Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Tim Tebow was released yesterday by the New England Patriots, ending a two-month run with the team and casting doubt over the future of one of the National Football League’s most polarizing players.
Tebow, 26, was cut two days after throwing two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to lead the Patriots to a 28-20 preseason win against the New York Giants. The 2007 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at the University of Florida was among 13 cuts announced by the Patriots as New England reached its 53-player roster limit for the season.
Tebow said in a Twitter message that he appreciated the opportunity he was given by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was head coach in Denver in 2010 when Tebow joined the Broncos.
“I would like to thank Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, Coach McDaniels and the entire Patriots organization for giving me the opportunity to be a part of such a classy organization,” Tebow said on Twitter. “I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback.”
Under Belichick, New England often carries only one backup quarterback, one fewer than many teams. Ryan Mallett is listed on the team’s roster behind starting quarterback Tom Brady.
The move means the phenomenon known as Tebowmania has traveled in six years from Florida to the Rocky Mountains, through the New York area and quickly past New England.
Tebow led the Denver Broncos to the NFL playoffs in 2011 in his second season. Amid questions about his passing skills and decision making, including some from team executive and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, he directed five fourth-quarter comebacks and helped Denver to its first playoff win since 2005.
In the offseason, Tebow was traded to the New York Jets, where his arrival sparked a quarterback controversy that never fully materialized. He completed six passes in New York for 39 yards and no touchdowns, and was released in April after the team drafted quarterback Geno Smith from West Virginia University. Mike Westhoff, who retired as the Jets’ special-teams coach after last season, called the Tebow experiment an “absolute mess.”
Cut from two teams in five months, the free-agent market may be bare for Tebow, who won two national championships at Florida and entered the NFL as a running quarterback with questionable passing ability. He was unsigned for two months after being cut by the Jets, received an invitation in April to compete for a roster spot on a Canadian Football League team, and has been publicly criticized by former teammates in both Denver and New York.
Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said on an Atlanta radio station after Tebow departed that his teammates in Denver were frustrated over the attention he received from the media, and doubted his ability as a quarterback. Jets guard Matt Slauson was quoted in the New York Daily News last year saying that he didn’t consider Tebow a quarterback, just an athlete.
Football analysts often discuss the possibility of the 6-foot-3, 236-pound Tebow playing another offensive position, such as tight end or fullback, and New England is a franchise that has historically valued versatility. His dismissal from the Patriots may limit other teams’ willingness to explore those options.
Tebow was voted America’s favorite active pro athlete in an ESPN fan poll after rushing for 660 yards in 2011 for Denver, where he ignited a fad known as Tebowing based on his kneel-and-pray pose after victories. His Jets jersey was the NFL’s fourth-highest seller last season. The son of missionaries, Tebow is outspoken in his Christian views and has said repeatedly he’ll remain a virgin until marriage.
In June, Tebow joined New England’s roster behind Mallett and Brady, a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player who’s won three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots.
Tebow appeared in three of New England’s four preseason games, completing 11 of 30 passes for 145 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. In his final game against the Giants, he completed six of 11 passes for 91 yards and one interception, rallying the Patriots to victory with 14 fourth-quarter points.
Also yesterday, the New York Jets said they had released quarterback Greg McElroy, who was beaten out for the third-string job by Matt Simms. McElroy, 25, started one game and went 19-of-31 for 214 yards and one touchdown in two seasons with the Jets.
The New York Giants released David Carr, who had been quarterback Eli Manning’s backup for four of the previous five seasons. Curtis Painter and rookie Ryan Nassib made the team as backup quarterbacks.
“We simply based it on the preseason,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin told reporters. “From the standpoint of all the evaluations, it pointed to the fact that Painter had a better preseason.”
The Green Bay Packers released backup quarterback Vince Young, 30, who was the third overall pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2006 draft. Young made the Pro Bowl twice with the Titans in 2006-10 and was with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. He did not play in the NFL last season.
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