Steinberg: Patriots can handle Tebow hoopla

The New England Patriots have signed quarterback Tim Tebow. They may be the only team in the NFL that can manage the consequences.

It has been a long, cold winter for Tebow as he searched for an NFL team to sign with after being cut earlier by the New York Jets. He is a gifted player but there have been no takers. Why?

Tebow had a transcendent University of Florida career and won the Heisman Trophy. He was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. When he got a chance to start he took them on an improbable run of thrilling last-minute victories that electrified the country. The last several minutes of a game were called "Tebow Time."

The signing of Peyton Manning by the Broncos triggered a trade to the Jets.

Tebow may be the most popular player with fans in the NFL. He is handsome, well spoken, a consummate role model.

In an era of disturbing headlines regarding athletic misbehavior, his strong principles and spiritual values have made him a beacon of hope. He is a hero to the large following of fundamentalist Christianity. He has vaulted beyond the narrow genre of sports to become a household name — nearly every move covered with celebrity status. And therein lies the problem.

Unless Tebow is the starting quarterback for a team it puts extreme pressure on the starter. The minute the incumbent quarterback throws an interception or loses a game the "We Want Tebow" chants start.

A starting quarterback needs rhythm and stability and confidence. Doug Flutie, former Boston College, CFL and Patriot, Bear and Charger quarterback had a similar effect based on his college heroics and good looks. The difficulty arises because of the widely shared doubt that Tebow has the package of skills necessary to lead a team to a Super Bowl at the quarterback position.

He isn't the prototypical QB. He does not throw a consistently accurate ball, nor have the arm strength for the deep pass required in today's offense. He is not a speedy scrambler. He is however a gifted athlete with exemplary work habits and football instincts. Used correctly in a novel way in the offense he can be an effective weapon. But, the deeply held belief inside the NFL that he is not a viable candidate for a starting quarterback job is not shared by much of the public.

The only type of franchise that can withstand the media barrage that will occasion his signing and the endless coverage of his every move is a secure, stable, winning team with a popular superstar with proven results at the quarterback position. Enter the Patriots.

LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports.

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