The next cut will be the deepest. It will confirm what a football nation has long suspected, that Tim Tebow absolutely and positively lacks the chops to be the lead blocker in punt formation.
Oh, wait. As for being an NFL quarterback? Well, that verdict came and went a long time ago.
Bill Belichick is the last of the stubborn holdouts about Tebow, but now, with a horrendous training camp in the rear-view mirror and one preseason game remaining to serve as a slim benefit of the doubt, even he appears to be coming around. It'll be a shock if Tebow survives beyond Saturday when rosters are trimmed from 75 to 53 because Belichick and the Patriots, last we saw, were in the business of winning Super Bowls and definitely not popularity contests. The releasing of an unlikely icon would finally put an end to the charade and prove that talent always trumps everything else. It would scream, loud and clearly, that meritocracy rules, that NFL teams will gladly take a wife-beater or drunk driver over a Bible-thumping former Heisman winner in a heartbeat if those thugs can either move the football or stop it.
The Patriots have Tom Brady as their starter and Ryan Mallett is the backup QB. There is no No. 3 in Belichick's system. There is the small, small chance that Belichick keeps Tebow around as a player without a position, but at the expense of another, more useful player on the roster? Would Belichick really do that?
"I love playing and I love competing," said Tebow, but it's becoming clear that the game doesn't love him back with the same level of passion.
So then, after he gets cut, where would that leave Tebow?
What happens when his belief about his football ability isn't shared by any other NFL teams and perhaps none in Canada, either? What then?
Athletes with high profiles who are caught in this bind usually depend on a common fallback plan and find salvation on TV sports networks, the home of has-beens, where they can squeeze whatever glory and celebrity they have left. TV is really the graveyard for ex-athletes and coaches. You can see it now: Fox or CBS or ESPN putting Tebow in a suit and tossing him an earpiece and having him do football-speak for an hour on some hype-fueled pregame show, which has become a second and sometimes only career choice for those who were spit out by the game.
The smart career move for Tebow, though, is to veer off the beaten path. He should stick to working on Sundays, with a catch: He can make a bigger impression in the morning than he ever could in the afternoon. Yes, the absolute right way for Tebow to rebound from being a football flop is reach out and motivate people -- the one thing he does better than most -- by making his faith a full-time job.
Tim Tebow, televangelist. It does have a ring to it, doesn't it? Being on TV and spreading the gospel and firing up the congregation would be Jesus-approved, something He would want him to do.
Can't you imagine Tebow, performing before a mass of millions, scoring a touchdown with every sermon? Can't you see Tebow stealing Sundays away from other, more talented quarterbacks? Wouldn't Manning (both of them) and Brady and Brees have a tough act to follow later that afternoon?
He could improve the religious league a whole lot better than the league that no longer wants him. Really, now: Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and my goodness, Jim Bakker? That's who Tebow would follow. He'd feel refreshed and wanted, like he was at Florida all over again. It would rejuvenate him, re-polish the Tebow Brand, make him more famous and necessary than he ever could be in the NFL where he'd be lucky to collect cobwebs as a No. 3 quarterback.
He could beef up his message with lessons he learned and talk about things that ordinary people can relate to: Failure and redemption, hope, doubt, sacrifice, bias and dealing with expectations too steep and impossible to meet. He can discuss the perils of trying to please everyone all the time. He could talk about forgiveness and whether that might be tough to give to Aaron Hernandez. Seriously, a college football legend turned NFL flop turned minister? That would be almost too good to be true.
You almost wonder why, in hindsight, a player who has completed five of 19 passes in the preseason even bothers with the dream of playing football anymore. Especially after his experience with the Jets. Yes, it's true that sometimes you must take your dream to the limit before you bail, but in that sense, Tebow is well into overtime. He had a brief and glorious if not misleading run with the Broncos. He turned Denver's season around a couple of years ago. He magically completed a game-winning touchdown pass in the playoffs. It was all wonderful and it turned him into a tornado. People everywhere were Tebowing. It was nice. It was cute. It is over.
Tebow still has something special to offer. Maybe not to your favorite football team. But please, separate the man from his awkward way of throwing a forward pass. The two are not related. There's a reason why Tebow has an oversized profile and a large and loyal following. People gravitate to him because of his religion, no doubt, but also his appeal. He appears to be a decent man. That's why Tebow shouldn't waste this gift, which allows him to serve as a leader. He shouldn't listen to some TV exec who wants to turn him into Lee Corso. Tebow should place himself above that.
If he wants to convert people, spread his gospel and stand atop a pulpit and feel like a winner, then he's better equipped to do that Sunday at 10 a.m. instead of 1 p.m. He has the basics for the job. He can take a few theology classes, sharpen his public speaking skills, gather up investors to build a church and then do what he does best: Move people.
Some people, you see, are searching for spiritual guidance and motivation and they need Tebow in their lives a lot more than they need Colin Kaepernick. This way they can have both.
We don't need to see any more evidence to realize Tebow is not starting quarterback material in the NFL. If he went to play in Canada he'd instantly become invisible to the people who know him best. Even if some NFL team became really desperate and signed Tebow to hold a clipboard, really, what's the point? Doesn't he have a greater and more meaningful calling?
Tebow said he deals with his shaky status the same way he handled playing college football and winning the national championship at Florida.
"Just prepare and do the best you can with any opportunity you're given," he said. "Focus and prepare."
And about Saturday's cutdown day?
"I'm just focused on today."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he's "rooting" for Tebow and really, who isn't? That said, reality is about to kick in for Tebow because the NFL is seriously considering kicking him out. And it might be the best thing to ever happen to him.
Tim Tebow, televangelist. The next big Sunday star is almost ready for his close-up.