aaron Hernandez was arrested on first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd.
Tebow also has the moral support of Belichick. Last week, the Pats coach said that Tebow had "definitely" improved (relative to what is the real question), and earlier this week the glowing assessment continued.
“He's great to work with, outstanding,” Belichick said via the Boston Herald. “Smart, works hard; football is important to him.”
But Belichick conceded earlier this month that keeping Tebow around also means that the Patriots would have to run two offenses with Tebow on the roster -- a conventional one for Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett, and a more run-oriented scheme for the former Heisman Trophy winner.
“It's something that you have to look at with time management,” Belichick said. “The decisions that you make are important there. You don't want to waste time on something that doesn't benefit you, but at the same time, you want to be prepared for, and take advantage of the players' skills that you have.
“I don't think it's uncommon. We've had those types of things in our offense before. This is a little bit different, but we're not trying to reinvent the game or anything. We're just trying to take advantage of a particular player's skill, and that's no different than something we would do with a tight end, or a receiver or running back who has a skill that we want to try to take advantage of.”
The Patriots have carried two quarterbacks on the active roster for the last four seasons. Does that change in 2013 because of some combination of Tebow's versatility, his squeaky-clean image, and the apparent fondness Kraft and Belichick have for him?
We'll know one way or the other in the next 48 hours.