Today marks the beginning of our countdown of the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2013. As I mentioned last week, this was a really hard year to narrow this list down to just 20 moments. So much happened, not only game to game, but play to play, both off the field and on, that it was all but impossible to isolate single events or signature plays while excluding others. So you'll notice, as the list goes on, that I decided to lump certain moments together in order for this list to truly reflect the 2013 season as a whole. The whole point of this list is to try and take 20 major events that helped to shape this past year, and in order to do that I took a few liberties by exactly how I defined the word "moment."
But not number 20, though. My number 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moment of 2013 was a singular event that doesn't happen to often around Patriots Nation, both because it involved a big name and because it was a move that a lot of people saw coming.
20. The New England Patriots sign Tim Tebow.
When the Denver Broncos released Tim Tebow and signed Peyton Manning, the entire football world exploded. In addition to the usual Manning love fest, this time with the added John Elway pairing, the question on everybody's mind was what was to become of one of the most polarizing players the league had ever seen. The answer to that question wasn't long in coming, as Tebow signed with the New York Jets not long after and spent the year wallowing in an absolute circus of mediocrity and media hype that represented what was probably one of the worst possible career moves he could have made. Nothing went right for Tebow in New York, partly because nothing went right for the Jets, and when he was released at the beginning of the 2013 offseason the sense of relief was palpable.
Once Tebow did hit the open market, however, questions once again abounded with what was next for him. Was he done in the NFL? Would another team take a flyer on him? Was he destined for the Arena League? Where would he end up? And of course, the one name that seemed to be on everyone's lips was the New England Patriots.
Tim Tebow to the Patriots was, for a time, a rumor almost as heavily circulated as Larry Fitzgerald to the Patriots was. In the absolute onslaught of "where will Tebow land?" articles, discussions, and rap sessions, New England almost always came up as an ideal landing spot for the enigmatic quarterback. On paper, the move made all the sense in the world; the team only had two quarterbacks, the Josh McDaniels connection was strong, Tebow needed a place where would be out of the public eye, Bill Belichick was known for taking gambles on players in the past, and if anybody in the NFL was going to get the most out of Tebow, it was Billy B. Of course, rarely if ever do the Patriots sign a player that the media is saying would be a good fit for the team, so once the Tebow-to-Patriots hype reached levels of overflowing, most of us figured that was the end of that.
So when the team officially announced the Tebow signing on June 11th of last year, there was quite a bit of surprise around Patriots Nation. Did Bill Belichick just make a roster move that some people saw coming? Did members of the media just predict something that Bill Belichick would do?
In terms of fan reaction, the Tebow signing was something of a mixed bag. There were still some who were shocked by the move, and the Patriots haters certainly found ways to spin the signing into a negative, but for the most part, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the signing. After all, the bottom line was that Tebow was a phenomenal athlete, a good football player, and had taken the Denver Broncos as deep into the playoffs as Peyton Manning did. Plus, Tebow was a great locker room presence, team-first guy, and extremely hard worker. Bringing Tebow on board to give him a shot to both contribute to the team and get his career on track away from the prying eyes of the world made perfect sense.
Almost immediately, the speculation began. How would Belichick and McDaniels use Tebow? Would they develop an offensive package just for him? Will Tom Brady take kindly to being taken off the field for a few snaps per game? Will Belichick try Tebow at other positions? Fullback? Tight end? Punt protector? Holder? There was at least one nutjob who devoted an entire article to the various places on the field where Tebow could line up. There hadn't been this much excitement surrounding four meaningless games in August since 2007 just before we all learned that Randy Moss was nursing a hamstring injury and wouldn't see the field until September.
Tebow made his Patriots debut against the Philadelphia Eagles on August 9th, coming on for an injured Ryan Mallett in the second quarter. He would play the rest of the game, a 31-22 New England victory, where he would finish four out of twelve for 55 yards to go along with 31 rushing yards on four carries. His next outing saw a significant regression in his numbers, as Tebow went one out of seven for -1 yards and a pick against the Buccaneers. He didn't see the field at all during Detroit's preseason Week 3 Super Bowl, and went six for eleven for 91 yards, two TDs, and an interception against the New York Giants. His final stat line for the preseason was 11 for 30 for 145 yards, two TDs, and two picks.
There were many who felt that Tebow showed enough during the final week of preseason, as he was able to engineer a comeback and flashed his potential and athleticism against the Giants, but ultimately the Patriots released Tebow on August 31st as they trimmed the roster down to the final 53. Yes, he flashed at times, but that -1 yard day against Tampa Bay speaks for itself. Week 2 and Week 4 of the preseason are Tim Tebow's career in a nutshell.
No, Tim Tebow didn't work out. And no, his signing didn't really have any impact on New England's 2013 season as a whole. But it was a lot of fun to watch, wasn't it? Plus, it added an exciting new wrinkle to a preseason which usually consists of sitting around waiting impatiently for the real season to start. And because of that, Tebow makes one final roster: an Alec Shane countdown list. Can't ask for much more than that.