When it comes to NFL Draft prospects, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow isn't just the most highly-debated prospect of the year - he might be the most controversial prospect of the last decade. Half the country is convinced that the southpaw, coming from a spread offense at Florida, will never be able to master the techniques and defense-reading abilities required to be an NFL star. The other half is convinced that the wildly productive Heisman winner has the work ethic, intelligence and intangibles to overcome his well-documented shortcomings.
So, in response to your potential bewilderment over the headline of this article - yes, we're aware that Tebow is probably already on your radar. We're talking from a different angle here. Tebow should be on your radar because from initial appearances, the Buffalo Bills might end up really liking Tebow as a prospect - and, more importantly, as a quarterback.
GM Buddy Nix has only been on the job for four weeks in Buffalo, but it only took him a weekend to throw a few compliments Tebow's way. Chan Gailey, an offensive mind known for turning average quarterbacks into the leaders of playoff teams, brings a philosophy centered around adapting an offensive scheme to his players' talents. You don't need me to tell you that Buffalo is starved for a franchise quarterback. I'm not saying Tebow will get first-round consideration from Buffalo - or consideration at all, for that matter - but that headline rings true. He needs to be considered a serious candidate to become a Buffalo Bill.
Earlier this month, Nix did a radio interview with 97 Rock (WGRF; the official radio station of the Buffalo Bills) in which he was asked about Tebow as a prospect. Nix didn't exactly hold back his opinion:
"I love the guy, like everybody else. He's almost too good to be true."
"I've seen some stars fall before, but I don't think he will."
"He's gonna make any team he goes to better. He's gonna make the people around him better. He demands that, and you're embarrassed to let him down."
Nix didn't talk much about Tebow's quarterback skills, which are, of course, the most critical element to any evaluation of Tebow as a football player. We're not likely to ever know too much about the Bills' evaluation there - and keep in mind that Tom Modrak's opinions will carry at least some weight on that matter, even if he's fired right after the draft.
But it's clear that Nix respects Tebow the person, respects his work ethic and intelligence, and thinks a lot of his leadership abilities. Those facts alone should pique the interest of Bills fans; maybe there's more to it than a new GM simply throwing a few compliments a player's way.
Nix is well-known for preferring long-term production at the position as well. In fact, in an article from The Buffalo News this very morning, Nix spoke to Mark Gaughan about what made Philip Rivers such an attractive prospect to him while in San Diego:
"He had 51 starts, and he played in a bowl game every year, and he was the most valuable player in every bowl game he ever played in."
In short, it was Rivers' experience and production in big games that was a big selling point for Nix. Tebow is overqualified in this area - he appeared in four bowl games (three as a starter) and, in the three in which he started, he won MVP twice. He accumulated a lot of starts and a lot of wins, and no matter what evaluation Tebow gets on his raw skills, those wins and awards have historically been important to Nix, and thus shouldn't be disregarded.
Nix is all about production and character in football players. Again, from the above News article:
"It's based on a body of work. If you get a guy who's always done it, I think he'll continue to do it. These one-year wonders who you think nobody else has found? They're probably going to get you in trouble."
"Football character is a guy who knows how to be a pro. He knows how to work, he's dependable. Every Sunday you go out there you're going to get the same thing. There is a big difference between the two (football character and off-the-field character)."
Those signs all point to Nix being impressed, even if only on a general level, by Tebow as a prospect. Add in Gailey's willingness to work with rough-around-the-edges quarterbacks, and speculation is sure to increase.
None of this is to say that the Bills even view Tebow as an NFL-caliber quarterback. They might not; for all we know, they might look at him as the next great halfback. But three facts are undeniable:
- Nix's history indicates that he will probably like a lot of what he sees from Tebow, on tape and behind the scenes
- Buffalo needs a franchise signal-caller that has proven he can win, no matter how it's accomplished
- After an uninspiring start to the off-season, Tebow would at least raise some eyebrows in Western New York
So be warned, whether or not you like Tebow as a quarterback prospect or not. The groundwork exists for the Bills to become enamored with Tebow, whatever his role might be. If he's not on your radar already as a potential Bills draft pick, you'd be wise to change that immediately. A lot of this looks legitimate, though we'd also caution that it's very early in the pre-draft process.