TA: When I was playing, there were two guys like that—Dallas's Jay Novacek and San Francisco's Brent Jones. I remember going into the 1997 draft, and we had lost Novacek [to a back injury]. Jerry Jones said we needed to get another Jay Novacek. I said I was all for it, but they're just not around. We wound up drafting David LaFleur in the first round [after] the Chiefs drafted Tony Gonzalez. All of a sudden these guys with basketball backgrounds became very prominent in the NFL. Now virtually every good offense has a guy like that.
Has anyone used tight ends more creatively than Bill Belichick?
TA: That is the brilliance of Belichick. The Patriots have changed their identity a lot of times. They were all about running the ball and playing defense early in Brady's career. Then they became this three-, four-receiver offense with big plays. Then they redefine themselves with these tight ends.
What grade would you give Tim Tebow for the season?
TA: I would give him an A, even if critics say he has to improve his passing. He's never going to be John Elway or Aaron Rodgers. For what he is, he played as well as he could play.
But how much upside is there with Tebow?
TA: I was asked a lot of questions [about Tebow] when he was coming into the draft. I like Tim. If I were picking a quarterback, Tim Tebow would not be the guy, but there is a place for him on my team. I love that he said, I'll play anywhere. The problem is, his greatest strength is his leadership skill. He had [the Broncos] believing. I think that gets taken away from him if he's not the quarterback.
Are you going to keep the gloves off during the NFC Championship Game?
TA: I won't need 'em in San Francisco.