Previously posted on Cali4dre’s blog http://playunderreview.wordpress.com/
The debate picking up steam in northern Florida, specifically Jacksonville-metro and all of Florida Gator territory, is the state of the Jaguar franchise and the timing of their native son entering the NFL. I use the word timing because at no time has the Jaguar’s franchise been in worse shape off the field, having lost over 17,000 season ticket holders over the past two seasons. Yet their collegiate counterpart has seen nothing but the greatest success winning multiple National Championships and compiling players that could probably run the Jags right off the field head-to-head (speed and talent wise, perhaps not the professional skill level of course).
The unequivocal leader of this team the past four years has been The Christian Soldier, he who can do no wrong, Tim Tebow. He showed the nation something special his freshman year when he displayed pure heart and determination each time he touched the ball. He gave up his body and ego all year long as they used him much less as a quarterback and much more as a fullback/battering ram. None of that has changed over the past four years; not after winning two national championships, not since becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, and not since becoming a celebrity with a cult following all around the world, where several of his missionary trips have taken him. He is the perfect role model for our youth, a consummate team player and a beaming light of what used to be the norm and now is the exception.
The critics want to poke at the fact that he is not a true QB, lacking pocket presence, a strong arm, proper mechanics, and the vision required to succeed in the NFL. While this may be true for now, Tebow has taken these criticisms to heart and devoted his Senior year as much to becoming a better NFL prospect at QB as he will concentrate on the ultimate prize of winning a third BCS Championship during his tenure. This past Spring I listened to Tebow go one-on-one with Mel Kiper, Jr., the NFL Draft guru whose word is believed to be as close to truth as there is in evaluating collegiate talent. Kiper Jr. respectfully examined for Tebow the knocks on him (those listed above), and Tebow humbly took those suggestions as part of a debate on Kiper Jr. incorrect opinion. As Kiper Jr. suggested Tebow would make a better split-end/tight-end in the NFL, Tebow disagreed outright and stated he will work hard to ensure he is a QB at the next level. Again the passion and determination showed up in his voice during the healthy debate.
So why is this coming up now all of a sudden? Why are we discussing the draft position of a questionable QB in September, seven months ahead of the 2010 NFL Draft? Simple economics, that’s why. As mentioned earlier, Tebow happens to be from a city whose franchise is falling apart at the seams. Reports of players quitting on coach Jack Del Rio last year, added to the already diminishing season ticket holders and overall attendance figures, have led to reports that all of the 2009 season home games will be blacked out. I would appear the novelty of being a new NFL team as long worn off by now, especially after expectations were set so high at the franchise’s inception when they made the playoffs 5 years in a row after their inaugural season in 1995. With David Gerrard’s flashes of brilliance diminishing and an aged defensive unit starting to break down, the horizon seems bleak at the moment.
Upon further review, the Jags could be in such desperate times that they may reach a bit and pay extra attention to the “value added” aspect of gambling a first round pick on a middle-to-late round prospect. There are enough first round busts floating around to argue that this wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to begin with, and perhaps by the end of the season it won’t be a stretch at all. The Jags passed up on taking a QB in this year’s draft, but who’s to say they shouldn’t next year? The real stretch is trying to compare this to the Cleveland Cavaliers drafting Lebron James, who is a once in a lifetime talent. In no way is Tebow in James’ league amongst his peers entering the professional ranks; LeBron was (and still is) head and shoulders above his draft class. But in terms of regional marketing ability in the northern Florida region, he definitely has the same cult following and mass appeal that could alter the state of the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise.
***My verdict: Jags, go ahead and take Tebow with an early pick… because if you don’t, someone else will!