13 years ago, the New England Patriots selected a quarterback in the sixth round of the draft. Nearly no one would have charted his path to a starting job in the NFL as anything but a long shot. Tom Brady was not even expected to challenge for playing time, let alone become the number one back-up for a very good starter in Drew Bledsoe.
And then the unthinkable happened; Drew is sidelined with an injury that essentially ends his career, and hope for that elusive ring to which he was so close. Instead, the man who almost didn't get drafted, takes the helm and leads his team to three titles in four years.
Brady nearly suffered the same fate in the first quarter of the first game of the 2008 season, just a short off-season removed from his record setting season with the help of Randy Moss. But Brady came back, prompting his replacement for that year to seek greener pastures in Kansas City. What if the same scenario occurs in the waning years of his career? Brady may not be able to overcome such a devastating setback. Who will take up the mantle?
It appears that the choices at this juncture of Brady's tenure, will be Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow. Although the Patriots have not been wont to carry three Qbs on the roster come week one, Belichick is blessed with the presence of a versatile player in Tebow, as well as, the strong-armed Mallett.
Tim Tebow is a former Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion. In High School, Mallett was ranked as the #2 quarterback and #4 overall player in the nation by rivals.com. He was also the Gatorade Player of the Year in Texas in 2006.
So who would you choose to hold the clip board for Brady? Both quarterbacks bring unique skill sets to the field. And both set numerous records for their respective schools. Ryan Mallett has virtually no NFL game experience, while Tebow has won a playoff game at this level.
Tebow is a scrambler, while Mallett is a pocket-passer. Both men have also had questions posed concerning their viability as professional passers; Mallett due to his lack of playing time, while Tebow has been wildly inconsistent in his time on the field.
Neither Tebow nor Mallett bear any concerns for their character, being two of the most respectable players in the game. Tim Tebow displays a strong faith in God, while Ryan Mallett plays a patient waiting game, trusting in the football gods to give him his due when the time is right.
So who do I think should be back-up, and heir apparent to Tom Brady? Who can gauge the mind of Bill Belichick? It is locked-up more securely than Fort Knox. But for my money, and in the Patriots' system, I have to favor Ryan Mallett, who poses the least risk, and the most continuity for the position based on his style of play and time with the team.
I have said before that I believe Tim Tebow to be best suited for a role as a situational player, perhaps even a 180 degree switch to defense, and the line backer position. I can't predict if he will survive roster cuts, or how he and Bill Belichick will agree to utilize his skills. But I think that he has the smarts to do multiple things well if he is willing to change and learn.
Mallett has shown that he can throw like an NFL QB. He has a stronger arm than Brady, and possesses some of the same attributes, including a strong work ethic, desire to improve, and determination to be a success. This is what has made Brady one of the best the sport has ever known; and may well be what gives Mallett an edge.