Tim Tebow signed a one-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, looking to make an NFL comeback at the age of 34 as a tight end. With the allure of the name “Tim Tebow” and his distant past success as a college football quarterback, the media is abuzz. The speculation, reporting and discourse surrounding the former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion, has been vast. As we touched on recently, there have been recent college QBs who made the switch to another position and found success… but at the age of 34?
For the last five years, Tebow has been playing minor league baseball in the New York Mets organization. He has not stepped on an NFL field since the 2015 preseason, when he played QB for the Philadelphia Eagles and was cut before the season began. In terms of regular-season game experience, Tebow last played in 2012 with the New York Jets. Mike Tannenbaum was the Jets’ GM at the time. Tannenbaum is extremely wary of the prospect of Tebow making the roster in Jacksonville.
“I don’t see how a 34-year-old backup tight end makes the Jaguars roster,” he said. “A big part of his responsibility will be covering kicks. I do not see him doing that effectively at his age.”
One former NFL defensive coordinator we spoke to was quite clear about Tebow’s chances.
“I think he has very little to no chance to make it in the NFL at tight end,” said the veteran NFL coach, who requested anonymity. “Too many things are working against him -- age, previous experience at the position and probably ability.”
When asked if he would have trouble defending him, the coach said, “I wasn’t worried about defending him at QB, and that was his best position.”
While there have been players that were successful college quarterbacks before getting into the NFL and switching to tight end, Tebow does not feature the same attributes, age, upside as these success stories. Blake Bell and Logan Thomas have firmly found their places on rosters after the transition.
Bell played his first three seasons at Oklahoma as a QB before getting minimal reps at TE his senior year. Bell is a physically impressive prospect – 6-6, 252 pounds with 33⅛-inch arms. Since being drafted by the 49ers in 2015, he has bounced around the league and found his place as a backup blocking TE. When Bell made the transition from QB to TE, he was 23 years old with limited previous injury history having played Big 12 football the previous four years.
Logan Thomas has many different traits that made his transition easier. The former Hokie is 6-6, 250 pounds and was a physically imposing force in the run game at Virginia Tech. This translates extremely well to the tight end position, showing immense physicality over the middle. Ultimately, Thomas’ ability as a runner makes him a very difficult player to take down in the open field, even if he lacks elite speed in the open field -- Thomas ran a 4.61 40-yard dash, coming out of college. Thomas dissects the open field like a QB by properly using his eyes to create deception. Thomas was set as a developmental, upside player when the Washington Football Team took a chance on him last year.
“He had great size, work ethic and upside,” said Tannenbaum, who was Miami’s EVP of Football Operations when the Dolphins signed Thomas in 2015. “Ultimately, he was a strong athlete with the ability to effectively and efficiently block, with an immense desire to do so.”
Tannenbaum does not see the same qualities in Tebow that helped Thomas and Bell find success. As a backup TE, Tebow would often be asked to block EDGE defenders and get out into space to progress outside-zone running plays. At 34 years old, he will be asked to do this for the first time with a much smaller body type than the average TE (especially Thomas and Bell). Coming out of college, Tebow was 6-2¾ and 236 pounds. The average tight end in the NFL since 2010 (the year Tebow was drafted) is 6-4 and 252 pounds.