Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Vick to Patriots a Test For Drafting Tebow?

USA Today's Jim Corbett makes a fairly convincing case of why the Patriots should (or would... or could...) sign Michael Vick. To summarize:

(1) Belichick's Wildcat envy-ish.
(2) Pats an ideal sheltered, no-drama environment.
(3) Randy Moss.

Agreed on all counts. I am particularly interested in the first one -- the strategic value of a player with Vick's skills to Bill Belichick.

Vick suffered through Jim Mora, who was more interested in forcing a West Coast system on Vick than innovating around one of the most unique talents in NFL history.

Belichick would have no such issues with innovation -- as his previous comments about Tim Tebow and the Wildcat-ish offensive sets would evidence. (Not to mention his adoption of the spread offense to let Brady and Co. run wild in 2007.)

There is nothing stopping Belichick from signing Vick, keeping him in line (re: Moss) and offering him 5-10 situational (Wildcat, single-wing, etc.) snaps per game in relief of Tom Brady.

Don't think Belichick wouldn't do it.

And don't think that -- if Belichick says that Tom Brady can be replaced 5-10 ideal situations per game -- any starting QB in the league can ever claim exemption from a coach's interest in layering in a few situationally relevant single-wing/Wildcat plays using a special QB. Like Vick.

Or like Tebow.

You know my long-standing theory: Given Bill Belichick's strategic curiosity about the single-wing AND his BFF status with Urban Meyer, the Patriots will draft Tim Tebow.

They will play Tim behind Tom, using Tebow in special situations 5-10 times per game, probably with unusually efficient and proficient success. In 5 years -- or whenever Brady retires (or gets injured) -- an NFL-mature Tebow will take over as Patriots starting QB.

(Bonus conspiracy theory: When Belichick retires, Bob Kraft hires Urban Meyer -- coming off umpteen national titles -- to coach his favorite player ever.)

Let's tie the two ideas together: Belichick signs Vick for the upcoming season, using Vick to experiment with Wildcat-ish/single-wing formations... in preparation to draft Tim Tebow in 2010, then use Tebow to build on the innovation Belichick started with Vick.

(Here's the only rub: The Pats could sign Vick on the cheap. If he was effective, why give up on that, especially if they would have to pay Tebow "1st-round QB" draft money. Unless, of course, by next spring, the rookie pay scale is obliterated. Also: If Vick WAS effective, he would instantly be a sought-after free-agent again, commanding more money and a longer commitment, which won't come from the Pats, especially if they have their sights set on drafting Tebow.)

So there you have it: The Patriots will sign Michael Vick as an alpha test version before they draft Tim Tebow next year, who will be the beta version of Bill Belichick's grand experimentation in the single-wing and its variations.

With Belichick's seal of approval -- not to mention his success in using Vick, Tebow or whoever else he might sign to play the situational single-wing role -- the offense will flourish in the NFL.

-- D.S.

(PS: The corollary to my Tebow-Pats draft theory is that once the rest of the league figures out that Belichick wants Tebow, EVERYONE will want Tebow. His draft stock will surge -- potentially out of the Patriots' range; the Pats wouldn't gut their draft strategy, even if they love Tebow. So Tebow might not end up with the Pats -- but if he doesn't, he ends up in the Top 10 of the draft, which is a hell of a lot higher than any of the "experts" project for him right now... except NFL.com's Gil Brandt, who sees around the corner on this one, too.)

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