SPORTSTALK

Tebowmania Redux

Should Jaguars fans curb their enthusiasm?

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Northeast Florida is such a hotbed for football, it would be possible to assemble an entire NFL roster with players from this area. Watch virtually any game and, chances are, you’ll see a player from the First Coast or at least from the University of Florida or Florida State. We generally expect alumni from these schools to succeed in the NFL and, with one exception, we are rather casual about it.

The exception, of course, is Tim Tebow. The former Nease High School quarterback is one of the most compelling figures (in terms of marketability and the resonance of his story) in the NFL. Tebow’s endorsements are the envy of all but a few players in the league, with his homonymic spots for TiVo taking center stage during the just-concluded 2012 shopping season.

He’s one of the best pitchmen of his generation, so it’s ironic that the young man’s career so far has suffered from his inability to throw. Throughout his career, he was told that he wasn’t going to make it as a quarterback. He was told so in Gainesville; he proved critics wrong. He was told so in Denver; all he did was win. Then he was traded to the New York Jets, a move he chose over signing on to Jacksonville last off-season, because he thought he would have more on-field playing time. Tebow’s time with the Jets has been a revelation, contextualizing his earlier seasons and leading many observers to wonder: Where will he go next?

The noise that started circulating over the last couple of weeks of the NFL season was that Tebow would come here. Seemingly every news crawler and commentator in the world of “sportstalk” was dedicated to repeating wtteo “Source: Tebow to play for Jaguars next year.” Never mind the fact that, even if it were true, it couldn’t be stated. As Gene Smith said after the Patriots game, “I can’t comment on players that are under contract with other teams.” Smith has been seen by many as the primary mitigating factor against the acquisition of Tebow, even going back to the 2010 draft, when he chose Tyson Alualu. He certainly isn’t talking about this in front of a live mic.

This raises the question: Who is dropping this science? Certainly no one attached to the Jaguars. The Jets clearly lack even a conventional level of clairvoyance, as indicated by the way the team handled its quarterback situation for yet another season in which name value exceeded on-field production. Who is the “source” credible enough to cite and roll with in this matter? Likely someone with the last name Tebow.

We remember the drama in early 2012, when locals wondered if the Jaguars would get Tebow from Denver, at the zenith of his pro rep. The story changed more quickly than Krispy Kreme’s “Hot Now” sign, and when the former Gator (but really, is anyone ever a “former” Gator?) decided to go to New York, it was understood that his motivations were driven by gaining a higher national profile and a chance to get on the field up North.

How did that work out? He has more endorsement deals than any other backup quarterback in the league — hell, more than all the others combined. That’s great, if you like money. As far as getting on the field? Not so much. A play here and there, but it was clear that the coaching staff had reservations about letting Tebow take the helm of the offense, even when things got to be the very worst. Even when a quarterback change was needed, Jets’ coach Rex Ryan sidestepped Tebow and went with third-stringer Greg McElroy, causing Tebowian “fuming,” according to the New York Post. The backup signal-caller reportedly refused to be put in the team’s wildcat packages thereafter, though he and Ryan denied those reports in subsequent days.

So is Tebow coming to Jacksonville? As a quarterback? Depends whom you ask. CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco seems to think that St. Johns County’s favorite son would be brought in, if at all, at h-back or tight end. It’s hard to imagine Tebow going for that, when his personal mythology revolves around playing quarterback at all costs — even if it is hard to see he’s improving as quickly as he needs to, to succeed.

A major issue with Tim Tebow might be how he functions as an employee. Three organizations in two years makes me wonder if he is a true team player or a diva. The best he can hope for in Jacksonville is a quarterback competition. What happens if he loses? Will he know his role and shut his mouth? Or will he let “sources” do his talking again?

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