The Tebow Experiment and the Definition of Objective

There’s a way of thinking that’s really poisonous in our society today and it’s this all-knowing way that so many of us, myself included, put labels like “good” and “bad” on things. For example, since I’ve been so outspoken in my support of Tim Tebow, I had quite a few people contact me on social media letting me know he was released with an “I told you so attitude.”

Well, you didn’t really tell me anything. I just supported the Tebow Experiment in Philadelphia because there are two people in this world who I see living out the version of Jesus Christ that I envision in the Bible, they are: Tim Tebow and Justin Wren. Now, Tebow is just barely 28 years old and he has accomplished so much more off the football field than we could even imagine. Yet, there really are people out there, not just internet trolls, who have negative things to say about the guy because of what he does with a football in his hands….

Actually, let me rephrase that, there are people out there who, clearly, do not like Tim Tebow and cheer for his demise, while he establishes hospitals in the Phillippines and saves the lives of children while inspiring, apparently, every single person he meets, even if it’s just for a few minutes. You will never, ever hear a negative thing about Tim Tebow. He has that “it” factor off the field that Michael Jordan had on the court, as Brendan Schaub put it on today’s episode of The Fighter and the Kid, when they’re at a party with the most famous people in the world, Tebow is the one with the crowd around him. He’s a living, breathing inspiration for other living, breathing inspirations.

Justin Wren is a former painkiller addict, who was an MMA fighter until he stopped five years ago to go save the pygmies in the Congo and started a foundation called Fight For the Forgotten. He has since partnered with a company called @Water4 and, together, they have already built about 25 water wells for the pygmy people. Again, this is some Jesus Christ type stuff, this big, heavyweight MMA fighter sized pale white dude with hair so blonde that it’s basically white with a blonder beard just walked into their village one day and started improving their lives. These are people that had probably never ever seen a white person like this one before, before and were living in a place where they were treated as sub-human slaves, so sub-human that other tribes would kill and eat pygmies. Think about it, if you were treated like a slave and only got two bananas for your family to eat at the end of the workday, just enough to keep you alive for the next day, so you had to come back to work, how would you feel about yourself? You’d start feeling a little sub-human yourself.

Then, this creature, who looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before enters into your tribe, becomes a part of your family and provides you with something that is foundational for life and human survival. Just sit on that thought…it’ truly mystical, almost psychedelic stuff. To those human beings, Justin Wren MUST feel like something sent from God.

You know the hero of your favorite movie? That’s what guys like Tebow and Wren are. This is why there are standing ovations when a third string quarterback comes in the game. I was at three of the Eagles four preseason games because of the pure childlike excitement that I get out of analyzing what Kelly and Co are doing down there and seeing if I can kind of test myself and predict what I think they should do or what they are going to do. So in my opinion, I saw this Tebow move the same way I think they saw it, the opportunity to see what an uber-talented, former Heisman trophy winning quarterback who Urban Meyer called “the hardest working player” he’s ever coached.

Was it a failed experiment? Not at all. Tebow graciously tweeted out, “Thanks @Eagles and Coach Kelly for giving me the opportunity to play the game I love! Romans 8:28 #Blessed.” On their Gameday, Tebow tweeted out an awesome picture of himself and Kaka from Brazil’s National Team as they were staying at the same hotel in Jersey City as the Eagles played the Jets Thursday, while Brazil plays Costa Rica in a friendly on Sunday at Red Bull Arena.

To all you people, just take a look at the positivity from Tebow in the tweet the other day and the message he’s sending with the Kaka tweet. Here is a guy who seemed to me to be soaking in the entire experience throughout training camp, he seemed to have a childlike enthusiasm on Gameday, just thankful to play the game he loves at least one more time. Is he upset that he is no longer a Philadelphia Eagle? I’m sure of it, but I’m also sure that guys like Tebow and Wren might lose in the arena of sports, but it pales in comparison to what they’re creating within our world.

These aren’t the only people who are living like this, there are millions of these kinds of messengers of Christ, of inspiration if you don’t want to use a religious term, throughout the country. When I was training at DeFranco’s Gym throughout college I was surrounded by NFL stars like Brian Cushing and Dave Diehl every summer, but there was one guy who garnered a specific brand of respect, former Tampa Bay Bucs running back, Kareem Huggins. He was another version of this kind of living example of the Bible in action as he taught me through his own actions, through belief and faith in the unseen. He was injured during Week 6 of the 2010 season against the Saints, he seemed like a player poised to grow into a big role for the team, but suffered a pretty devastating knee injury. From that point forward, he believed in a future that was unclear, he worked harder at his craft than anyone who I’ve ever met and he simply kept the faith. Now, has Kareem had the level of success that he was hoping to have in the NFL? No, not even close, but with the hand he was dealt, he has exceeded any expectations that anyone could have set for him as he was given his diagnoses regarding his knee. He had at tryout with the Dolphins in 2011 and Patriots in 2012 and was on the Jets for a week in 2013. He was in such phenomenal shape at one workout that a scout called Joe DeFranco up to let him know that they’d never seen anyone in such great physical shape. That’s who Kareem Huggins is. The guy who controls what he can control.

Kareem has spent a ton of time mentoring and teaching a young, former Villanova running back named Kevin Monangai who, like Kareem, is an undrafted free agent. Just last week, like Tebow, Monangai was released by the Eagles and, like I assume with Tebow, he was disappointed, but he couldn’t be more confident in himself now after he went out and performed extremely well during the preseason. That’s the thing with the Eagles, they had about 75 guys who I think will make an NFL roster this season, much like the 2013 Seahawks, so it just becomes a numbers game, you can’t keep more than 53 and eight on your practice squad. So at some point, the people who make player personnel decisions have to make really difficult decisions and they have to cut extremely good football players because they believe someone else, or a couple players, that will be on the 53-man roster, can fill the roles he was being asked to fill, better than he can. Once you get to the practice squad, I think that most coaches are looking for guys who can give you a specific look for each week’s opponent as well as who can potentially improve and be on your 53-man roster in the future.

Kevin is an incredible young man himself and there’s a certain level of Kareem Huggins style belief and faith in him as well. He understood that the Eagles have four tremendous running backs in Demarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, and Kenjon Barner who showed an incredible level of explosiveness during training camp. Then, after those four, Raheem Mostert had an incredible camp as well, looking like an explosive dual threat back who could rush the ball and catch it, but the Eagles waived him too. That’s just the nature of the beast though, they had two of the best undrafted free agent running backs that you could ask for and they couldn’t even find a spot for them on the 53-man roster. And that, that is exactly why there were NFL Executives from 12-15 teams at their first preseason game against the Colts.
These are the kind of human beings you want to surround yourself with, so you can’t imagine how much it frustrates me to hear people who, typically have never played the game at a high level, bash a professional football player with these “good” or “bad” kinds of debates, meaning, unquantifiable arguments as good and bad aren’t objective facts, by nature they’re opinions. Example being, Justin Wren was addicted to pills, which is bad, right? But out of that experience, he basically became this worldwide inspiration and a messenger of hope for an entire tribe of people; and, without that experience of become addicted to pills, that may have never happened. So was his addiction to pills a “good” thing in the end?

This is also why I have such faith and love for a certain kind of individual who has either been through some traumatic, tough life experience or has unwavering religious faith to the point where they exemplify everything that their religion or any religion should stand for. And, quite simply, that is love. Every religion at it’s most perfect is love. This is why in ancient Hebrew, I believe, we find that the word for God and love have the exact same numerical value.

So if you are one of these anti-Tim Tebow people, it really says a lot more about you than it does about Tim Tebow as, believe me, Tebow isn’t concerned about what you think, he has a plan for his life and he’s following it. Also, if you ever ran into Tebow, all that hate would suddenly dissipate and you would realize you were in the room with someone special. This is part of why Pete Carroll brought Nate Boyer into the Seahawks as a long snapper, even though they had a great one in Clint Gresham. To start, it’s clear that Boyer has the talent play in the NFL, so Carroll got a player who gave one of the best snappers in the league some stiff competition, while also giving the entire Seahawks organization the privilege and experience of being around such an incredible human being. If you want to get a piece of that inspiration, read this wonderful July 4th weekend inspired essay from Boyer himself.

Obviously, I’m not comparing the is Tim Tebow a “good” football argument to an addiction to pills, but it’s an example of how this argument isn’t an objective argument. Without real parameters for what something even means, the argument can’t be objective. Before I go any further, let’s define what the word objective means because I think it’s one of those words that we hear so much and just assume we know exactly what it means. I just assumed I knew the definition myself, but now that I’ve read it and understand it, now I can actually use this word to it’s fullest potential, which, as you will see, is pretty important and extremely helpful in communicating these ideas.

Now, there are a few definitions for the word objective as it can be used as a noun and an adjective, so first, let’s look at it used as an adjective. According to Dictionary.com, when used in that manner, objective means “not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased,” they give us the example, “an objective opinion.” So by definition, when we’re talking football, when I reference to my constant attempt to keep an objective opinion on this site, I’m saying that I’m taking any of my personal feelings out of it and doing my best to only use an unbiased assessment of whatever we’re discussing at the time. Personally, I don’t do that for any other reason than it’s more fun to look at the game of football that way. Looking at the game merely as a fan of one specific team takes away so much of the excitement you can find in how the game is played.

What I LOVE about Over The Cap is that I think we will revolutionize the way NFL teams are built the way that MLB teams were revolutionized by Bill James’ research, most notably his hypothesis regarding the importance of on-base percentage that created the Moneyball style of play popularized by Michael Lewis’ book by the same name regarding the low-budget Oakland Athletics of the early-2000s. Someone asked me the other day what got me into this Over The Cap and Caponomics stuff and I think, more than anything, it was listening to the audiobook for Moneyball and The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took A Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First by Jonah Keri from Grantland. (Follow him at @JonahKeri.) Add in that I listened to those audio books right around the time that I discovered OverTheCap.com myself and it was the perfect mixture for me to really dive into studying the NFL salary cap.

I also will always remember something Brian Cushing said to me regarding Drew Rosenhaus. He mentioned to me how he was blown away by the way Rosenhaus seemed to know every detail about any contract you could ask him about, a true master of his craft. Being that I want to be a successful NFL agent at some point, I came to Over The Cap as someone attempting to learn about contracts, which I have, but I’ve been even more drawn to the aspects of how to build an NFL roster through these 21 cap era Super Bowl champions. Through looking at the game this way, I have even accomplished the first feat, I know more and more about NFL contracts in 2015 and I have an understanding of what has worked historically. I think this practice has greatly improved my abilities as an agent as I will now be able to go into negotiations and have an understanding of what both sides need to succeed. With the way the salary cap is increasing by about 105-110% of the prior year’s cap every year, I think that the way that teams and owners negotiate is changing. I also believe that more historical information, which we’ve been providing through Over The Cap, but which every NFL team should have access to, will affects these negotiations. For example, as we saw with the Russell Wilson deal, smart negotiators on both sides understand the way that increasing guaranteed money could benefit everyone involved. As an agent, contracts that make sense, rather than “the tear them up after three years because the player was never going to see the money in the last two years anyway” contracts are more beneficial to the players long term.

Even more importantly than what I think everyone here at OverTheCap.com will accomplish together and individually in transforming the NFL through the salary cap is what I think we’re helping create a growing group of educated football fans that don’t simply look at football as something that’s pure entertainment, they look at it like the chess match or a UFC fight, understanding the layers upon layers of strategic decisions that NFL organizations have to make. Our readers rarely go into the comment section and leave some garbled essay of nonsense letting me know how I “suck at life and know nothing” because I share some thought of mine like the Raiders are the Raiders until they prove they aren’t the Raiders. You know what I mean.

Most importantly, when we look at NFL football for the chess match that it is, we see similarities and lessons that we can take from a football team and apply to ourselves. Every human being should have their own craft that we’re trying to master whether that’s writing, coaching, parenting, painting, exercising, boxing, any sort of creative craft that tests your problem solving skills and gives you a sense of fulfillment. We have all been there, we know when a lazy Labor Day Weekend feels best. A lazy Labor Day Weekend feels best when you’ve earned it, when you’ve put in a good summers worth of work, you took care of your business and your personal life and you’ve just earned 48 hours or so to turn your brain off.

When isn’t that lazy day or weekend fulfilling? It’s not fulfilling when you’re always lazy, when you’re a perpetual lazy person as you don’t know what it means to EARN that relaxation. (I’ve 100% been that person at times.) Everyone here has probably had that killer workout that made you throw up or damn near pass out, I remember mine, it was the entire summer of 2009 at DeFranco’s Gym when I was trying to lose 15 pounds and training with one of DeFranco’s deepest class of NFL rookies training with him. That summer, every laxy day was earned and the confidence that I walked into my 2009 season at URI after that summer of work was what propelled me forward to earning a half scholarship during spring ball in 2010.

Now, when I wasn’t mastering a craft, when I was done playing football and hadn’t picked up writing yet, my life really fell apart as I created an entire set of bad habits. It wasn’t until I picked up writing as a more serious pursuit than I had previously that I started to get my life back in order.

I think (well, I hope) that every single serious reader of Over The Cap who has their own passion projects and craft their trying to master gains some of the cross-analytic kind of thinking that I gain from people like Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan, from my writing and the entire staff here at OTC.

So that’s why I think it’s more fun, more rewarding, more purposeful to look at things objectively, but bringing it back to the definition again, let’s look at the noun. When used as a noun, objective can mean “something that one’s efforts or actions are intended to attain or accomplish; purpose; goal; target,” with an example of it being used in a sentence being “the objective of a military attack; the objective of a fund-raising drive.”

So only when we look at things objectively in the NFL, we can actually start to figure out how to accomplish the objective of every NFL team: winning a Super Bowl, creating a dynasty. That’s something that summarizes a large part of what Caponomics is, taking the cap era Super Bowl champions to give myself an objective way to analyze the NFL salary cap, an objective way to create a way of thinking that could help a team, not only accomplish the main objective in the NFL, but do it in a way that builds and sustains dynasties in the manner that the Patriots have for the last 15 years. Over the summer, I realized there was a place I could actually study the implementation of these kinds of Caponomics ideas in action, the Philadelphia Eagles.

I was drawn to them even before I realized that their cap figures are very similar to the Super Bowl positional averages for the 21 cap era champions that I’ve been researching for Caponomics. The Eagles offseason became interesting from almost day one, as general manager Howie Roseman was relived of his duties as GM and is now the Executive Vice President of Football Operations. To put that plainly, it means that Chip Kelly has final say in all personnel decisions now. It’s nothing against Roseman, there’s a reason he’s still on the staff in a very prominent role, but I believe that the head coach should be in charge of personnel because he should know better than anyone the kinds of athletes he needs for his system to work.

Figure: 2015 Eagles Positional Spending Against Super Bowl Average

Difference Btwn 2015 Eagles on 9.7.15 and SB Avg

As I write in Caponomics, the way that Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones balanced the football knowledge with the business knowledge in the early-1990s Cowboys is a lot of fun to analyze, but it was before the salary cap was implemented. I like to imagine that if a team took the lessons of Caponomics and applied them in the way that best fit their team’s roster needs based on their coach’s system, they’d compete for a Super Bowl every year.

In today’s NFL, the Bill Belichick dynasty that was created in the early-2000s is still around and I believe it’s largely because Belichick is not only the head coach, but also the general manager, the decision maker on all player personnel moves. Considering that the head coach should be in command of a system that he created himself, no one should know what players he needs better than he should. This is why Belichick has been able to find high-value players, guys who don’t cost much money, but provide the team with production and consistency in an important role. The Patriots of the early-2000s were built with veterans on short, inexpensive contracts, a very interesting way to get massive value out of your cap spending, but only possible if you have a coach, general manager, decision makers who understand EXACTLY what skills you need on your team to implement the strategy and system that the head coach and his staff are attempting to put in place.

Those of you who follow me on twitter know I’m a big Tebow supporter, so I was naturally very excited to see the Eagles take on the low-risk, high-potential reward experiment of trying out Tebow after two years working on his throwing motion with QB guru Tom House. According to Schaub from TFATK, Tebow blew other, more well known quarterbacks out of the water in these drills, which, obviously doesn’t mean anything, but another thing that leads me to believe he’ll land somewhere. His salary in 2015 was only going to be $660,000 and it had zero guaranteed money, so there was literally no risk for them. They got to see a player who Urban Meyer has said numerous times is the hardest working player that he’s ever coached and Tebow had a chance to show the world that he improved on a huge platform for 32 NFL teams and 9 CFL teams, which he did. Kelly, being one of the most forward thinking coaches in the league, apparently told Tebow to go to the CFL, so that he can get more game reps, which I think is very sound advice considering Tebow hadn’t really played football in a live situation since 2011 before this training camp.

That brings us to what the Eagles were saying the other day, they’re just working to put together the best 53-man roster that they can and Tebow didn’t end up being a part of those plans. Just like every single training camp, when a guy cuts, in no way is it some kind of arbiter of who’s good and bad, but rather just that, a decision that an organization makes to put together the best team that they can to succeed at the plan they have to execute. For the Eagles, Tim Tebow, at this moment, is not a part of those plans. Considering that he’s so unorthodox and only a handful of teams in the NFL, the Eagles, Texans, Jets, Dolphins, and Bucs being the ones I know of heading into the season, the Eagles may feel that he, and the Eagles, would be best served by Tim playing in the CFL, getting game reps that he wouldn’t get in the NFL, improving himself and then coming back later this season or even next year.

Tebow just turned 28 this August, so yes, he’s getting up there in age for an average NFL player, but he’s essentially had the last three years off, he works harder than anyone and he takes care of his body, so there’s no reason why he couldn’t still create some kind of career for himself at this point. Steve Young played his way into the Hall of Fame and the NFL annals as one of the best quarterbacks of all time and he didn’t even earn the starting job with the 49ers until he was 30-years-old in 1991. His first great season was in 1992 and then from that year through 1998, he averaged 3,467 passing yards per season with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 350 yards and four touchdowns per season, rushing for 5.8 yards per carry. It was the effects of concussions that caused Young to retire after the 1999 season at 38-years-old.

It’s my feeling that Tebow is really just years ahead of his time as, it’s my belief, that the number of spread offenses will increase year-by-year moving forward. Other than the Eagles, the other four teams running the spread have all only started doing so during 2014 or 2015, while the Eagles only started in 2013. Teams like the Steelers, Packers, Colts and Patriots run a sort of spread variation it feels like at times because they all run the no-huddle at times, but their offenses still aren’t spread based.

I believe that, over time, the level of creativity and individuality in these offenses systems will increase as there are just too many different ways to win a football game for the NFL to continue to this copycat style that’s kind of come out of the salary cap era. Considering that every team has a floor and ceiling on their spending on salaries, there becomes this range of possible outcomes and, in the NFL, the margin between the good and the bad is very slim, so every team is kind of incentivized to not risk doing something crazy and failing miserably. They know they can just toil around in the middle and hope they luck into a Super Bowl along the way. Very few actually teams approach the game with the same purpose as Ozzie Newsome whose goal is to have a team that can make the playoffs every year. His thinking is, if you make the playoffs every year, you have a chance to win the Super Bowl every year, and eventually you’ll win one. With a purpose like that, the Ravens have been able to identify the best way to accomplish this goal using the salary cap and finding the right players for their roles at the right prices.

It’s when you take that approach of being a consistent, strong team, you fall into the “thinking like a college coach” that I’m writing about in Caponomics right now because you realize that you have to create a system that can replicate this every year rather than attempting to just “create” a Super Bowl caliber team every year without specific guidelines. The Eagles clearly use the ethos of thikning like a college coach as Kelly has almost completely turned over the roster these last three years with athletes who fill the exact role they need filled with the exact skill set that the role requires. They’ve even figured out how to get great value out of the quarterback position during a time where the quarterback market is very expensive and, if we’re going off the numbers I’ve gathered looking at what has worked for Super Bowl champions, they market is overpaid and due for a correction.

With some time on the field, getting reps, being able to play against solid competition and show what he can do, I’m certain that Tebow could get himself another shot with one of these spread teams. The issue for him has become, not only is he a spread quarterback, but if he’s not your starter, then he won’t really fit into the backup role as he’s going to be very much unlike your starter. It only adds to the chaos that not only is he more of a rusher than a guy like Sam Bradford, but he’s also a lefty, which is just an addition to other issues.

If Tebow takes Kelly’s advice, he can spend the rest of this season and most or all of next year’s CFL season working on his craft and, as I wrote in February, it’s a smart move to play in the CFL. With two years with House and some time in CFL game action, Tebow could continue to improve and make his mark in the NFL in 2016 or 2017 at the age of 29 or 30, which is young for a quarterback, and as Young showed, even one who runs the football.

I thought throughout the process that the Eagles would keep Tebow because, when any team gets to their third quarterback, they’re essentially screwed anyway. I really thought that they were going to keep him when they traded Matt Barkley as I thought I correctly predicted that they were attempting to increase Barkley’s stock during preseason and then flip him for draft picks. I also believe that Tebow could provide the Eagles with enough value in a run based offense with Demarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner. With Tebow under center, that would be a potent attack that would lead the league in rushing going away.

What might be the biggest problem for Tebow in Philly is that with Sam Bradford as the starter and Mark Sanchez as the back-up, they have two capable players who can run almost the exact same offense and be asked to the same things. I assume that the Eagles believe that Stephen Morris has the tools to be a solid third quarterback behind those two skill sets and has some upside. Off that assumption, I take it that they ranked having a third quarterback like Morris, or even Christian Ponder, who could come into a game and be asked to execute the same game plan as the one that Bradford or Sanchez. When Morris was released by the Jaguars on September 4th, I think the Eagles just looked at it like that and said to themselves, “here’s a guy who we had ranked higher than everyone else in the 2014 draft who’s available now and who gives us a #3 who could step in if Sanchez goes down during the game and we don’t have the change the game plan.”

That’s an issue Tebow could even face if he was a starter, the complete lack of players in the league who share his skill set as he’s really one of kind, something the league hasn’t really dealt with at least in the salary cap era. Two players I would compare him to are Donovan McNabb and Dante Culpepper, who were both big dudes, like the 6’3”, 245-pound Tebow. While McNabb and Culpepper were probably better passers, we haven’t seen Tebow with the extended game time, with NFL starters, to see if he’s improved enough as a passer to take his game to the next level, which is definitely a huge part of Kelly’s CFL suggestion. If Tebow has made that jump as a passer and proves it in the CFL, then he could be an NFL starter in 2016 or 2017 for the right team, for a forward thinking coach who’s willing to attempt to win differently. Speaking of thinking like a college coach, if I’m the Browns, I give Urban Meyer a blank check. Run the Dan Mullen/Urban Meyer created spread offense in Cleveland with Johnny Football and Tebow battling for the starting job. With guys like Cardale Jones (6’5”, 250) and Dak Prescott (6’2”, 230) entering the draft in the coming years, there are two more Tebow-styled players who could fit into the Meyer offense with Tebow and/or Manziel. Two guys who actually ran it in college to great success. If both those guys are in the draft this year, the Browns have a rough season (Pettine leads the NFL with 11/4 odds of being fired), and Meyer has an undefeated season with that team FILLED with explosive playmakers, then the time will never be better for Meyer to make the jump to the NFL. Like Kelly, I think Meyer knows his system to the level where he would immediately make the Browns a playoff contender through finding low-cost, high-value players who fit his system.

The level of thought that goes into these roster decisions has to be on a level that we can’t even comprehend, they’re analyzing and debating things you and I haven’t even considered, so for the argument from people to be that so and so is good or bad just sounds tremendously childish to me having played college football and training with NFL guys and spending all this time analyzing the game. This CFL cornerback named Keith Williams stated to train at DeFranco’s in the early-2010s and under DeFranco’s training he got himself all the way down to a legit 4.19 and he could also bench 315 for 10-15 reps and jump out of the building. So when you see a guy like Keith not get some kind of opportunity in the NFL really humbles someone like myself. Those were the lessons that told me that I might want to rethink that whole “I’m going to play in the NFL” idea of mine and helped me refocus on staying involved in the game I love some other way.

When I know that an athlete like that isn’t getting invited to a training camp, you know that every single player in those camps is someone who is an “NFL caliber player” or at least an “NFL caliber athlete” who might be trying to learn a new position like GJ Kinne was with the Eagles this year. There is a increase in the number of teams who are analyzing a player’s explosiveness and attempting to find him a role where he can succeed. This is why there is no good or bad distinction in my mind because every single guy in an NFL preseason game could potentially make the 53-man roster if he has the perfect circumstances occur.

Just look at the JR Sweezy with the Seahawks. He was a defensive end at North Carolina State and wasn’t highly regarded by NFL scouts, but he was drafted by the Seahawks in the seventh round of the 2012 draft after agreeing to switch to the offensive line. Apparently, Tom Cable saw something in Sweezy and he has successfully made the full transition to the O-line as he has started 31 of the Seahawks last 32 games. Sweezy hasn’t been the only project for Cable though, as Gregg Bell at The News Tribune writes, their 2015 sixth rounder, Kristjan Sokoli was a DT at the University of Buffalo and was “looking impressively athletic at center” in May and is on the 53-man roster as of today.

The margin for error is so small in football that just the smallest thing could change the course of a career. It could be an injury in training camp or it could be the fact that you were just playing the “wrong” position for your entire career, but either way, there are an almost immeasurable number of factors behind exactly why each of the 1,696 players on NFL 53-man rosters today are on them.

For example, I sprained my ankle during spring football my sophomore year at URI and the training staff told me I would be fine when I left for summer. When I got back in the fall, I wasn’t fine, my ankle couldn’t handle the rigors of training camp and that injury set off a series of events that led to me never getting my career as a wide receiver off the ground. Never appearing for more than 10 or 12 plays in a game at receiver, plus the three or four reps a game I got as our punt returner. I was likely never going to make it to the NFL, there just aren’t many rosters that need a poor man’s Wes Welker, but how many guys who could have had solid NFL careers never get the chance because of an injury? One of my best friends from URI, Matt Hansen, looked like he was fighting his way onto Atlanta’s 53-man roster heading into his second season in 2012, but then he tore his patella tendon that July and he’s never been able to break into a training camp again.

Football is a game of inches is an old cliché that I like to use myself, but it’s also a huge game of luck. Whether you’re Bill Belichick, Nick Saban, Pete Carroll or Chip Kelly, there is only so much you can control. You can’t control if your best player is going to get injured or not, but you can control having a formidable back-up who could carry the starters load if injury strikes. Players themselves can only control so much as well, so many of these players in NFL training camps can only do their best, they can’t worry about anything outside of that because some random roster move in Jacksonville could put someone in Philadelphia at risk, or one injury in Green Bay can lead to an entire fan base being excited for a player who was just cut by the Giants.

Looking at Tebow, what if the Eagles had a player like Marcus Mariota at quarterback? Or Colin Kaepernick in a spread offense? Russell Wilson? Ryan Tannehill? Shoot, what if Tebow was a righty too? What if Urban Meyer took a head-coaching job in the NFL in 2010? What if he came around five years later after Kelly had really introduced the spread to the league? There hadn’t been more than a handful base spread offenses before Kelly came to Philly in 2013 and by 2014 the Texans and Bucs had opted to go to the spread, while Miami took his quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor to try implement his spread system. If Tebow entered the league with five spread teams in the league, he may have found himself a home as a rookie rather than having to break back into the league after two years out.

There are an endless number of factors that influence every single roster decision that an NFL team makes and not a single one of those decisions is based on where that player is “good” or “bad.” Just imagine if we had a political system where people didn’t look at everything as good or bad and actually had an intellectual debate based on the objective facts regarding an issue. Things would actually get done, people would actually get along. So in the real world, in a world of real consequences, in business or in football, you have to think objectively when you’re discussing these things or else you’ll make yourself to sound like a fool.

Players and agents have a responsibility to understand this concept as well. Understand that every team in the NFL is, or should be, looking for a specific kind of player for every role on their team and you should try to figure out how a person with your attributes fits onto each roster. If you’re a short, slot receiver who’s not that fast, but has great hands and is quick, like I was, then you’re probably not going to try to play for an offense like the Ravens to try to win the job that Breshad Perriman is taking over for Torrey Smith, who is now with the 49ers. When I see the way that Antonio Brown plays the receiver position, I wish that I understood that being a technician, a master of the receiver position, is more important than everything and anything else. It’s important for a player like I was to model their game off of a player like Brown, who has a similar skill set, rather than model it off of what Calvin Johnson does at 6’5”, 235-pounds.

If I’m a fullback, I’m not going to go play for the Eagles, but for some reason the Titans drafted Marcus Mariota and a fullback in the same draft this year. While I think Mariota will succeed no matter what they ask him to do there, why even draft a fullback? Is having a fullback on the 53-man roster going to help you take advantage of the skills Mariota’s bringing with him?

I was watching UFC 191 this weekend with Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson against John Dodson in the main event for the flyweight belt. As Joe Rogan said, “Jon Dodson is the fastest guy in a division full of the fastest guys,” but Mighty Mouse is “arguably the best pound for pound MMA fighter in the world” and everyone talks about him being the best martial artist at the technical level. What we saw in that fight was there is only so far that pure athleticism and explosiveness can get you, which is very, very far, but to get up into that top 0.001% you have to not only have that pure athleticism and explosiveness, but you have to be a master of your craft. When you look at Tebow, he has everything talent wise and he’ll never be outworked, he just needs to continue mastering his craft, which is throwing the football and playing in a real game situation, something that he couldn’t practice while not on a team the last two years. If Tebow did that well without game action in really about three and a half years, then I have to believe he’ll look even better after some time getting reps in the CFL, so we might still see a miraculous comeback story. If he decides against it, that’s fine too, he can spend his time doing College Gameday and saving lives in the Phillippines.

 

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  • Kaedwon

    I’m an Eagles fan and I guess one of those people you’d characterize as “anti-Tebow.” Not because I dislike him as a person because I don’t. I tend to believe all the nice things said about him as a humanitarian. I just did not like him as a QB because he’s never been very good at it, not at the NFL level, and at his age there was next to zero chance he ever would be. I also dislike the media distraction that follows Tebow everywhere he goes. Perhaps this is not entirely his fault, but he certainly doesn’t discourage it either. But it’s really just football. As a bottom-line kinda guy, which you need to be at some point, I’d think you would realize that Tebow simply wasn’t talented enough to make it in the NFL.

    As for Chip Kelly, his basic philosophy is to put as much stress on the opposing defense as possible by forcing it to cover the entire field, and to run plays quickly. This requires a QB who is both smart and accurate, who can read defenses and find open receivers in 2 seconds. It does not, contrary to popular belief, require a running QB. You can’t be a running QB in the NFL; hell, you can’t even stand there in the r/o and hand off without getting blown up, as T. Suggs demonstrated this preseason. I do know that the Eagles can win a SB with Sam Bradford because he possesses all the traits of an elite QB (if only he could stay healthy). Tebow had one nice run four years ago. But John Elway knew it was a fluke. So did 31 other GMs, for two consecutive years.
    I wish Tebow well in his career in the broadcast booth. I’m sure playing in Regina or Winnipeg crossed his mind, but the sooner he begins the next phase of his life, the happier he’ll be. The happier we’ll ALL be.

    • I wouldn’t consider you anti-Tebow though. I would consider you someone who is also looking at the situation objectively and has your own objective opinion, which is fine by me. I tend to agree with most of what you say outside of our conclusions.

      I agree with the difficulty of being a running QB in the NFL, except I think that you could be one, it’s just not something that a) you can do too long-term and b) there aren’t enough QBs with that skill set to replicate him as a back-up.

      I also believe the Eagles can and will win a SB with Bradford, they’re my pick to win it.

      Agreed on the broadcast booth thing as well, for who he is as a person, what he can do for the world, we’re all probably better off with him off the field. Excited to see what he does with his life and, in most professional sports, there are very few people you can say that about before they retire. Only guys like Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky, right? So he’s put himself in that pantheon of people without being the best in the sport like they were.

  • McGeorge

    I thought Tebow looked better than at any time in his career, but it was against backups. I was surprised that they cut him only to sign yet another QB. Maybe Chip felt no one else would want Tebow, so he would be available later if needed.

    I’m not so sure that Tebow is ahead of his time. Rather that it’s difficult to develop an NFL QB skill set, and that’s generally not done in college. There will be a shortage of good QBs in 5 years as the current crop of excellent QBs retires (except for Aaron Rodgers who may go on a bit longer)

    • “I thought Tebow looked better than at any time in his career, but it was against backups. I was surprised that they cut him only to sign yet another QB. Maybe Chip felt no one else would want Tebow, so he would be available later if needed.”

      Really solid point on the Chip feeling no one else would want him, that was my thought too. I think Chip WANTS Tebow to go to the CFL to improve himself, so he may even be an option for them in 2016. I wouldn’t put it past them to let Bradford go if he asks for too much money and Tebow would still be an option that gets them through until they find a long-term in the draft.

      • McGeorge

        I don’t know enough about Football, and I’m not an Eagles fan, but if Chip Kelly can get as much as he did out of Sanchez, and have Tebow playing as well as he did, I have to assume he has created a pretty good system.

        For me, one of the most interesting things to watch in 2015 is how do the Eagles do with Bradford. Bradford has “potential”, being the #1 pick in 2010, but he hasn’t done much in 5 years. Can Kelly turn him into a good QB? Will it be because of his system? Or is Kelly (and/or the QB coach) good at developing QBs.

        If Chip Kelly has the ability to turn a below average QB into a slightly above average one (and a slightly above average QB into a very good one) then he has saved 10 million on the Eagles cap (i.e. he’s done a kick ass job).

    • With the comment about backups though, considering how poorly the OL played for him, I feel he’d look even better with better players around him.