Chip Kelly continues to amaze the world, or at least that part of the world that follows the National Football League. It’s hard to make more jaws drop than the Eagles coach did when he traded away a Pro Bowl wide receiver (DeSean Jackson), a Pro Bowl running back (LeSean McCoy) and a Pro Bowl quarterback (Nick Foles). But Kelly managed to do that when he signed quarterback Tim Tebow to a one-year contract, a move that set the Twitter world all a-twitter and became The Big Story on all the local and national radio and television sports talk shows.
I was surprised Kelly signed Tebow because I didn’t think the reward would be worth the risk, which in this case is the distraction of having such a controversial player on the roster. Not that Tebow has done anything to deserve being that lightning rod of controversy, other than being the most successful player in college football history and being open about his belief in and his love for God. Those public displays of devotion have made Tebow the idol of many and the target of many. Some people are inspired by Tebow and some people are irritated by him. In fact, the only thing that just about everybody agrees on is that Tim Tebow isn’t a very good quarterback, at least not by how the NFL defines a good quarterback. Tebow’s a great all-around football player, but he’s never been much of a passer and they haven’t played the single-wing in the NFL for decades.
And that’s why it will be so interesting to see how Kelly uses Tebow. It’s obviously not to play quarterback in the traditional sense, because that would make no sense, not with superior passers on the roster. In fact, one of the main reasons Kelly traded Foles for Sam Bradford is because Bradford is a more accurate passer, and then the coach signs a guy who can’t hit the Broad Street side of a barn.
No, Chip Kelly has something up his sleeve, and we’re going to take a wild stab at it what it is – his team is going to go for a two-point conversion after almost every touchdown and he’s going to devise an offense – with Tebow at the center of it – that will focus heavily on those short-yardage situations.
That’s pretty far-fetched, but it does make sense in two ways. For one, Tebow is the perfect QB for that kind of offense, where passing the ball down field isn’t as important as decision-making and athleticism, two things Tebow has in abundance. And even though he isn’t a great passer, he can throw it 10 or 15 yards if he has to.
The other reason is a possible NFL rules change that will be tried out this coming preseason, when the ball is moved from the 2-yard line to the 20-yard line for extra points. The NFL competition committee decided to test it out because the extra-point has become the most boring play in sports – last season, NFL teams scored a total of 1,293 touchdowns and the extra point was missed only five times. The rules experiment turns what was basically a 19-yard field goal (the ball spotted on the 2, plus seven yards to the point of the kick and 10 yards for the end zone) into a 39-yard field goal. And even though that is a chip shot in today’s NFL, it might not be such a snap in January if it’s a snowy, windy day in MetLife Stadium when the Eagles wrap up the regular season against the New York Giants.
There’s also been talk of moving the line of scrimmage for extra points the other way – to the 1-yard line to encourage teams to go for the much-more-exciting two-point conversion.
The odds are against either of those rules being changed right away, if ever, but Kelly will be ready for anything. There’s even a chance Kelly will go for the two-point conversion regardless if he feels the percentages are on his side and he can convert enough of them to score more points than if he just kicked the PAT all the time.
All of that, of course, is the wildest conjecture, but it’s also fun to contemplate, and sports are supposed to be fun. But Kelly certainly has a serious reason for this move and he’s willing to deal with all the distractions that follow Tebow wherever he goes. The national media will make regular treks to the Eagles’ mini-camps and training camp and they’ll mostly be there to cover the third-string QB. Name another NFL camp where that will happen…
And if there was any doubt as to whether Tebow’s return is a national story – Las Vegas odds-makers are taking book on his fate with the Eagles. The odds on Tebow making the opening-day roster are 5-to-2 he will and 1-to-4 he won’t. The odds on Tebow starting at least one game are 3-to-1 that he will and 1-to-5 that he won’t. And the odds on what Tebow will accomplish first if he makes the team: touchdown pass is 2-to-1, touchdown run is 2-to-1, touchdown catch is 20-to-1, and the odds that Tebow gets cut, traded or retires before any of that other stuff happens is 1-to-1.
And the odds that we’ll be tired of Tim Tebow stories by the time the season opens: 100-to-1.