Tim Tebow deservingly won the Heisman in 2007 for playing great during his college career at Florida. Since ending his collegiate career, he should win another award for being a self-indulgent salesman.
After not playing in the NFL since 2015, Tebow, upon signing with the Jags, has become the No. 1 selling jersey in the NFL. More than Tom Brady, more than Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson. Tebow can certainly move merchandise, but beyond jersey sales, I am not sure what the Jaguars are getting by signing him. When I learned that Jacksonville would sign Tebow and convert him to tight end, I kept asking myself: What’s in this for the Jags? Why would they take the risk when the chances for reward are so slim? In fact, are there any rewards at all other than doing a favor for a former player and local hero who keeps asking for more chances than he deserves?
The signing of Tebow reminded me of a scene in The Sopranos when Tony was seeking legal advice from his attorney Neil Mink. Mink tells Tony that the FBI is a business; they will not invest money into something that won’t prove beneficial. So, if they’re spending time investigating him, they expect a reward— one false step by Tony and the FBI will be taking him in.
The NFL is also a business, and teams rarely invest money or precious time into something that lacks a huge upside. Seriously, how does signing a 33-year-old former quarterback who has never played tight end in his life make sense? The Jaguars’ coaching staff will have to invest countless hours into Tebow’s transformation with little chance of success. For this to work, and to justify the time and energy the Jaguars are putting into it, Tebow needs to be an upper-echelon talent, not just a good special teamer or a third tight end.
I am not anti-Tebow as a person; I am anti-Tebow as a football player, taking a roster spot, being allowed to change course as if he’s had the same prior success as Michael Jordan. I understood when Jordan tried his hand at baseball and teams were interested. Hell, if Jordan had wanted to lace up skates and attempt an NHL career, I would have been all for it. Jordan’s achievement as a premier talent, a generational elite athlete, meant that the world would get out of his way if he wanted to change sports. He earned that right. Tebow? He hadn’t earned anything other than a huge following of people who “remember when” he was a star at Florida. And as Tony Soprano once said, “’Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”
Tebow is not an elite athlete or talent. That’s not debatable nor a knock, just an evaluation of his skills relative to other professional athletes. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and can throw a baseball or football, demonstrating solid all-around athletic skills. But nothing is elite. He does not have elite speed, quickness, or anything that separates him from others. (I don’t want to hear about Tebow being an elite competitor or teammate, as that is not a skill worthy of an opportunity.)
As a tight end, Tebow won’t be hard for any safety to cover one-on-one, and he will not be able to block the edge against bigger, stronger defensive linemen or backers. In college, he won with his power, toughness, willingness to compete, and was hard to tackle, allowing him to have a great career that included winning a Heisman and two national championships. The mismatch of his power and skills when he played quarterback in college allowed him to have great success; those mismatches don’t exist at tight end in the NFL. That skill set allowed him to have an NFL career as a running QB, but his lack of throwing the ball with accuracy, timing, feel, and rhythm made him a one-dimensional quarterback who could not sustain success.
From his college career, Tebow created a mythical persona who seemingly does the impossible. For all his faults as a complete quarterback even in college, Tebow continued to make play after play. He did the unexpected, the unpredictable, rarely lost, and everyone began to believe there was nothing Tebow couldn’t accomplish — until he turned pro and his game didn’t fit.