Bernie Bytes: Say no to Tebow

2012-03-20T17:20:00Z 2012-04-09T20:14:41Z Bernie Bytes: Say no to TebowBY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist

Good morning ... it's a beautiful day for a walk in Forest Park.

Interesting piece at Pro Football Talk by our friend Mike Florio. In discussing 10 "off the radar" options for quarterback Tim Tebow, Florio put the Rams at the top of the list. 

After winning the free-agent auction for Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos will trade Tebow. And that's inspired a media parlor game, with everyone trying to predict Tebow's destination. Florio isn't predicting a Tebow/STL union, but he may have been the first national football writer to put the Rams into the conversation. (I also think that Florio was trying to have some fun with this; so let's keep that in mind.)

Florio wrote: "(The Rams) volunteered to play in England in part because they believe that it will make them like the Cowboys and Steelers. It won’t. Tebow could. Throw in the ongoing struggles to sell tickets (sellouts undoubtedly come from owner Stan Kroenke buying up the unsold seats at 34 cents on the dollar) and a possible move to Los Angeles, and Tebow makes plenty of sense wearing horns from a creature other than, you know, the devil."

I would respectfully disagree with Florio. I don't think it makes much, if any, sense for the Rams to pursue Tebow. And the Rams won't be pursuing Tebow, so the discussion is moot, anyway.) But here's why it won't happen, for multiple reasons:

1. Head coach Jeff Fisher, GM Les Snead, chief operating officer Kevin Demoff and Kroenke have been adamant in their position: Sam Bradford is their quarterback. The franchise reconstruction is centered around Bradford. The Rams made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, then made a $50 million investment in him. After a very good rookie season, Bradford fell victim to many negative factors in 2011. (For those who missed it the first 348 times: No offseason prep to learn a new offense; horrible offensive line and weak pass protection; the season-ending loss of Danny Amendola in the first game; poor receivers; a misguided coaching approach on the offensive side; and an injury to his ankle.

Bringing in Tebow would cause all sorts of problems. Even if the Rams made it clear (for the thousandth time) that Bradford was absolutely the No. 1 guy, and that Tebow was coming in as a reserve or a gimmick-formation specialist, it wouldn't matter. If Bradford had one bad game, the wolfpack would begin howling for Tebow. Even if Bradford plays well, that wouldn't cool the mania of the Tebow zealots, who would crusade non-stop for their guy. The Rams and Bradford don't need the sideshow, the distraction, of a manufactured QB controversy.

I don't think Kroenke has any interest in undermining his considerable investment in Bradford. And at this stage, why should he? It's not as if we're talking about bringing Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees in here. You don't throw your young No. 1 quarterback in into the flames of controversy over a No. 2 quarterback. After 2011 this is what Bradford needs: a positive and calm working environment.

What Bradford needs is a veteran backup that's been in the league for a long time ... a wise old head that can play a positive role in getting the young quarterback on track.

2. The Rams have a new offensive coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer, which means another new offense for Bradford. That would be the third different offense in his three NFL seasons. Any team that's interested in Tebow must make accommodations by installing an offense that's the best fit for Tebow's talent. Otherwise, Tebow wouldn't make an impact, not with a 47.3 percent completion rate. Denver put in an entirely different playbook for Tebow to utilize his running ability.

So let me get this straight: with a new coaching staff coming in, and with so much work to do in planning and learning, does it make sense for the Rams to install not one, but two new and completely different offenses between now and September?

Instead of having Schottenheimer fully engaged in the mission of synching Bradford with the new offense, you're going to hand him another project, and ask him to develop two young quarterbacks at the same time? Two young quarterbacks that have totally opposite skill sets? Sorry, but that's foolish.

Heck, some Rams fans have questioned the Schottenheimer hiring. So how in the world would it be a good idea to put even more responsibility on Schottenheimer? One thing at a time, please. Schottenheimer and Bradford need to get to work, and spend as much time together as possible. It's vital.

3. Would Tebow sell tickets? I'm not sure about that. Oh, sure. You could count on his worshipers to spend some money at the box office for a one-time hit. But unless Tebow is playing regularly, how does it move the needle? And he wouldn't be playing regularly here. The Rams have been challenged to sell tickets for three obvious reasons: (A) a 15-65 record over the past five seasons; (B) no playoff appearances since 2004; (C) anxiety and anger over the stadium-lease issue and the London "home" games and the distrust of Kroenke. 

The Rams haven't sold tickets because they've been a stinking mess on the field, and because the billionaire owner won't commit to St. Louis long-term. Tebow could fix all of that? Please. I know he's popular, but let's not get carried away. This franchise won't be a hot ticket again unless Fisher/Snead/Demoff start to show they're turning things around, and unless Kroenke makes it clear that the Rams aren't moving to Los Angeles. Anything beyond that is background noise.

4. Tebow's contract. Ideally, the Rams have a lot of roster spaces to fill, and they'd like to pay the No. 2 quarterback between $1 million and $2 million for 2012. (No long-term obligation.) Tebow is guaranteed $1.942 million this season, and $2.266 million in 2013. He has a salary of $2.59 million for 2014, but only $567,500 is guaranteed. Probably more than the Rams would want to commit to a backup. (But again: moot point.)

5. The Rams would have to give up a draft choice for Tebow. No one is sure what Denver is asking for, and the Broncos won't get what they want. But for a Rams team that has so many glaring weak spots, does the organization really have the luxury of giving up a draft pick for a backup QB? I would say that's a big "No."

Look, I like Tebow. I get tired of the folks who seem to take great pleasure in slamming him. I got a chance to spend a little time with Tebow in a restaurant during Super Bowl Week in Indianapolis, and he's a wonderful guy. I'm not a Tebow zealot, but I am a fan.

I'm also a Bradford fan. I saw what he could do in reasonable circumstances in 2010. The Rams weren't all that talented but Bradford was the Rookie of the Year after leading the team to a surprising 7-9 record, a major improvement from 1-15 in 2010. That 7-9 isn't much different than Denver's 8-8 record in 2011, and I think it's safe to say the Rams have less talent than the Broncos.

There are legit questions over Tebow's long-term viability as a starter in what is clearly a passing league. And he still needs a lot of work in refining his fundamental passing skills.

That doesn't mean Tebow is useless, but the situation has to be right for him. The best fit for Tebow would be a relatively low-pressure situation behind a top established quarterback, a star. A place where even the most ardent Tebow supporter would accept his place as a backup instead of igniting a controversy.

Tebow would be a terrific fit on a winning team that's been running the same offense for years; it wouldn't be difficult to install a special package for him to be used in short-yardage or goal-line situations. Teams like New England and Green Bay, to name a couple, would give Tebow a chance to develop and contribute as a specialist. That would work for him.

Some may ask: why can't the Rams bring Tebow in as a specialist? Not make him the starter but use him in change-of-pace packages? The answer brings us back to what we've already discussed. No. 1, any Tebow sightings would generate a QB controversy. No. 2, a team that needs a bunch of players won't spend $2 million cap on someone that will participate in a few plays. (Unless Tebow is a kicker.)

Others will ask: well, suppose Bradford doesn't develop? Then what? Wouldn't you want to have Tebow in place? I agree that there's pressure on Bradford to play well in 2012. (It might help if the Rams got him a receiver or two.) But even if Bradford doesn't play well, you're assuming that Fisher/Snead would view Tebow as a long-term alternative and solution. And that's a huge leap. That's assuming an awful lot. And I'd politely suggest that the assumption would be incorrect. The Rams don't view Tebow as a franchise QB. Most teams don't.

One more related comment: If Jacksonville trades for Tebow and brings him home ... poor Blaine Gabbert. The Mizzou alum wouldn't stand a chance. He'd be swallowed up by Tebow-mania. 

Thanks for reading ...

— Bernie





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Bernie Miklasz

You've read Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch since 1989. Now check out a new video "Breakfast with Bernie" every weekday morning. You'll also see more "Bernie Bytes" around the clock as he posts quick-hit commentaries on a variety of topics.

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