As far as Steve Clarkson is concerned, there is still hope for Tim Tebow as an NFL quarterback. Now all Tebow needs is a team willing to give him another chance.
"I would hope wherever he ends up, they give him an opportunity to play, because if they do, they'll be pleasantly surprised," Clarkson said on Wednesday. "I think the guy can still play."
Clarkson is in better position to know than most, especially after the independent quarterbacks coach spent three days with Tebow in early February in Arizona. And if Clarkson is right about what he did in tinkering with Tebow's throwing motion, then maybe, just maybe, there's still a place for Tebow in the NFL.
Will it be with the Jets? Tebow is still under contract with them for the 2013 season, and he was the first to report early Monday morning to the team's offseason conditioning program. And general manager John Idzik offered no indication Wednesday about what will happen with Tebow.
But Clarkson believes his work with Tebow will address what NFL coaches consider the major flaw in his game: an awkward throwing motion that limits his accuracy. Clarkson said he believes Tebow has corrected the problem, which actually has more to do with his feet than his arm. When the coach worked with Tebow, he noticed the quarterback would have his feet pointed out when he completed his dropback and prepared to throw. That led to an inability to get his hips around quickly, and contributed to the looping motion Tebow has been criticized for. That motion slowed down his eventual release.
"The footwork is essentially what caused a lot of his looping motion," said Clarkson, who also has worked with NFL quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Leinart and draft-eligible quarterback Matt Barkley of USC. "A lot of what was happening with his throwing motion and why it was elongated was because of the way he placed his feet at the end of his drop. Right before he'd make his throw, his hips would stop at mid-motion, and the ball would come off in funny places. So that was one thing that we really honed in on, was trying to tie his feet up."
Clarkson explained what he tried to accomplish in his sessions with Tebow.
"We worked a lot on slowing the game down for him in terms of on the field, but also speeding up the game for him in terms of mechanics," he said. "Most of what people have talked about in his throwing motion were really based on his footwork.
"He sees the field extremely well. He anticipates where things are going to happen, but his relationship with his feet going to his arm didn't mesh. He would look like he was throwing into coverage. He was throwing into the right spot, but he was just late because he couldn't transfer his weight properly."
Clarkson even incorporated some elements of martial arts to help with the flow of Tebow's movements.
"There was a lot of Tai Chi that we kind of put into his workouts where we really taught him to make his body work as one unit," said Clarkson, who said he was contacted by Tebow's agent, Jimmy Sexton, to work with the quarterback in the offseason. "Most people who watch him will say for the most part that he has his moments when he throws in rhythm, he throws quite well. It's when he had to reset himself, that's when he would tend to get off balance and the ball would come off in an unnatural manner."
Has Tebow solved the problem?
"There's no question he can [shorten his throwing motion]" Clarkson said. "The things that he needs to work on are very coachable and actually very minor."
And one more important part of Tebow's offseason workouts: He has lost weight, acknowledging to Clarkson that, at 250 pounds last season, he was simply too big.
"He was actually in Arizona . . . trying to drop about 12 pounds while he was there to recapture a lot of his athleticism, things that helped him to be where he was," Clarkson said. "He did acknowledge that he was a lot bigger than he should have been."
All Tebow needs now is another chance and a team willing to view him as an athlete, not a cult phenomenon who can become the kind of distraction we saw with the Jets last year.
"He just needs to have someone not be afraid of the phenomenon and just get to the point where you say, 'Look, throw out all the off-the-field stuff.' This is a guy that we want his mental makeup, his willingness to get better, let's harness that," Clarkson said. "I had an old biology teacher who once told me, 'If you expect more, you'll get more.'In Tim's case, they walked him into New York and said, 'We got four plays, so execute these four plays.' You walk on the field and that's all you practice and you don't get any meaningful reps and you walk into a game and basically the defense is telling your offensive linemen where the ball is going to go. It's pretty depressing and it doesn't give you much reason for hope."