Tim Tebow's release by the New England Patriots Sunday and the apparent lack of interest in him from other NFL teams has sparked plenty of speculation about his future, including the old idea that he should try the CFL, now being espoused by quarterback coach Steve Clarkson. Despite the Montreal Alouettes still having Tebow on their negotiation list (meaning only that they have control of his rights if he decides to come north), though, there may not be that much Canadian interest in him. A set of odds released by Bodog.ca Tuesday had the CFL as the longest shot for Tebow's next team (4/1, as compared to 4/7 for another NFL team and 5/2 for an Arena Football League team). It's not just the oddsmakers who are skeptical of Tebow's CFL chances, either: here's part of what Alouettes' general manager Jim Popp told Yahoo!'s Les Carpenterbefore Tebow's final NFL preseason game:
"This league, because the field is so wide, you still have to throw the ball, and I don't know if Tim Tebow would ever work in this league," Popp said. "He would have the opportunity to run the ball in this league but if you can't make all the throws, you can't play in this league."
And, following Tebow's release and the wave of Tebow-to-the-CFL speculation it sparked, Popp told Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press that any movement on this front would have to come from Tebow's camp, adding that the Alouettes would only be interested if Tebow's willing to take a developmental role this year with an eye on perhaps playing in 2014:
"We've never had a conversation with him or his representation," Montreal GM/interim head coach Jim Popp said Monday, adding there won't be one unless Tebow or his management initiates it. "It's all for talk and there's nothing there, there's no substance to it." ....
And Montreal isn't waiting on Tebow. The Alouettes have four quarterbacks, including injured starter Anthony Calvillo (concussion) and Popp said if they decide to add a fifth with the intention of grooming him for the 2014 campaign, it wouldn't be a name player like Tebow.
"I don't think they (Tebow camp) would be ready to do that," Popp said. "But if they are . . . I'm sure they'll call us."
The question is if it's even worth it for Popp to keep Tebow on the negotiation list, though. As described in this space before, Tebow seems particularly ill-suited for the Canadian game. His biggest challenge in the NFL has been accuracy (he has a career completion mark of 47.9 per cent), and that clearly hasn't improved much; he completed just 11 of 30 passes (36.7 per cent) for 145 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in three preseason games with New England this year. Putting aside the concerns about Tebow's arm strength and mechanics (both of which are substantial), his accuracy would seem to doom him as a CFL quarterback. In a league where you only get three downs, completion percentage becomes even more important; incompletions force you into second-and-long situations and kill drives. There's nothing to suggest that Tebow can be accurate enough to ever be a viable starting option for a CFL team.
Tebow's rushing ability is impressive, of course, and several quarterbacks have used their legs to great effect up here. That list starts with CFL legend Damon Allen (11,920 career rushing yards), but it extends through plenty of others, including current-day QBs like Travis Lulay and Mike Reilly. Successful CFL quarterbacks have always been able to complete a decent percentage of their passes, though, and fear of their arm is what's enabled them to find success on the ground. For example, Allen posted a career completion mark of 56.4 per cent, which is low by CFL standards (although he had plenty of seasons where he was well ahead of that), but miles beyond anything Tebow has done consistently in the pros. If Tebow came up here without getting noticeably more accurate, teams would simply stack the box to stop him running and dare him to throw the ball. If he continued to complete less than 50 per cent of his passes, that would lead to an awful lot of two-and-outs, and that's no way to run an offence.
Beyond that, there's the question of how quickly Tebow could adapt to the CFL and if he'd have any interest in trying to do that. As I wrote at Shutdown Corner in April, even if you assume Tebow could be successful in Canada, it's highly unlikely that success would come quickly. Adapting to the Canadian game takes a while for anyone, but that's especially true for quarterbacks. The 12-a-side nature of play completely changes most route trees, coverage schemes and reads from what American quarterbacks are used to, as do the different defensive alignments usually seen up here. The bigger field also plays a substantial role; there's more room towards the sidelines and in the end zones, and that alters a lot of throws. It generally takes quarterbacks a year or two of learning the CFL game as a backup before they're ready for any sort of game action, and it seems highly unlikely Tebow would want to do that.
Tebow has tweeted that his goal is still to be an NFL quarterback, and the CFL isn't really a way to achieve that these days. While the league can be a developmental pathway to the NFL for some, it isn't for pivots. No quarterback's really made the CFL to NFL transition successfully since Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia in the late 1990s, and the last significant attempt to do so (Ricky Ray in 2004) didn't work out at all. Moreover, every quarterback that's tried going CFL to NFL has spent plenty of years up here first. Tebow is already 26, so his NFL window would seem likely to be closed long before he figures out the Canadian game well enough to succeed north of the border and earn another NFL shot. He'd also then have to unlearn the CFL game and readjust to the NFL, which wouldn't be easy either.
When you consider that Tebow likely has other options where he'd play much sooner and have to relearn much less, it wouldn't seem to make sense for him to come north. The Arena Football League comes to mind, and there are other American pro circuits that generally play by NFL rules and would be more than happy to give a hype-generation machine like Tebow a shot. He also could make way more money south of the border, as a player, a broadcaster or even just a commercial pitchman. Tebow in the CFL is a long shot that could potentially pay off for gamblers, but he wouldn't seem all that likely to help a team up here even if he did somehow show up north of the border. Don't bet on him coming to Canada any time soon.