We've already explored the case against New York Jets' quarterback Tim Tebow in the CFL, and it seemed like rather a moot point when ESPN's Chris Mortensen called it "a virtual certainty" Tebow was off to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but new Jacksonville GM David Caldwell's comments this week that he "can't imagine a scenario where Tim Tebow would be a Jacksonville Jaguar" have rekindled the fires of Tebow-to-the-CFL discussion. However, much of that discussion's originating south of the border, and a lot of it is demonstrating plenty of ignorance about the CFL and how Tebow would likely fit in in three-down football. Here are five myths about Tebow and the CFL I've seen flying around, and points refuting each of them.
1. Tim Tebow would automatically start in the CFL: This one's the most categorically false. First off, it is almost unheard of these days for a CFL rookie to get even a single start in his first season, and that has nothing to do with ability or lack thereof. It has to do with adjusting to the game. The CFL and NFL games are dramatically different, and that's particularly true at quarterback; 12-a-side football with bigger fields, expanded motion, three downs and more receiver-heavy packages means that everything from route trees to blocking schemes to reads of defensive coverages changes substantially in the CFL. It takes time for players at any position to adjust to the Canadian game, but quarterbacks face the most difficult adjustment; for Americans, much of the coverage looks and route trees they've spent their entire careers learning don't apply any more. This isn't entirely new, either; even Doug Flutie, widely regarded as perhaps the greatest CFL player ever, had a dismal first season where he threw more interceptions (19) than touchdowns (16) and only completed 52.8 per cent of his passes. More recently, first-year quarterbacks have only received occasional starts, and that often hasn't worked out. Look, the CFL is not just some NFL farm league; it's a completely different game that requires different skillsets, and NFL success doesn't always translate to CFL success (or vice versa). Even if Tebow does come north, we're highly unlikely to see him as a day-one starter (or a year-one starter, for that matter) anywhere, but that's particularly true in Montreal, where he'd be behind pro football leading passer Anthony Calvillo, who's still near the top of his game.
2. Tebow could wind up playing for any CFL team: Highly unlikely. Montreal holds his negotiation list rights. They obviously could trade him to another team that was more desperate for a quarterback, but there's a substantial question of they'd get anything in return to make it worth their while. Keep in mind that plenty of big-name American quarterbacks have failed north of the border, while it's mostly been smaller-school guys succeeding. Many of the guys who failed, too, like Tebow's old Florida teammate Chris Leak and Hawaii record-setter Colt Brennan, came in with a more proven record as an effective passer than Tebow, who has a career NFL completion percentage of just 47.9 per cent. If there's CFL interest in him, it's likely as a project, not an immediate solution. You don't often see teams giving up substantial resources for projects, and you also often don't see teams trading projects before they develop. That's the definition of selling low. Moreover, there are only eight CFL teams, and most already have their quarterback depth solidified. If Tebow does come to the CFL, the most probable situation for him is as a backup in Montreal (and he would be highly unlikely to begin higher than third-string, as the Alouettes' other quarterbacks, including former South Carolina star Stephen Garcia, have substantially more CFL experience than Tebow does.)
3. Tebow's rushing ability makes him a natural CFL fit: Not really. Yes, some quarterbacks with the ability to run have shone in the CFL. The most prominent is Damon Allen, but Flutie also had five seasons where he ran for over 600 yards and Chuck Ealey topped that mark twice. *Interestingly enough, Warren Moon, an oft-cited example of a rushing QB, never topped 600 rushing yards in the CFL and only topped 500 once). All of those guys were more effective and consistent passers than Tebow, though, and that's crucially important: in a three-down league, an incompletion hurts you much more, and the value of smaller runs is reduced.
Moreover, while the NFL's gone more towards running quarterbacks lately with guys like Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, the CFL's gone the opposite way and become even more pass-focused. Stars like Calvillo and Ricky Ray are known for being pocket passers first and foremost. No quarterback ran for over 500 yards last year, and the only one who even came close was B.C.'s Travis Lulay. It's also notable that the quarterback who most frequently had "mobile" used to describe him, Edmonton's Steven Jyles (whose mobility was cited as a key point in the disastrous trade for Ricky Ray), was arguably the worst starter in the league last year (and was replaced down the stretch), but his completion percentage of 58.6 per cent (the lowest of any regular starter) was still 10 points above Tebow's NFL career average. Simply put, rushing ability alone does not make one a good CFL quarterback. If a run-focused quarterback like Tebow can't make it in the increasingly run-oriented NFL, why would he be a natural success in the CFL?
4. Tebow would be a superstar north of the border: It's impossible to categorically prove or disprove this unless Tebow actually comes north, but there are reasons to think Tebow might not be as big of a media star as many seem to think. Yes, bringing him in would undoubtedly draw attention from media outlets and fans that don't regularly cover the CFL; how long will that last, though? It didn't really last with Ricky Williams, who was a much bigger star at the time than Tebow is from a playing perspective (and whose Canadian stint is often unfairly maligned: Williams was actually a pretty good CFL player, just not a dominant one). Tebow gets more media buzz than Williams did, but will that buzz persist while he's sitting on the Alouettes' bench? At some point, there's a limit to the amount of debate that can be embraced.
Furthermore, CFL teams don't really have an incentive to sign or play Tebow if they don't think he can help on the field. Yes, bringing in or using Tebow will draw some new fans. The CFL is very much a league that thrives on hardcore fans' interest, though, and those fans care much more about winning than gimmicks. Unsuccessfully starting Tebow would likely hurt more than it would help.
5. After dominating the CFL, the NFL path would clear for Tebow: This seems highly unlikely. Yes, some CFL players (Cam Wake, Brandon Browner) have made the transition to the NFL very successfully. Few quarterbacks have since Flutie and Jeff Garcia, though. Part of that is the aforementioned differences in the game, but another part of it is the lack of respect for the CFL game south of the border, and a third part is how difficult it is to win a quarterbacking job. Unlike other positions, there usually isn't a quarterback rotation, and getting playing time as a third receiver is much easier than it is as a second-string quarterback. The CFL to NFL transition is difficult at any position, and most who try it fail. That's even more true at quarterback. If Tebow really wants to be an NFL starter, the CFL doesn't seem like the clearest path there for him; he wouldn't get much playing time here for at least a year and would have to learn a new game, then unlearn it once he headed back south. The Arena Football League or another U.S.-based league might make much more sense, as there he'd likely at least start, and the rules are close to what he'd see in the NFL. The quality of competition might not be as high, but those leagues are scouted by the NFL too.
It's not that all Tebow to the CFL discussion should be verboten. The guy clearly has a passionate following of fans, and at least one CFL team thinks enough of his ability to include him on a negotiation list. (Those lists often mean next to nothing, though; the vast majority of quarterbacks on the 2010 ones never wound up in Canada.) It would just be nice to see the discussion include some extra perspective of how the CFL works and how Tebow's likely to fit in here. Sadly, that appears to be lacking in many of the reports that have come out so far.