Tim Tebow hasn’t played a down of regular season football since 2012, but if he beats out Matt Barkley for the Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback job, he’ll be just a Sam Bradford injury away from being a starter again. If Eagles fans aren’t scared by this possibility, they should be.
Of course, the prospect of Barkley starting could be just as scary. Unlike Tebow, Barkley doesn’t provide any value as a backup as a runner. Which means there is a very real possibility that Tebow could win the job.
If Barkley isn’t clearly better as a passer than Tebow, it’s hard to imagine Tebow’s other qualities not making a difference. Barkley definitely has the edge as he will start Thursday night’s game against the New York Jets, but it’s definitely not an insurmountable lead.
So far this preseason, Barkley is 23-of-43 for 306 yards and one interception. Tebow is 10-of-19 for 97 yards with 10 carries for 50 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Barkley’s completion percentage is marginally better, but his 7.2 yards per attempt is significantly better than Tebow’s 5.1.
Tebow’s 50 rushing yards on 10 carries plus whatever he gains Thursday night is what could sway head coach Chip Kelly. Tebow could be used as a runner or decoy in two-point conversion or short-yardage situations. Barkley would strictly be a backup even if he wins the job.
Getting extra value out of a roster spot that teams generally don’t even use could be enticing for the forward-thinking Kelly. Maximizing limited resources is a Kelly staple. His fast-paced practices are designed to maximize limited practice time and his data-centric approach to hydration and sleeping are aimed at getting players to perform to their maximum mental and physical abilities.
Why would Kelly not think similarly when it comes to the construction of his roster?
Most teams are doomed if they have to rely on their backup quarterback for any length of time. When the Arizona Cardinals lost Carson Palmer last year, their odds of winning dropped significantly, especially in the playoffs.
For this reason, it’s certainly possible Barkley is not competing against Tebow, but trying to convince Kelly he can run the offense effectively if Bradford ever goes down for multiple games. That’s a much taller order than simply being better than Tebow.
Tebow simply has to prove he provides real value in other ways and that he’s capable of executing the offense for a short period should Bradford get miss a few plays or one game. It’s a much lower standard, which is why Tebow can make the roster with a good performance Thursday night.