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Now a Jet, Tebow's career at a crossroads

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By Eli Kaberon

The news that broke Monday morning that Peyton Manning was signing with the Broncos sparked the beginning of the end for Tim Tebow's career in Denver. Just two days later, it officially came.

On Wednesday night, the Broncos announced they had traded the quarterback to the Jets in exchange for draft choices. The news came after a day of speculation that the deal would not go through because of an issue with Tebow's contract and that the Jaguars would step in with a better offer than what New York was willing to give up. In the end, however, Tebow — the league's most talked-about player in 2011 — joins a team that lives in the headlines.

It is unknown if Tebow will eventually replace Jets QB Mark Sanchez in the starting lineup, if he'll be a situational "Wildcat" quarterback or if he'll have a completely different role altogether. The only thing that is known is that his magical run in Denver has come to an end, and that the entire football world is eager to see what happens next.

The PFW spin

Here's what we know about Tebow through two professional seasons:

  • For a quarterback, he can't throw very well. Tebow has completed just 47.3 percent of his passes and has had serious issues finding open receivers in the pocket.
  • He takes a lot of sacks, 39 of them in 23 career regular-season games.
  • He can throw the deep ball, completing six passes for gains of 40 yards or longer during the 2011 regular season. Tebow added to that in the playoffs, averaging 31.6 yards per completion in a wild-card victory over the Steelers last January.
  • He's a talented runner, gaining 5.4 yards a carry during his career. He's also found the endzone 12 times and run over countless defenders.
  • He's either very clutch or a horrible starter, with his numbers pretty much across the board improving in the fourth quarter of games compared to the first 45 minutes. Last season he threw for 1,068 yards in fourth quarters; in no other quarter did he eclipse 382 passing yards.
  • His teammates, coaches and fans love him.

What does that all mean? It likely indicates that Tebow's career is at a crossroads. If he wants to stick around for a long time in the NFL, he may need to switch positions to a spot where he can use his athletic running skills and not be asked to throw. His long-term future is clearly not as a starting quarterback, a reason the Broncos dealt the 24-year-old former first-round pick and only got back fourth- and sixth-round picks from the Jets.

With New York, it is expected that Tebow will back up Sanchez and likely come in for certain packages, when he won't be asked to make complex reads of the defense or make throws out of the pocket. During the Broncos' magical playoff run of 2011, Tebow was at his best working out of the shotgun, making plays on the run and ad-libbing as a play evolved. Expect the Jets to allow him to do that when he enters the game.

However, over the course of his career, Tebow doesn't want to be the football equivalent to a baseball lefty specialist, a relief quarterback who comes in for a QB draw on 2nd-and-1 and then is subbed out for important downs. If he wants to make the most of his physical abilities, switching positions to tight end or H-back may make the most sense. He'll still be able to impact the game but will do so without putting his team in a bind at the same time.

Tebow wanted to stay in Denver and build on his first nearly full-time season as a starting quarterback. That was never going to happen, as the Broncos' front office and coaching staff had little faith he was ever going to evolve into a franchise QB. Instead Tebow is now a Jet, and he has a chance to reinvent himself all over if he's willing to change positions.

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