Tim Tebow (Doug Pensinger/Getty)
The Vikings started trading out of the first round as soon as the Denver Broncos traded up to draft Tim Tebow in 2010. It may have been more than a coincidence, given the Vikings’ quarterback needs.
There have been moments that have electrified the sports world as players burst on the scene and changed the landscape of the game. In baseball, the country was mesmerized by guys like Mark Fydrich and Fernando Valenzuela (back in a time when baseball was still America’s Game) coming out of nowhere and instantly being dominant over the course of a spring and summer. Football had Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, Bo Jackson and Randy Moss – guys who changed how the game was played because of their immediate dominance of their positions.
Then there’s Tim Tebow. He has become a national sensation in no small part because he has won four straight and five of six games as a starting quarterback, transforming a 1-4 Broncos team into a 6-5 division title contender. Thanks to Tebow, the Broncos found a way to beat all three divisional opponents on the road. The difference is, as Vikings fans will learn this week in a tutorial in Tebow 101, he is the top story around the country because so few people believed he could accomplish what he’s doing.
Sunday will be Tebow’s first visit to Minnesota, but, if my suspicions are correct, I believe that Tebow would be making approximately his 10th Metrodome start if Josh McDaniels hadn’t have jumped in the way.
I have to preface my Tebow theory on facial reaction. I’m a good poker player because I’m pretty adept at reading people. When the Broncos pulled the trigger on Tebow with the 25th pick, the Vikings were sitting at No. 30. They were coming off a season in which they were a botched play away from the Super Bowl and expected to return all 22 starters. Those were heady days.
There had been speculation that someone might roll the dice on Tebow, but the prevailing thought was that his slide could last well into the second round. After he went off the board, the Vikings started working the phones to trade out of the 30th spot. When Viking Update was in the post-pick interview throng with Rick Spielman and Brad Childress, both admitted that the team started talking to other teams “three of four picks before our pick came up.” While Mike Tice could have learned something from that thought process, it brought up the red flag as to the timing – the trade chatter started when Tebow went off the board.
I asked both Childress and Spielman about their reaction to Tebow going to the Broncos and both of them gave a “tell,” as they say in the poker world. Both seemed to react to the mention of his name and both were highly complimentary of the Broncos for having the courage to take Tebow that high, not the collective head scratching going on in other war rooms.
The more I thought about those reactions, the more I became convinced. What better situation was there for Tebow? Coming off the amazing success Brett Favre had enjoyed with the Vikings, there seemed little doubt the veteran was coming back in 2010. Not only would there be no pressure to force Tebow into the lineup, he would have a year to learn from a Hall of Famer and, as Vikings fans are now intimately aware, no rookie QB would stoke Favre’s massive ego as much as a hungry youngster hanging on every word of the Gospel According to Brett. He would be Favre’s legacy and a chance to make amends for not being the ideal mentor of Aaron Rodgers (if Favre cares about such things at all).
Throw into the mix that the Vikings already had Tebow’s Florida teammate Percy Harvin, who became an electrifying open-field player catching passes and taking pitches from Tebow, and things might have been much different. For an offense to succeed with a Tebow-style approach, you would need a power back capable of 20 or more carries. The Vikings were one of the few teams that could offer that with Adrian Peterson already establishing himself as the game’s premier running back.
Seeing as Spielman is still with the team, he won’t likely say anything concrete to confirm my theory, but I hope to run into Childress at some point. If and when I do, that will be one of my first questions. I am convinced that, had Tebow still been available when the Vikings were scheduled to pick at No. 30, he would be wearing purple as a member of the Vikings preparing to face Kyle Orton and the Denver Broncos, the Lions wouldn’t have Jahvid Best and the Vikings wouldn’t have drafted Chris Cook.
Tebow wasn’t a good fit with about 30 of the 32 teams (the only two I saw as legitimate were the Colts and Vikings, for arguably the same reason). On the Vikings, he would have been given a year to refine his mechanics and fans would have been supportive given the circumstances – they weren’t going to draft a starter they way the team was configured then.
There are those who know. But, as of yet, they aren’t talking. But, their “tells” remain open for interpretation.
Houston, you have a problem. Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who put his starting QB (Matt Schaub) on injured reserve during his bye week and saw his backup (Matt Leinart) lost for the season in his first start, said at his Monday news conference that he hasn’t ruled out calling Brett Favre. The Texans are 8-3 and in control of their division, but nobody believes they will go anywhere with T.J. Yates being handed the keys to the franchise. Just when you thought Favre was out, they keep pulling him back in.
The Vikings-Denver game has yet to sell out, but there are less than 3,000 tickets remaining as of Tuesday morning. There may be enough Tebow supporters to keep the sellout streak at the Metrodome alive in its 14th year.
Long snapper Cullen Loeffler is expected to be placed on injured reserve at some point this week with an injured sacrum. While the Vikings got a solid yeoman’s effort from Jared Allen Sunday, they are expecting to sign a long-snapping specialist soon to get work done with Chris Kluwe and Ryan Longwell. A decision may be made as soon as today.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.