Eisenberg: What if Ravens Draft Tim Tebow?


OK, so this idea came to me. It sounds outrageous. It sounds impossible. Actually, it's neither. It's an eyebrow-raiser, that's what it is. An eyebrow-raiser with potential.

What if the Ravens drafted Tim Tebow?

I know. I can list the reasons why it doesn't make sense. With Joe Flacco*as a starter and Troy Smith* as a backup, the Ravens don't need a young quarterback. They need receivers, defensive backs and more. And although Tebow was a spectacular legend in college, at Florida, his unusual throwing delivery makes his pro future uncertain.

The Ravens probably will take that receiver or defensive back with their first pick. But Tebow, who has pledged to revamp his delivery to make himself a better pro, doesn't figure to go in the first round. And if he is still available when the Ravens make their later selections -- especially in, say, the third round -- he would make one fascinating addition.

Tebow, potentially, could really help the Ravens achieve their top offseason goal of making their offense more dangerous in 2010.

They didn't use their Wildcat-style offense a whole lot last season (they call it their Suggs Package) but Tebow ran a variation at Florida and rewrote the college record book. He is big and tough and certainly the most decorated running quarterback since Vince Young. If the Ravens had him, they could let offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's fertile mind loose on the idea of a Purple Wildcat with Tebow under center. Whew, talk about a new weapon. I can envision Tebow taking a snap and busting off tackle, as he did at Florida. I can envision him taking a step forward, then dropping back and passing. I can envision a jump-pass touchdown toss to Todd Heap.

Sure, the Ravens would still use their standard pro-style set with Flacco the vast majority of the time. But a Purple Wildcat could be a terrific change of pace. (Do you like how I've already named it?) At the very least, opponents would have to spend valuable practice time preparing for it.

Yes, the Ravens could do precisely the same thing with Troy Smith, who, like Tebow, is a winner with multiple athletic skills. But Tebow is a better runner. And Smith's agent made a public trade request last fall. Smith never said much about it and the whole thing came off somewhat curiously, but Smith clearly and understandably wants to play more, and if possible, start. He won't in Baltimore as long as Flacco remains upright. He could end up elsewhere.

But regardless if they trade Smith, the Ravens have a long history of not being afraid to draft to a strength and duplicate their talent. They took Jonathan Ogden when they already had Tony Jones at left tackle. They took Jamal Lewis when they already had Priest Holmes carrying the ball. They took Michael Oher when they already had Jared Gaither at left tackle. They took Chris McAlister when they already had Duane Starks at cornerback. Each of those moves proved enormously beneficial in the long run.

Taking Tebow when they already have Flacco and Smith would be a slightly different maneuver. Tebow wouldn't eventually replace the incumbent. His long-range career arc is unclear. But he could have a huge immediate impact. He is an extraordinary athlete who might be able to play some position other than quarterback. He is a driven, commanding leader. Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, an assistant at Florida before coming to Baltimore, was the guy who recruited Tebow to be a Gator. Mattison can vouch for his locker-room intangibles.

But most importantly, Tebow could really make things happen as the operator of the Purple Wildcat.

If you watched the Super Bowl, you saw what the Ravens are lacking, what they need to get to the next level. They need an offense with more pop, more skill, more unpredictability. Most observers believe the best way for them to achieve that is to bring in better receivers, and yes, that needs to happen. But by adding a new scheme, with a bona fide star running it, the Ravens could instantly make their offense more dangerous. It's not the worst idea. In fact, I would even say it makes sense.

John Eisenberg worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.

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