Leave it to Bill Belichick to squelch Tebowmania. After it looked like Tim Tebow‘s NFL career could be coming to an inglorious end, the New England Patriots offered him a lifeline, signing Tebow to a two-year contract (with no guaranteed cash). During the first press conference of New England’s Tebow-era — which, naturally, involved a large media throng and an overwhelming number of questions about Tebow — a typically dour Belichick punted on all Tebow inquiries. USA Today excerpted some of the more thrilling moments:
What position will he play?
After an awkward pause, Belichick countered: “What position? We’re going to do what’s best for the football team. We’ll see.”
Did offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who drafted and coached Tebow with the Denver Broncos, have anything to do with this signing?
“I don’t know.”
This one, because it was a peach, we’ll quote word-for-word: “Coach, will you have any objections to Tim kneeling down and praying after he makes a big play, Tebowing as it’s come to be known?”
“I think we’ve already talked enough about him. I think I’ve covered it. Anything else?”
There were no declarations that Tebow could play 20 snaps a game, or that “you can never have too much Tebow,” like we saw in New York, with the Jets. As this introductory press conference makes clear, Belichick will do everything he can do shut down the Tebow circus. Belichick loves the quirks of football, and Tebow is a toy: Belichick may use him as a backfield decoy, to help block on punt formations, to do a drop kick like Doug Flutie. Belichick may cut Tebow before training camp is over. Belichick never shows his hand, and rarely shows any emotion while toying with reporters.
But Belichick’s sourpuss attitude won’t stop some New Englanders from getting stoked about Tebow, especially in the Evangelical Christian community. I called up Boston’s Park Street Church to gauge the reaction, and when I started to explain that I was a sports reporter, I didn’t need to continue. “Yeeaahhh,” said the man who picked up the phone, Andrew Allen, an administrator for the Park Street Church. “We’re totally psyched up, man. I out a sign up in my window –‘Tim Tebow Time.’ It’s going to be great.”
Allen has faith that Tebow can grow as a quarterback while backing up Brady. And if Brady retires in three or four years, maybe Tebow will be the one to try to fill his shoes. But can Tebow still remain influential in the Evangelical community if he doesn’t get on the field in New England. “Absolutely,” says Allen. What makes him such a compelling preacher? “The most appealing thing is he makes no apologies for things,” says Allen. “He’s an unapologetic defender of Christianity. I can’t wait to see what happens with him here.”
Matthew Keith Thompson, pastor of the Jubilee Christian Church, which has locations in Boston and Stoughton, admits that Massachusetts is no Evangelical hotbed. “Massachusetts is a liberal state,” says Thompson. “What the state believes, and what the Christian community believes, is usually very different. And that’s what makes the world fun.”
Thompson does not think Tebow will have an outsized impact on New England Evangelicals. “I don’t necessarily view him as a huge spokesperson,” says Thompson, whose 7,000-member congregation is about 85% African-American, in his estimation. “That’s something the media makes him out to be. There have been a lot of Christian athletes who have had an influence.” Thompson prefers to talk about Tebow in football, rather than religious, terms. “As a Pats fan, I’m excited,” says Thompson. “Just like in God I trust, in Bill Belichick, I trust. I trust he has a plan for Tebow.”