Bill Belichick has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to roster machinations, but he raised a few eyebrows when he made a surprise signing on this date in 2013. On the eve of mandatory minicamp that year, Tebowmania made its way to Foxborough when the Patriots signed quarterback Tim Tebow.
At that point of his career, Tebow wasn’t far removed from his standout 2011 campaign. That year, Tebow went 7-4 in his 11 starts with the Broncos, and he even helped guide Denver to a playoff win. Of course, there were still plenty of pundits who questioned if Tebow could actually succeed as a starting NFL quarterback. Despite the solid record as a starter, Tebow only completed 46.5 percent of his passes that season, but he predictably showed much more promise on the ground, where he ran for 660 yards and six scores.
The Broncos decided to go all-in for the 2012 campaign, adding Peyton Manning to the mix. Tebow was ultimately shipped off to the Jets, where he started two games while mostly serving as a backup and wildcat alternative to Mark Sanchez. Tebow was cut by New York the following April.
The market wasn’t all that hot for Tebow, leading to him remaining unsigned for a couple of months. Then, the Patriots made the sudden signing on June 10, 2013. While the transaction certainly took many by surprise, it made some sense. For starters, the move reunited the QB with Josh McDaniels, who Tebow had his most NFL success under when the two were in Denver.
Secondly, there wouldn’t be any pressure for Tebow to play a major role in New England; he was never going to supplant Tom Brady, and most reporters opined that he would likely slide in third on the depth chart behind Ryan Mallett. The Patriots have been known to get creative with some of their personnel, so beyond serving as a back-of-the-depth-chart, wildcard option, there was some hope that the organization would try him out at some skill positions.
Finally, the stingy Patriots didn’t need to make any financial commitment to Tebow, which perhaps played a role in them tolerating the media circus that accompanied. While Tebow technically inked a two-year contract with the organization, it contained no guaranteed money and was mostly based on playing-time incentives.
Tebow’s stint in New England didn’t end up lasting all that long. He got into a pair of preseason games for the Patriots, with his 36.7 percent completion rate ranking last among all qualifying players. He was picked off twice and sacked a number of times, although he did manage to shake loose for 91 rushing yards on 16 attempts.
“It’s not just one game [that matters],” Belichick said following Tebow’s underwhelming preseason finale (via ESPN), “although every game is important. But the body of work, the camp, the rate of improvement, the ability to do the things that players are going to be asked to do at their respective positions [also matters].”
Whatever Tebow was showing Belichick off the field, it wasn’t enough to keep his job. Tebow was among the Patriots’ final cuts during the preseason, with the QB tweeting that he would “remain in relentless pursuit of continuing [his] lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback.”
The Patriots rolled forward with only two QBs on the roster for the 2013 campaign, and Brady ended up taking every snap at the position that season. While the Tebow signing is ultimately just a footnote in the story of the Brady/Belichick Patriots, the signing may have given us a clue that the organization was considering future options at QB outside of Mallett, a former third-round pick. Indeed, during the 2014 NFL Draft, the Patriots ended up selecting Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round.
As for Tebow, the signal-caller would get a few more NFL opportunities before all was said and done. He spent the 2015 preseason with the Eagles, and during the 2021 preseason, he caught on with Urban Meyer as a tight end in Jacksonville. Still, he hasn’t seen the field since 2012.