Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tebow not our type

Even if Bombers had his rights, bad fit for CFL

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Is Tim Tebow the long-term quarterback solution Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans have been waiting on for a decade now?

Probably not. And not just because the Montreal Alouettes hold the CFL negotiating rights to the quirky American QB, who was released by the NFL's New York Jets on Monday morning.

Don't get me wrong -- the issue of who has Tebow's CFL rights is no minor detail, particularly with Montreal GM Jim Popp telling anyone who would listen on Monday, including USA Today, that, why yes, he would be delighted to audition Tebow in an Als uniform this year, thanks so much for asking.

And why wouldn't Popp be interested? With Als starter Anthony Calvillo due to turn 41 this season, the end is surely near for Calvillo's Hall of Fame career and wouldn't it be nice if Tebow spent this season -- and maybe even next -- learning the CFL game from the most prolific passer in the history of pro football?

Which is exactly what Popp was proposing in the media on Monday. "If Tim Tebow wants to come to Canada, we would take a look at him," Popp told TSN's David Naylor. "He can learn from the best (Calvillo)... One day he might be the guy. That's our vision."

Bombers GM Joe Mack wasn't talking on Monday about his vision -- if any -- for Tebow, pointing out CFL rules prevent him from speaking publicly about any player on another team's neg list.

Which is probably just as well. Because if any team in the CFL could afford the high-profile Tebow, it would be Montreal. The Als are owned by the deep pockets of longtime CFL loyalist Robert Wetenhall, who has demonstrated over and over again through the years he doesn't mind spending money to field a winner.

But could the Als carry Calvillo and Tebow together this season -- not to mention newly acquired backup Quentin Porter -- and not exceed the CFL salary cap?

Well, that's where the Als' bookkeeping practices come in. A league source tells me that according to the internal team payrolls all the CFL GMs get to see, Calvillo is only the fourth-highest paid player in the league, earning, according to the Als, less than Hamilton's Henry Burris, Toronto's Ricky Ray and B.C.'s Travis Lulay.

I'm advised that the concensus among opposing GMs about that little factoid is twofold: A) Anthony Calvillo and his agent aren't idiots; and B) Yeah, right.

All of which is to say that if Tebow wants to come to Canada and the Als like what they see once he gets here, an investment banker like Wetenhall could probably find a way to make that work, one way or another.

So is Tebow interested in the CFL? Well, there were reports that he took in an Edmonton Eskimos practice earlier this month when the club held a mini-camp down in Bradenton, Fla.

But Tebow didn't seem to be talking publicly on Monday and his agent, Jimmy Sexton of the behemoth CAA agency, didn't return my voice-mail message.

All of which brings us back to the second reason Tebow is probably not a quarterbacking solution for Winnipeg, Montreal or anyone else in the CFL -- there's a good chance the same weaknesses in his game that make him so ill-suited to the NFL would make him even more unsuited to the CFL.

While all the buzz in the U.S. Monday was that Tebow would romp in the CFL like it's playground football, anyone who knows anything about the Canadian game knows that a guy who cannot throw accurately downfield or to the far sideline in the NFL -- like Tebow -- is going to have an even harder time with the longer and wider field in the CFL.

Popp seemed to acknowledge as much to USA Today's Mike Garafolo.

"What can he do?," Popp wondered. "Well, we don't know until we have him in our system. These questions about (Tebow's) throwing -- our field is wider, bigger and there are more holes. But the misconception of the CFL is it's much easier for a quarterback. That's not necessarily true. If you can't make all the throws, you can't win consistently in the CFL, either.

"So there are still unanswered questions. He's an intriguing person, but can he play in Canada?"

Well, can he?

Sure, yeah, Tebow might be the next Doug Flutie, an underdog exile from the NFL -- Flutie's issue was his diminutive stature -- who found a home in Canada and went on to a Hall of Fame CFL career.

But it says here it's even more likely Tebow would turn out to be Vince Ferragamo, the former NFLer who signed with the Als in 1981 for a princely $600,000 only to quickly flame out, throwing 25 INTs against just seven TDs and spending the latter part of a 3-13 Als season as the backup to Gerry Datillio.

In the end, the Ferragamo experiment lasted just one season and the Als franchise learned a valuable lesson that may come in handy 32 years later -- former NFL quarterbacks are anything but a sure thing in the CFL.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 30, 2013 D3

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