Wednesday, September 30, 2009
He's not wrong about the columnists who seem to arbitrarily be ordering Tebow to sit out the season or sit out X number of games.
I agree with Andreu that the decision is best left up to Tebow's doctors -- or are they the Florida football team's doctors? (One and the same, although I'm not sure whether they ultimately serve the university or the athlete. Would make for some good...well, now: Localized beat reporting!)
However, I'm not sure that discussion of whether Tebow should play in the LSU game merits Andreu's derision.
It is hard to fathom that Tebow could be "100 percent" recovered (Andreu's standard) in 14 days, especially given the current consensus of thought from experts on brain injuries, including a story in Andreu's own Sun, citing expert Dr. Cantu.
Even if Florida's doctors clear Tebow to play -- and it is impossible to know the medical inputs that go into that decision, let alone the non-medical ones -- there is no way that they will be "100 percent" sure.
Have you ever been to the doctor -- your own doctor -- and engaged them in a question of whether or not you should or shouldn't have a procedure or do something?
They never -- never -- offer anything with 100 percent certainty. Ever. It's not just CYA -- it's because there are limits to what doctors can know.
That goes even more for brain injuries, where the science is constantly revising what we know... almost entirely indicating that things are WORSE than you think, that people with brain injuries need MORE time not less, that returning too soon (whatever "too soon" might be) is MORE risky, not less.
I am not implying we doubt Florida's doctors -- personally, I am very quick to treat what my doctor recommends (again: "recommends," because it's never a certainty) as gospel.
I am sure Florida's docs wouldn't let Tebow participate if he wasn't as recovered as possible (a phrasing I prefer over "100 percent"). I am sure that Urban Meyer would never put rushing Tebow back over Tebow's short-term and long-term health.
(As has been covered here extensively, that is a competitively dumb thing to do -- and it's unclear whether a concussed Tebow, 14 days after his concussion, gives Florida a better chance to beat LSU than Brantley.)
And I would hope that beyond the physical tests that Tebow must undergo that defy any "gaming" by the patient -- earnest as that gaming might be -- that Tebow would do what is in both his and the team's best interests by not claiming he is in better shape than he really is, just to get back on the field -- just to participate in this huge game. (As pointed out here and in the Yahoo column, Tebow's inspiration and leadership can be just as effective from the sidelines, while his teammates are on the field. Particularly in real-time mentoring of Brantley.)
But I do think it is fair for media, fans, medical experts -- whoever -- to weigh in on the very murky (and nowhere near "100 percent" certain) decisions over whether Tim Tebow SHOULD play against LSU.
I am, obviously, on the record about how I feel about it:
(1) Tebow shouldn't play, because of the unknown risk of playing him so soon after his concussion, and because it is very unclear that Tebow just two weeks off a concussion is a better option than John Brantley.
(2) Florida can beat LSU without him. The team is more than equipped -- between the defense, the RBs, the special teams and Brantley's solid skill set. We'd like to think Tebow is so valuable they couldn't do it... but with this team, he's not -- and they can.
Alligator Alley makes the point that Meyer should set a deadline to determine whether or not Tebow is playing, so the rest of the team is prepared.
There is an alternative view to AA's eminently reasonable argument:
Isn't it possible that Meyer is floating the "I think Tebow can play" notion specifically to get into Les Miles' head? That the more time Miles has to prep for Tebow, the less time he can prep for Brantley -- and what will almost assuredly be a different-looking Florida offense?
If that's the case, I'm all for the "Tebow can play" talk -- as a feint. Let's take it all the way: Have Tebow dress. Have him take warm-up reps. Have everyone believing that he will play -- maybe not every series...but even a couple series. Hell, put him in the sideline huddle before the offense breaks for the field -- with Brantley in charge. Have Miles not knowing WHAT will happen.
To dovetail with Alligator Alley, if Meyer sets a deadline -- for himself, if not public consumption -- that makes sense. I'm sure he and the doctors even have that in mind. But Meyer is under no obligation to tell the world about it -- perhaps only his team.
In fact, as gamesmanship versus LSU, dangling Tebow -- the mere idea of Tebow -- for the next 11 days as likely to play would be genius.
But the genius ends if Tebow actually plays.
Should Tim Tebow play against LSU?
It's not a question of CAN he play. It's not a question of WILL he play. The real question is:
SHOULD he play?
My answer: No. Not enough recovery time, not enough known about concussion injuries. Too much risk, both short- and long-term. Oh, and Florida can beat LSU at LSU without him.
Read the full column here, then please come back to discuss in the Comments.
-- LSU coach Les Miles, on Tim Tebow's recovery in time to play at LSU in 11 days.
(More from that link: "The best I've seen him look," is how Urban Meyer described Tim Tebow when he saw him last night. You'd hope so: Day-to-day progress is key here.)
-- ESPN.com SEC blogger Chris Low, on the latest status update on Tebow, including the detail that Urban said that Tebow has earned the right to start against LSU, even if he doesn't practice. (Of course, if Tebow can't practice, isn't that an indication he probably shouldn't play?)
Ironically, I'm sure there are plenty of doctors -- and others -- who would be happy to be the person telling Tebow he couldn't play. They might be saving his career -- perhaps his quality of life.
Maybe I'm parsing, but wouldn't a doctor telling Tebow he COULDN'T play presumably be making that directive from a point of medical (near-)certainty?
In honor of today's theme, perhaps Low's phrase is more accurate as: "I sure wouldn't want to be the doctor telling Tebow he SHOULDN'T play."
It has been interesting to watch the progression: From "Can he play?" to "Will he play?" to "Should he play?" (I have a big take on this coming later on Yahoo -- will post here.)
Since Sunday, I have been clear that that is my opinion -- and I'm not alone:
Over the weekend, EDSBS's Orson Swindle got right out in front.
Yesterday, CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel chimed in (even if I didn't like the premise of his argument, I agreed with the larger point).
And overnight, the AP's Jim Litke weighed in with a well-reported, well-reasoned column supporting Tebow not playing; the risks -- more accurately, the unknowns -- are just too great.
(Even the Huffington Post got in on it, through contributor Dr. Johnny Benjamin, reinforcing that what we -- what doctors -- know about brain science is still too iffy to risk it.)
Capping it all was a front-page story in today's New York Times, about a new study that shows that NFL players -- and by extension, high-level college football players -- are vastly more likely to develop conditions like dementia than the average person.
Now, that might seem obvious, but only 4 days into Tebow's post-concussion life (wow: has it only been 4 days? feels like 4 weeks), it seems entirely relevant to the discussion.
As I will explain at length shortly, the big question of the next 11 days isn't whether or not Tebow CAN play against LSU. But whether or not he SHOULD play.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
In the meantime, CBSSports.com's Greg Doyel wrote a column on the topic, and it's worth passing along to you, although I do it with a caveat -- right at the top, Doyel sets up a flimsy straw man:
...Meyer faces a once-in-a-lifetime choice:
He can do the right thing for his team, his career, his legacy and his future earnings. He can play Tebow against LSU.
Or he can put the interests of Tebow ahead of all those things. Meyer can tell him it's too soon to play after suffering one of the more disturbing football concussions in years.
Cripes, it's like "Urban's Choice." Except it's a FALSE choice that Doyel presents.
How is Meyer playing a concussion-recuperating Tebow against LSU the "right thing" for the team, if it wants to win the game?
How is playing Tebow vs. LSU the right thing for Meyer's career? How is it the right thing for Meyer's future earnings?
Doyel's false choice presumes that if Meyer doesn't play Tebow, Florida will lose. It presumes that if Meyer plays a concussed-recuperating Tebow, Florida will win.
Both are entirely flawed assumptions. In fact, not only can (and, I would argue, will) Florida beat LSU with John Brantley, but playing a half-speed Tebow gives them a WORSE chance to do it.
It's interesting: I agree with Doyel's premise -- Meyer shouldn't play Tebow. The risk to Tebow (and risk to Florida) in the short- and long-term is unknowably too great.
Doyel wants Meyer's decision to be some sort of "statement" -- it could be. Maybe it even should be. It's certainly a large enough moment for that.
But it doesn't HAVE to be a statement. It can be about what's best for the team at the same time it is what's best for the player.
And it certainly has nothing to do with a fabricated "Urban's Choice" (my phrasing) that he can play Tebow and win the game (and, apparently, secure Meyer's own legacy) or not play Tebow and do the right thing.
Doyel ruins his argument right from the start by relying on an entirely false choice.
*Tebow was not expected to be at today's practice -- or, you'd hope, any this week. (Sentinel's Fowler)
*Tebow's concussion was the 1st of his career (ESPN.com's Schad)
*Stop equating "toughness" with coming back from a concussion. (PB Post's Volin)
*Interesting take on the "Don't Play Tebow vs. LSU" story from the Miami Herald's Goodman.
Goodman argues that not only is there more to be lost than gained by risking Tebow's health, he also argues that 1-loss Florida is still in a BCS pole position -- that's a risky bet. (Although Goodman argues that Florida might still beat LSU without Tebow.)
I prefer my own theory, which I'll have an expanded post about tomorrow, and I'll go one farther than Goodman:
Florida can and will beat LSU without Tebow -- without a concussion-recovering Tebow, I should say. John Brantley, the defense, the RBs and the special teams will be more than enough.
Both were the presumptive favorites to win the national title. Both QBs were considered the best at their position in the country (at the time, we didn't yet know Frazier was an all-time great). Both went to relatively untested backups to fill in some unknown number of weeks.
Brook Berringer and John Brantley aren't a precise match -- Berringer was a year older, running the same system as Frazier. Brantley would run a modified spread, not unlike Meyer used at Utah.
(Meyer and Co. keep talking about the '05 -- even '06 -- offense under the direction of Leak. I see a couple of differences: Brantley has a much better arm and a relatively better running ability than Leak. The Florida RBs in '09 are sick compared to '05. My big question: When will Meyer talk about the player who will serve in the same role for Brantley that Tebow did for Leak: The short-yardage "single-wing" specialist -- Joe Haden? Demps or Rainey? Jordan Reed?)
Anyway: The EDSBS Tebow-Frazier/Brantley-Berringer post is worth your read.
Monday, September 28, 2009
-- Urban Meyer, on how Florida is handling the return of Tim Tebow following his concussion.
Of course, that followed a Meyer projection about whether Tebow would return against LSU:
"I think so, but I don't know that."
I think so.
Wow. Let's hope Meyer uses the "'Til Tim is Tim" shorthand as a proxy for 100 percent.
Meyer on Tebow playing against LSU: "I think so, but I don't know that."
Let's be clear: Meyer THINKS Tebow will play, but doesn't know decisively...yet.
This is less than 48 hours after Tebow suffered the concussion. At the very least, you would hope for a "Let's wait and see." But it certainly offers a glimpse into Meyer's state of mind. If they are already floating the idea now, 13 days away, it can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Here was a money quote: "Our medical and athletic training staff will continue to monitor Tim and evaluate how much rest and recovery he needs." It is opaque -- necessarily so.
Get the best of the Meyer Q&A here. (via Volin at the PB Post)
More must-read links from the last 24 hours:
*If you read nothing else, make it this EDSBS post.
*Doc Saturday questioning why Florida would rush Tebow back.
*Miami Herald Q&A with Dr. Cantu -- THE sports-concussion doc.
*Miami Herald's Gutierrez: Time for other Gators to step up.
*Could he be talking about players like... John Brantley? (Per SI.com's Staples)
*Media reviews for Urban playing Tebow in the 2nd half: Mixed.
*Read EDSBS's entry under "D" in this week's Alphabetical.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
-- Urban Meyer, on what Tim Tebow asked him after the hit that gave him an injury, knocking him out of the game with a concussion.
Let's hope there is a lot of season left for Tim Tebow, with a lot of quotes to come. But this feels like the leader for the Tebow Quote of the Year.
Alligator Army (via Sporting News): Just a concussion, no brain-bleeding.
(Keep an eye on SBNation's StoryStream about Tebow's concussion.)
GatorCountry: Buddy Martin 2:30 a.m. video update.
More Alligator Army: What we know.
ESPN.com (Schlabach): "We believe it is a concussion" (Meyer)
SI.com (Staples): Florida without Tebow (with Brantley)
Miami Herald (Mike McCall): More quotes, from players.
Swamp Things (Fowler): Checked the UK hospital chapel.
Orlando Sentinel (Humphrey): Celebrating UK players looked like jerks.
Quad Blog: Tebow injured, checked into hospital.
Deadspin: Red alert.
Google Trends: No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 for Saturday.
Isiah 40:31 reads:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Tebow's use of eye-black is always earnest, never ironic -- but given the night's events, it is lamentably ironic. (h/t: Matt Humphrey from the OS)
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The day ends with bigger concerns about Tebow's health.
In the first shocking minutes after Tebow was hit -- as he laid on the field, motionless -- I defy anyone, Tebow fan or not, to not admit to freaking out.
I am not sure I have ever felt a sense of relief watching a sports event as great as when Tebow finally sat up and used his arms to adjust his helmet. He was moving.
But it was clear he had a concussion -- for now, let's hope that is the extent of it, and X-rays show no injuries to his neck.
It was surreal to watch him sitting in a daze on the sidelines. And it was -- no pun intended -- nauseating to see him carted off the field, vomiting into a red garbage bag.
The final image: Tebow through the back window of an ambulance, being taken to the hospital.
The Gators won the game. It felt like an afterthought, as did Tebow's 2 rushing TDs, to bring him within 1 TD of Herschel Walker's SEC record for career rushing TDs.
More news and analysis as it becomes available (the Twitter feed of Only Gators is as good of a real-time resource as anything), but -- suffice to say -- it is the story of college football this weekend.
UPDATE: If Urban Meyer is concerned, he isn't letting it show. In the post-game conference, he is calling it a concussion and saying Tebow will be back, no worries: "I think he will be alright."
UPDATE 2: Urban is going to the hospital, where Tebow will stay for observation.
UPDATE 3: Eyewitness account from Smart Football's Chris, via Twitter:
"Was at UK-UF game. Saw Tebow puke from field. Should have taken him to hospital right away for precaution. (Think of Liam Neeson's wife.)"
That Natasha Richardson note should give folks nightmares.
Video here (until it gets yanked down):
Here's what we know, and what we don't. Credit to the Independent Florida Alligator for breaking the story:
*Tebow has flu-like symptoms. Unknown whether it is the "swine flu."
*Tebow flew to Kentucky on a quarantined flight full of players who were also sick.
*No word on the severity of symptoms or how it will impact Tebow's play or playing time.
*Yahoo's Dr. Saturday, Matt Hinton, accurately predicts this as the Story of the Day, because it offers the chance to add to Tebow's mythology with a Jordan-like "Flu Game."
(Alternatively, it might create an opportunity for John Brantley to come in and run the offense in a non-blowout situation -- intriguing in its own way.)
Even more alternatively, this could be the "black swan" event that derails Florida's title hopes. You don't plan for a third of your team -- including your best player -- to have the flu for the first SEC road game of the season.
This game -- for Tebow and for the entire team -- will be about gritting out the win, taking it and heading into the bye week with two full weeks to get healthy before traveling to LSU.
Friday, September 25, 2009
"Many teams do throwback jerseys. But our franchise hasn't been around very long. Our jersey is the same. I'm kind of looking at this as the first throw-ahead jersey. Well, hopefully."Check out the full parody here. 21 hours 'til Kentucky kickoff.
Passing: 11/15 for 180 yds, with 2 TDs and 1 INT
Rushing: 9 carries (team-high) for 48 yds (5.3 ypc), with 2 TDs
2007 (@UK, Florida wins 45-37)
Passing: 18/26 for 256 yds, for 4 TDs and 0 INTs
Rushing: 20 carries (team-high) for 78 yds (team-high), with 1 TD
2006 (@UF, Florida wins 26-7)
Passing: 1/2 for 12 yds, 0 TDs
Rushing: 6 carries for season-high 73 yds (12.2 ypc), 0 TDs
Thursday, September 24, 2009
-- Tim Tebow on Urban Meyer, named college football coach of the decade by Sporting News. (No, that doesn't make up for SN picking Matt Leinart over Tim Tebow as college football Player of the Decade, even though the collective wisdom of fans picked Tebow by a 4-to-1 margin. Give Meyer credit over Pete Carroll for building THREE insanely good programs this decade.)
"I don't think fans understand how big he is. I didn't, really. I knew he was big, but when you actually see him and you see the size of his legs and how big he is up top, you're like, 'This is a big quarterback.'"
More from Lumpkin:
"You’re not used to seeing that. Quarterbacks usually are taller. They might have a little tone to them. But I've never seen a quarterback’s legs like that. Dude's huge."
And then there's this:
"He's a good guy. You can't hate him. You have to like him, as a person and a player. I have the utmost respect for him as a player. You seen the things he does? I have. He does everything. He can run, throw, block, gets in his own players' face."
The college football match-up was Tim Tebow vs. Matt Leinart. Perfectly respectable pairing (although you could make a great case for Vince Young).
The fans, correctly, made their choice clear: By a margin of 79 percent to 21 percent, fans picked Tebow over Leinart as college football's player of the decade. But...
My SN colleagues overruled the fans' judgment, picking Leinart over Tebow.
As you would imagine, I led my SN column this morning with a measured level of outrage, for two things: (1) Because the editors dismissed the judgment of the fans, and (2) because Tebow wins the argument, on the merits.
Here's what the SN reasoning was:
He was never a living legend like Tebow—never quite had the same visceral presence—but Leinart had a 37-2 record as a starter, won or shared two national titles and owns a Heisman Trophy. Moreover, he was Pete Carroll's point man as the Trojans went from rising power to the kings of college football. If not for a historic Vince Young-led drive in one of sports' greatest championship games ever, the case for Leinart would be crystal clear.Let's break that down:
*Tebow is a "living legend"; Leinart isn't. Point for Tebow.
*Leinart's record as a starter: Propped up by surrounding talent. Tebow carried Florida in 2007. If you count Tebow's freshman year -- where he didn't start, but he was arguably offensive team MVP -- his career W-L record obliterates Leinart's.
*Leinart won or shared 2 national titles. Let's clarify: Leinart won a half-title in 2003, and won a full title in 2004 that was tainted because USC didn't have to play unbeaten Auburn. Tebow has been a part of two undisputed national title teams -- in 2008, as a starter, and in 2006, as (again) arguably the team's offensive MVP...as a true freshman part-time player.
*Leinart won a Heisman. So did Tebow, becoming the first sophomore ever to win one. He also came in 3rd last year; Leinart came in 3rd in 2005, but Leinart didn't receive the most 1st-place votes the year he came in 3rd, as Tebow did.
*Oh, and this little detail: Tebow and Leinart are in a virtual dead-heat right now -- that's after Leinart's 4-year career... and Tebow's first three years. SN doesn't even count THIS season, which arguably will be Tebow's finest: Florida is favored to win another national title; Tebow is currently favored to win another Heisman; and the "living legend" thing (no small factor) is only getting more powerful.
It was always going to be dicey for SN to do "Player of the Decade" before the decade was over -- at least as it relates to a match-up where one of the contenders is still playing, with a chance to top previous accomplishments.
Unsurprisingly, I would pick Tebow over Leinart, even before this season started -- but when you include this season's accomplishments, I think it will be a no-brainer, and this will be SN's "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment. It is compounded by the way the fans clearly saw the distinction between Tebow and Leinart, in favor of Tebow.
I look forward to the magazine's correction in January.
3. Tim Tebow is down. Meme strength: Variable. One mediocre game at Tennessee and suddenly he’s ritually unclean. The strength of the idea varies depending how close you are to Florida, with strength increasing in direct proximity to Athens, Knoxville, and Tuscaloosa. He’s healthy, fine, and made errors in a game where he otherwise came in just a bit below his numbers from the previous year’s games. He is ranked 91st in the nation in passing right now, true. Cody Hawkins is tenth. Go ahead and feel free to switch them out if you like. Please, be our guest. We’re waiting.
/whistles, reminds self of small sample sizes and their distortions.
/suggests you stay at blackjack table another hour and see how it goes!
Urban Meyer would argue that Tim Tebow is up -- way up! Best game ever! Seriously: Meyer would like to remind everyone that Deonte Thompson was out and both Jeff Demps and Aaron Hernandez were battling the flu. Oh, and Monte Kiffin is pretty good at his job.
Scripps-Howard's Heisman poll -- eclipsed a couple seasons ago by HeismanPundit.com as the most reputable Heisman straw-polling -- has Tebow leading through three weeks.
That matches what HeismanPundit had earlier this week.
(Across both straw polls, Jahvid Best is 2nd. Once again, can we note that if you said 4 weeks ago that Best would top McCoy and Bradford in Heisman polling, you'd be laughed at?)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The 4-yard "Tebow Tiptoe" for that 1st down on 3rd and 3 when the game was still close, to keep the drive alive and eventually lead to a Florida score was widely lauded -- by Urban and in the media -- as one of Tebow's best plays of his career. I agree: An "instant-classic" Tebow moment.
There was another moment, however, that I would rank among Tebow's most frustrating -- and I'm sure it was, both for Tebow and Urban Meyer.
Given Urban Meyer's fastidiousness about ball-security (as Andreu puts it "zero tolerance for fumblers"), how does that square with Tebow's fumble against Tennessee?
Viewed objectively, it was pretty ugly: The first half of the play was brilliant, classic Tebow -- juking and jiving, making something out of nothing. Then he took a hit and stretched, leaving the ball tenuously exposed -- the fumble was all-but-inevitable.
It was the antithesis of the ball-security -- if Emmanual Moody or Chris Rainey had done that, neither would have seen a touch for weeks.
Obviously, Tim Tebow has earned quite a bit of cred -- with Meyer and in general -- to "excuse" what seemed like a pretty egregious ball-security mistake. (It didn't cost them the game, of course, but -- as Tebow himself pointed out -- it turned "30-6" into "23-13.")
I can't believe that Tebow would ever have to be lectured on ball-security -- I presume he was harder on himself about it than Meyer could ever be. But it struck me as an overlooked moment.
And, to be sure: It didn't impact the result. It didn't take away from Tebow's signature play -- the "Tiptoe." It didn't even make SportsCenter or GameDay's highlights package.
Maybe I remember it more vividly because it happened literally right in front of where I was sitting -- maybe 30 feet away. Or because the play started so brilliantly and ended so frustratingly, or because it was the difference between the blowout it was about to be (and deserved to be) and the 10-point win it turned out to be.
I'm nit-picking, of course. But before we move ahead to Kentucky, I felt like the moment hadn't been given its due analysis. Carry on.
(I hesitate to even display the link to the article, because it IS preposterous. But I love OnlyGators' response to it. And I can't begin to catalog the huge volume of tweets related to Tebow Girl, from yesterday. If she wanted to become an internet sensation, she got it.)
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Let's start with a place of agreement: Based on the existing model of starting NFL quarterbacks, Tim Tebow doesn't fit, for a variety of reasons, well-documented.
MDS appears to argue that disqualifies Tebow for ANY snaps as an NFL QB, and that his hit on Eric Berry -- and his general intensity -- means he is better suited as a safety.
(Let's quash that right here, using MDS's own caveat: Tebow isn't nearly fast enough to play safety in the NFL.)
I would argue that Tebow's game as showcased against Tennessee -- and his overall strengths -- lend himself as a specialized or situational NFL QB: Short-yardage and red-zone situations.
Is that a "Wildcat specialist?" Only if you think that the imagination of NFL offensive coordinators is limited to what we already know, as opposed to what is possible.
(Remember: It took a college coach -- Arkansas assistant David Lee -- to bring the Wildcat to the NFL, out of both opportunity and necessity. Don't think that new iterations aren't out there.)
This is why Urban Meyer constantly stresses that Tebow needs to be in the right context to succeed -- and why Tebow fans would love to see him playing for Bill Belichick.
Playing out of the myriad variations of the single-wing, Tebow could be very effective as a short-yardage or goal-line specialist. Under Belichick, can't you see Tebow accounting for 10-15 TDs per season? I think Belichick can. (The mistake isn't overvaluing Tebow; the mistake would be overvaluing Tom Brady.)
If Tebow is drafted into a situation where he is expected to step in and play full-time QB -- say, with the unimaginative Redskins or Jaguars -- he won't fulfill his potential.
But as the vanguard of a new breed of dual-threat, spread-trained college QBs -- including Terrelle Pryor, Joe Webb, Dan LeFevour and others -- deployed by innovative coaches, Tebow and the group could be very effective.
It feels like the theme of the week: Re-setting expectations. For Tebow this year, it is simply winning, not putting up 2007-Heismanish numbers.
For Tebow next year, it is simply finding the right fit for his unique skills.
It's not that the receiving corps doesn't have a go-to guy -- that's Deonte Thompson, who missed the Tennessee game with a hamstring injury from the Troy game. With him in, the WR group is "up to Florida level," as Urban put it.
It's not that the Gators lack a go-to running back -- that's Jeff Demps, who established himself as a big-gain, TD-creating machine from Week 1, perhaps the most dangerous big-play RB in the country. It's just that he was beating back a 101-degree fever and flu vs. Tennessee.
And that doesn't even count TE Aaron Hernandez, who is arguably the top tight end in the country -- and perhaps the biggest of the Gators' big-play weapons. He, too, was fighting the flu on Saturday and saw VERY limited action.
Is the "Gators-relied-too-much-on-Tebow" meme overblown? I would call it an overreaction. Tebow did what he had to do -- carry the ball 24 times -- when the Gators were saddled with injuries and illness.
Was it ideal? Hardly. Did it get the job done? Yes. Will the team be infinitely better off with any/all three of those weapons back to full strength? Absolutely.
"We’re going to enjoy every moment. I enjoyed that last game. Every game I'm going to play I'm going to enjoy it. I don't have that many more here....
"We're not going to get stressed out about what's going to happen or where we're going to be. We're just going to play every game hard like it’s our last one....
"If we win 23-13, we're going to take it and we're going to be happy about it."
Not destroying Tennessee -- and Tebow rightly pointed out that if not for his goal-line fumble, the game is 30-6 and likely even more by the end -- was arguably the best thing to happen to Florida:
It re-focuses them on the important thing: HOW they win is of little consequence as compared to THAT they win.
Monday, September 21, 2009
"If we win 23-13, we're going to take it and we're going to be happy about it."
This is really important, and it reflects Urban Meyer's key takeaway from the post-game: "3-0," with the implied message: Hey, it could be much worse -- we could be USC.
Great segue for my latest essay for Yahoo's Dr. Saturday, on the newly revised expectations for Tim Tebow and Florida football -- influenced in large part not just by Saturday's result, but last week's mass hysteria leading up to Saturday's result.
In short: Tebow's "greatest ever" legacy will have little-to-nothing to do with his individual stats and everything to do with the expectations surrounding the team's potential. It is a common refrain here since the summer: "Win a championship...or bust."
My only concern with the "Defense + Tebow" strategy for winning a championship is that when the team went to an offense of all-Tebow, all-the-time, they lost 4 games.
Now, the defense is vastly -- VASTLY -- superior to the 2007 defense. And there are plenty of other weapons for Tebow to rely on -- notably, Jeff Demps, Aaron Hernandez and Deonte Thompson. It is no coincidence all three were either out or not nearly 100 percent on Saturday, when the offense seemed to struggle against Monte Kiffin's schemes.
And so Tebow played the hero -- gritting the offense to the 23 points needed (more than enough) to beat the offensively challenged Vols. His stats were, possibly, the worst of any game since he became the team's starting QB in August 2007.
But that doesn't matter. All that matters is the W. And Tim Tebow's legacy will succeed ultimately -- or fall short -- based on him continuing to lead the team to Ws. Another 11 in a row, to be exact.
THAT is the only expectation, and it needs no management. It is known by everyone in the most black-and-white terms.
Wetzel's take just came out, and it was worth the wait: "The Tebow Factor."
Money quote 1:
Yet thanks to a lack of other game-breaking players, never before has Tebow meant so much to Florida. And thanks to what Monte Kiffin game-planned Saturday, essentially making Tebow more of a running back than a quarterback, Florida’s fate may come down to a simple question.
How much punishment can Tim Tebow take before he breaks?
Money quote 2:
Monte Kiffin had watched every snap Tebow took the past two years in building the game plan against him. One of the hopes was by forcing him to run the ball, repeated contact with the Vols’ physical defenders would wear him out.
It was the one thing Tennessee underestimated.
And, the kicker, money quote 3:
And that’s the issue. How many of those collisions can Tebow stand? How many SEC linebackers does it take to wear him down? Was 24 carries an aberration, or the reality of the UF offense?
Tebow knows only one way to play – head down, shoulder first, full blast. That unique style, fullback in quarterback clothing, has served him and the Gators well.
The whole thing is worth your time. Wetzel is one of the top college football (and basketball) columnists in the country, and he nails it about Tebow.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Passing: 14 of 19 for 115 yards, with zero TDs (snapping a 30-game streak) and that iffy INT to Berry.
Rushing: Team-high 24 carries (more than the rest of the team combined) for 76 yards (3.2 ypc) and a TD.
His biggest moment was halfway through the 3rd quarter, Gators up 16-6 and stuck at 3rd and 3 on their own 38. In a broken play, Tebow tiptoed ("The Tiptoe") for a 1st down. The Gators scored to shut the door on the pesky Vols.
The most disappointing moment was early in the 4th quarter. Gators up 23-6, in full control and driving deep into Vols territory. 2nd and 6 at UT's 13, Tebow again faced a broken play, wiggled around the left side and plunged inside the 5. Leaving the ball unprotected, he coughed it up, Tennessee recovered, then marched down the field. Instead of 30-6, it was 23-13.
Still: Given that they were playing against the best defensive schemer in college football and facing a grinder of a situation, Meyer's take is right. Tebow and Co. worked for this one.
The last word goes to Monte Kiffin:
"I kept saying (over the headset), 'He's bound to get tired, he's bound to get tired, he's bound to get tired,' but he never did."
-- Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, on Tim Tebow's effort on Saturday against the Vols.
An NFL legend as a defensive thinker, Monte Kiffin put on a clinic -- doing a better job to stifle and frustrate Florida's offense than any coach in the Meyer Era.
Here's a coda for Tebow from Monte's son Lane:
"I don't think he's human. I really don't."
-- Urban Meyer, on Tim Tebow's effort against Tennessee.
That 3rd-and-3 play from the UF 38 when the Gators were only up 16-6 and Tebow turned a broken play into what has instantly become "The Tiptoe" down the sideline for a 1st down WAS the biggest play of the day for Florida.
(It even made ESPN's highlight package -- what didn't make the package was Tebow's even-more-impressive scramble from the Vols 20, where he ended up fumbling near the goal-line.)
Instead, Tebow used Romans 8:28, which reads (King James version):
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."Called according to his purpose" seems to gibe with something Tebow talks about a lot: That everyone -- including himself -- has a divinely ordained path that they are charged to maximize.
In a football sense, it's not a bad proxy for "Do your job." I imagine that Tebow was disappointed by his two turnovers. I was sitting 30 feet away, directly in front of me, when he made that run and fumbled near the goal-line. Tebow was extremely unhappy with himself after that play.
And, yes, as usual, the Bible passage Tebow used on his eye-black showed up near the top of trending Google searches. (It finally settled at No. 5 for the entire day. Not bad, given that it was a 3:30 kickoff.)
Saturday, September 19, 2009
-- Tim Tebow, on the Tennessee game.
My wife -- the *real* Gators fan in the family -- has been advancing an excellent theory since Tebow's debut in 2006 that one of the things that makes Tebow so special is that he, himself, is a lifelong, die-hard Gators fan. That's why you see him doing the Gator Chomp after TDs (or in Nic Harris's face). Or doing a lap around the stadium after games. He appreciates-- as a fan -- the history, the rivalries, the tradition. Of course he wants to win -- regardless of who he is playing for. But he is particularly emotionally invested in Florida -- just like the fans.
(Photo: Tebow vs. Tennessee in 2007, Tebow's SEC debut as Florida's starting QB -- not to mention nationally televised. If you squint, you can see me in the background. Photo by the Gainesville Sun.)
Should be a wild scene. Have you ever heard of a game with a 28-point point spread having this much excitement behind it? I will be curious to see how many Tebow jerseys will be in the stadium, rather than just plain old blue Florida shirts. (I will be wearing a hybrid: The Tebow jersey T-shirt. Sorry: "Florida No. 15" jersey T-shirt.)
If the 2007 game is any indication, it should be a huge game for Tebow and for the team.
*Video: Tim Tebow is a "Hero" (Burly Sports/Heavy.com)
*TampaBay.com joins the Orlando Sentinel with a dedicated Tebow page. (TBO.com)
*Tebow or Not, Jags Need a QB (Florida T-U)
*Garrard on Tebow: Hmm... (St. Augustine Record)
*An entirely inappropriate Tebow "Cornhole" backdrop (Deadspin)
*Two days late: The end of Tim Treebow. (Alligator)
*Unrelated to Tebow, but when you are talking about the most cult-of-personality QBs of the last 20 years in the SEC, Tim Tebow is the clear No. 1 -- but Steve Taneyhill should make the Top 10.
(When I was in college, I spent a semester working at the Sun News in Myrtle Beach, and -- if only to get into the spirit of my first real exposure to college football in the South, I owned a Steve Taneyhill replica jersey. By the end of the school year, I had misplaced it. Ah well.)
Friday, September 18, 2009
-- David Garrard, on the notion of the Jaguars drafting Tim Tebow.
I was there for the 2007 Gators-Vols game -- as much as Troy was a statistical breakout, Tebow's performance against Tennessee that year on national TV (14/19 for 299 yards and 2 TDs passing, plus 61 yards rushing on a team-high 18 carries, with 2 more TDs rushing) accelerated him to the front of the Heisman pack. Should be a fun game with an amazing atmosphere this year.
Give me a holler if you're going to be at the game and/or tailgating -- would love to drop by and meet up with folks.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Let's compare the Jaguars' interest in Tim Tebow with the other team you regularly hear thrown around (at least by me) as interested in Tebow: The Patriots.
The Jaguars apparently want to draft Tebow as a strategic marketing asset -- a schtick to sell tickets and merchandise. There is no evidence that Jack Del Rio has the wherewithal to optimally use Tebow on the field.
The Patriots presumably want to draft Tebow as a strategic football asset -- Bill Belichick wants nothing more than to test and expand the potential for the single-wing through Tebow, who -- as Lane Kiffin put it this week -- grades out like a love-child (my phrase) of Mike Vick and Mike Alstott.
People might scoff at the idea of Belichick removing the best QB in the league for ANY snaps -- but Belichick is about opportunism and winning. If putting Tebow at the goal-line or on a 4th-and-short makes strategic sense, he will do it.
(For all the yammering from draftniks about how college spread QBs can't transition to the NFL, Bill Belichick runs the spread as his base offense -- and certainly the offense he goes to when it matters most in a game.)
There is a reason that Urban Meyer constantly uses the Patriots as his model for the team he would like to see draft Tebow -- and his (and my) argument that Tebow needs to be in the right system to succeed.
Incidentally, Meyer has nothing to say about Tebow being in the right marketing campaign. If Jack Del Rio -- or OC Dirk Koettner, who has created innovative offenses in his time -- adapt for Tebow, that's great.
I'm all for the reality that the NFL is a business -- for the struggling Jags, that is even more of an imperative.
But I think Belichick -- and others -- would argue that if you play winning football -- championship football -- the fans will come, with the marketing dollars quickly following.
Drafting Tebow to sell a bunch of season tickets -- like the Vikings saw with Favre -- or to sell a bunch of jerseys -- again, like the Vikings saw with Favre -- is both short-term and short-lived. You almost have to admire the cynicism behind the sentiment.
I loathe the Patriots (and I am on the record as having adopted the Jaguars as "my" team in the last few seasons and I am a nominal fan at best... call me a Jags sympathizer), but I really like Bill Belichick -- and what I believe will be Belichick's obsession with turning Tebow into a productive (if not revolutionary) new talent in the NFL.
For the sake of Tebow's pro prospects (whether as a full-time or innovative "situational" QB), I hope he ends up with the Patriots.
Web sites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, obsessive 24/7 coverage of every little detail: Archaic newspaper vets may scoff, but this is an extraordinarily positive development in sports.
That's not to say it is without its pitfalls: There are plenty of folks out there who just want to try to cash in for a quick buck (or quick fame) using these tools and platforms.
There is a great article in the NY Times today by Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans, taking a look at how this phenomenon has hit the biggest rock stars of college football, including Tim Tebow.
The fact is: For all Tebow's ease in the face of traditional media pressure -- and for all his generosity with his time for fans out of the spotlight -- he still has to be careful.
The lead of the story is the best:
It's just one more thing to handle. Frankly, athletes today are so much better at this than athletes of even a half-decade or decade ago, let alone further back. Can you imagine the exploits that would have been revealed if we had today's communication tools in the 60s or 70s?
While shopping recently at Radio Shack, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was approached by a woman with a seemingly innocuous request to take a picture with him. But an instant before her mother snapped the photo with a cellphone camera, the woman tried to take off her shirt“It’s happened four or five times,” Tebow said with a sigh. “Most of the time I just dive out of the picture. Some people can just be crazy.”
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
That's not me talking. That's Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, talking to the AP this week about the lure of drafting local hero Tim Tebow -- regardless of team need or Tebow's NFL viability.
Money quote from Weaver: "Clearly there's going to be a groundswell for Tebow, and we'll have to make that evaluation if we have a draft pick that's going to be anywhere near him."
The question is: Will Tebow be available? Let's say the Jaguars are right in the middle of the draft pack -- say, 15th. I don't think Tebow will be available. All it takes is one other team (and I'm not even talking about the Patriots -- think Dan Snyder and the Redskins) to want him.
Unless the Jaguars' season collapses and they end up with a Top 10 pick (and even that's no guarantee, given how badly the Redskins will probably do), I think the Jaguars will have to move up.
Weaver is dead-on with one point: There will be a Tebow groundswell -- and not just by Jaguars fans. As soon as everyone realizes that Bill Belichick would REALLY like to have Tebow (although he might not be willing to trade up to get him), his stock will spike.
This much is totally clear: Someone will overreach for him; he won't last past the Top 10. Maybe it is the starry-eyed Dan Snyder. Maybe it is the Tebow-loving Bill Belichick.
And maybe it is the star-starving Wayne Weaver.
UPDATE: ProFootballTalk on the Tebow/Weaver/Jags story.
"Probably the only guy similar at all would be Michael Vick. The thing about Tebow is he’s such a dynamic competitor. He never skips out on yards, he's always going to put his shoulders down. It’s like Mike Alstott. It’s like dealing with a fullback with the ball in his hands."Kiffin continues to pile the praise on Tim Tebow and the Gators, all in a devious plan to manage expectations so low that losing 55-0 will seem like a moral victory. (I do, however, like the notion that Tim Tebow is the love-child of Mike Vick and Mike Alstott.)
There's a lot of stuff about the "Tampa Two" and "Bob Sanders" and "inside-out versus outside-in" -- I had to read it twice to really understand it (but it was worth it to read it the second time!)
The bottom line: If you would like to date Monte Kiffin and how long he's been in the game, he makes a comparison between Tim Tebow and Johnny Majors.
What are the expectations for Tim Tebow and Florida this Saturday?
That Tebow will run/pass for 5 TDs? That he will do the Gator Chomp in Lane Kiffin's face? Perhaps that he will go Old Testament on the Vols?
That the defense will put up a shutout? That the Gators will win by 50? That Urban Meyer will save time-outs for late in the game, to prolong the humiliation, like he did vs. Georgia in '08?
Here is an incredibly astute observation by Doug Gillett at Yahoo's Dr. Saturday, writing about the way Lane Kiffin has arguably already won the expectations game:
[It] would be just as hard to set the bar any lower as far as expectations for the Florida game are concerned, and that's the silver lining here from Kiffin's perspective: Nobody expects Tennessee to win this game in the first place. I'd be willing to bet that most fans don't even expect them to stay within five touchdowns of the Gators. The Kiffin-Meyer slapfight has become so hyperinflated that if the Vols even manage to hold the Gators below 60, it can be spun as a moral victory.What is Florida's expectations management scenario here? If they don't win by 50 -- forget the "official" 28-point spread -- it will be a disappointment. I predict Florida will win handily -- 30-plus points.
And Urban won't pull out any late time-outs... if only to confound the expectations. That may be the only thing left for Florida to do. There is no performance-based outcome that can match (let alone exceed) the insane expectations of ass-kickery.
Here is my prediction of Meyer's psychological end-game:
Rubbing Kiffin's face in it through something as ostentatious as a time-out is not nearly as bad as pretending that Tennessee is no more worth the trouble than Charleston Southern or Troy.
The strategy won't be demolition -- it will be diminishment.
But wait! Even as some of us -- cough! -- talk about "Old Testament"-style retribution, Lane Kiffin is flipping the script. You could almost say he is trying a Jedi mind trick.
By playing up the Gators' overwhelming superiority and even the inevitability of Florida's victory, he reinforces his ironically "no-lose" proposition:
If Urban acts in a petty or vindictive way, he and the team lose their championship aura and turns into a mere bully. Kiffin emerges -- dare to say it -- sympathetic.
(That's why, despite my column hoping it happens, I don't see Tebow going with some sort of vengeance-fueled Old Testament motif on his eye-black, nor any player doing too much showboating.)
If Kiffin keeps the game even remotely close -- I peg that at 45-0 or better (I don't expect Tennessee to score, so the question is limiting UF to 6 or fewer TDs) -- he has exceeded expectations. Even though Kiffin has lost big on the scoreboard, he...wins.
Why? Because those expectations couldn't be lower. Let me repeat: They couldn't be lower.
It's not even about winning or losing -- it's HOW Tennessee will lose. And Florida has to walk that fine line: Start with a shutout, then score a ton, but not enough to be cruel. (45-55 pts)
But, remarkably, short of Florida threading this needle, Kiffin will walk away beaten in the game -- but not conquered. Not even close.
And, let's get back to the larger point:
The team with the biggest expectations-management issue is... Florida.
Anything less than a national title, complete with an unbeaten season, will be viewed as a failure.
Tennessee is more of a distraction than anything else. They are win No. 3 out of what needs to be 14 wins.
That is why I suggested that Meyer -- despite his interest in rivalry games (and his very salient point that rivalry games usually matter in the SEC standings and also have huge recruiting impact) -- treat Tennessee like nothing more than Charleston Southern or Troy.
One more win. Because there are a lot more to go.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
With this Saturday's expected dominance from Tebow, the lead should only extend next week.
For the record, Kiffin described Florida like this: "...the best team in the country -- possibly the best team ever to play."
It seems ludicrous to talk about "best ever" now -- just ask USC fans in 2005 what they were saying about their team in mid-September of that season... -- but, at the very least, all the pieces are there (offense, defense, special teams, coaching, star wattage) to be in the argument, should they run the table. "Should they" remains a big "if."
Monday, September 14, 2009
Tebow Coverage On Yahoo's Dr. Saturday:
On Tebow "Going Old Testament" on Vols,
Ezekiel 25:17 Eye-Black Campaign Continues
I have officially taken the (respectful) request for Tim Tebow's eye-black this weekend -- as long as Tebow is taking 'em! -- to be Ezekiel 25:17 to the mainstream.
Check out my post from this afternoon at Yahoo's must-read Dr. Saturday college football blog about why Tebow is likely to go Old Testament on Tennessee this weekend.
The Zeke 25:17 eye-black would just be appropriate symbolism to go with the on-field vengeance that is undoubtedly to occur.
-- Tim Tebow, on Lane Kiffin's remarks about Urban Meyer, which Tebow had previously tossed off as really no big deal. The fact is: They are a VERY big deal. Kiffin didn't dis Tebow. He didn't dis Florida. He dissed Meyer -- Tebow's father figure in football. Get ready for pain in payback.
(Actually, Tebow said Georgia's end-zone disrespect in 2007 was much more motivating for the '08 beat-down than Tennessee's trash-talk this past offseason. "The Georgia thing was a lot different than coach Kiffin and the things that he said. I'm not going to harp on that and don't even want to talk about it much. It's not a big deal. It's just someone talking.")
For his part, this was Urban's quote about using Tennessee's talking to motivate the Gators:
"We'll do what we have to do."
Seriously: This is going to be a beat-down. I'm going to the game, and couldn't be more giddy about witnessing the prospects first-hand.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The good: Made great decisions, and had a couple of terrific throws. (The TD duck to Cooper wasn't one of them, but it did what it had to do. The TD pass to Brandon James was helped by a tremendous catch by No. 25 -- the best of his Florida career.)
The bad: The first quarter was ugly, at least from the offense. Don't know whether they were overconfident or thrown off by the weather or what -- but it was hard to watch, particularly the ball-security issues, which I'm sure drove Urban Meyer crazy.
The bottom-line: This was yet another "tune-up" game, and the 2nd and early 3rd quarters were the type of blitzkrieg that fans had expected to see from Tebow and the entire team heading into this season. There's no risk now of looking ahead: Tennessee is next.
You all have seen my campaign for the week: To get Tim Tebow to wear eye-black featuring "Zeke 25:17."
Here's the relevant snippet: "And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them." (It's the Jules quote from "Pulp Fiction.")
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The passage: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"
Beyond the strict religious interpretation, that's not a bad secular or humanist guide to living.
I'm already starting to lobby for it now for him to wear next week:
Ezekiel 25:17 (or, for fitting on eye-black: Zeke 25:17)
If it sounds familiar, it's Jules' speech from "Pulp Fiction."
Here's the passage: "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."
Seems fitting for Lane Kiffin's first visit to the Swamp, doesn't it?
Passing: 18/25 for 236 yards with 3 TDs (Harvin, Ingram, Fayson) and 0 INTs
Rushing: Team-leading 95 yards on team-leading 17 carries (5.5 ypc) with 2 TDs, including a 3-yard run late in the 1st quarter to break a 7-7 game and start the Gators' offensive explosion, plus a 16-yard TD run late in the 4th to finish the Gators' 59-31 romp.
The Troy game takeaway: It foreshadowed Tebow's dominance the rest of the season -- both statistically and as the linchpin of Florida's scoring offense.
(At the same time, Troy's 31 points foreshadowed the greenness of the young and rebuilding Florida defense, which would hurt Florida throughout the rest of the season. I was at the Troy game in the Swamp, and aside from fans marveling at Tebow, they were concerned about the D.)
The 5 totals TDs built on Tebow's 4 TDs (3 pass/1 rush) in the season-opening win over Western Kentucky -- and established Tebow as THE must-see offensive player in the country.
The question for today: Will Tebow top 2007's 5 combined TDs? If Florida gets out to a big lead, how many extra plays will Urban Meyer give Tebow and the 1st-team offense, to get things aligned for next week's absurdly anticipated match-up with Tennesee.
4 hours 'til kickoff...
Friday, September 11, 2009
Gary Danielson: "I'm one of the people who believes Tim Tebow's only position in the NFL is at quarterback. I don't think he's a tight end or a fullback. I think he is a quarterback, but he does need to learn how to be more of a pro-style quarterback. I don't think he would be happy just being a wildcat quarterback. We really don't know if he is an NFL-style quarterback yet."
Phil Fulmer: "When (Tebow) was a freshman, everybody said 'there's nobody who can be all that.' Well, Tim Tebow is all that. He puts that team on his shoulders every time he has to. I think he can do whatever he is asked to do."
Tim Brando: "This guy is unique. There's nobody I've ever seen quite like him. He walks the walk. I remember asking (former Ole Miss and NFL great) Archie Manning to put in perspective what Tim Tebow means to the position and what he means in terms of the history of the game. And Archie, the father of two No. 1 draft choices, two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks in Peyton and Eli, described how RogerStaubach ran as good as any quarterback he'd ever seen, and how Dan Marino had the quickest release and was so accurate, but Archie said he'd never seen a better football player play the position of quarterback than TimTebow. That says it all."
Spencer Tillman: "Tim Tebow's problems are correctable. I think the only thing he really needs to do — other than discern coverages, which is a big deal — is take some snaps from under center and learn how to extend plays instead of, after one and a half progressions, pulling it down and making something happen with his legs."
Obviously, a common meme here -- perhaps THE meme -- is the notion underlying this college football season that, in Tim Tebow, we could be watching the greatest college football player of all time, in real-time.
Making that more interesting: His "G.O.A.T." status is on the line, depending on how Florida performs this season (national title? unbeaten?) and how Tebow performs individually (Heisman-ish stats? Heisman-ish "moments?")
The last time fans were having this "are we watching the greatest player in this sport's history" conversation was the mid-90s, when Michael Jordan returned from his first retirement to lead the Bulls to 3 straight NBA titles -- most notably the '96 Bulls, who might have been the best team ever. (Sound familiar?)
It is hard to compare Tim Tebow to Michael Jordan precisely -- football (particularly college football) is so different from basketball (particularly pro basketball). Let me try:
Instant, flashy impact: In 1982, then-freshman Michael Jordan hit the game-winning shot for UNC to capture the national title.
In 2006, then-freshman Tim Tebow came off the bench, but was arguably Florida's MVP, making THE key plays to help UF capture the national title.
Dominance without championships: In the late-80s and early-90s, Michael Jordan had established himself as the best (and most exciting) player in basketball. He had yet to win a title, so doubters persisted.
In 2007, Tim Tebow established himself as the best (and most exciting) player in college football -- his Heisman season was, statistically, one of the greatest in college football history. And yet, the Gators' lack of any championship (SEC or otherwise) allowed doubters to persist.
Championships: A 15-year NBA career is tough to analogize to a 4-year college football career, but I think I see the pathway.
Michael Jordan established himself as a Top 5 all-time player when he won his first string of 3 titles from '91-93. Tim Tebow established himself as a Top 5 all-time player when he won his first title (as starting QB) last season.
Jordan then took himself to another level after his "I'm back" unretirement, by winning 3 more -- including the above-mentioned ridiculous '96 season.
Similarly, Tebow had his own "I'm back" moment -- announcing his return for his senior season -- and if he completes the national-title quest this year, it will be the college football equivalent of Jordan's second "three-peat."
(If Tebow can lead Florida to an unbeaten season, this team would be ranked among the best of all-time, not unlike Jordan's '96 team and its gaudy 72 wins was -- and is -- considered one of the best teams of all time.)
Legendary competitiveness: It is widely agreed that Jordan was the most competitive player in the history of basketball -- perhaps sports. At least until Tebow came along. Folks can disagree about whether Tebow truly is the "best ever," but even the ones who like to hedge with phrases like "could be" or "might be" agree that he is the fiercest competitor in the sport's history.
Mythology: Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity team. Jordan made Dean Smith rethink freshmen. Jordan was passed over for Sam Bowie on Draft Night. Jordan had his sneakers banned by the NBA. Jordan froze out Isiah Thomas for the Dream Team. Jordan killed his teammates in practice. Jordan tries baseball. Jordan's flu game. I could go on and on. The point is this: No small part of Jordan's appeal was the mythology built up around him -- part of that came from his on-court amazingness; part of that came from stories that emerged off the court.
Given that he is only 22 years old, Tim Tebow has acquired as much mythology as Jordan -- the miracle birth, the home-schooling, the high school documentaries, the jump pass, the ministering to prisoners, the eye-black, the Chesney singing, the list goes on and on (and we have covered it here extensively). The point is that all "greatest of all time" candidates must combine individual talent with championships with mythology. A big question for Tebow remains whether his myth will end with college football or whether he will extend it in the NFL.
Endorsement potential: There was no greater marketing force in sports than Michael Jordan. Part of this was man-meets-moment (rise of Nike, rise of ESPN, rise of NBA, rise of 80s and 90s spending cultures). Part of this was his own savvy. Nike, Gatorade, Hanes, hot dogs... the list goes on and on. He even created his own shoe brand, which is selling like crazy these days. The Jordan brand continues to resonate as a marketing force.
For Tim Tebow, even though marketing spending by companies is shrinking, Tebow sizes up as someone who will buck the trend. I have already said this: From his first minute after his college eligibility ends and he can sign endorsement deals, he will be the most successful endorser in the NFL, instantly eclipsing Peyton Manning.
Between Tebow's All-American appeal and his fervent fan base, how can you NOT see him signing huge deals with: Nike, Gatorade (hmm...those two sound familiar?), EA Sports... hell, Hanes, auto companies, whatever -- and that doesn't even begin to account for marketing dollars he will see from companies affiliated with selling to the country's massive Evangelical Christian community. I'm not saying that this will signal a bounce back for all athlete endorsement deals; I'm saying that Tebow is a very very special case -- and will be paid that way.
And so as we celebrate Michael Jordan's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame tonight, it is a great moment to celebrate the sport's -- or sports' -- greatest of all time.
Tim Tebow may not be his sport's greatest-ever... yet. But he would be smart to draw inspiration from Michael Jordan -- even as their "G.O.A.T." bonafides seem to resemble each other.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The result was some of the best questions of any Tebow interview I have ever seen, a credit to Mayne. Mayne's comments are in italics; Tebow's responses are in bold:
When Sam Jackson made a "What Would Jesus Twitter" joke about you at the ESPYs, there were groans in the crowd. But when they cut to you, you thought it was funny. Right?
I can see why people could get offended, but I didn't. My faith's out there.
I wonder what Jesus actually would tweet?
"Believe in me."
He'd have a lot of characters to burn still, but at least the content is powerful.
Absolutely. But He already tweeted enough. We just have to look at it.
Do you believe God controls every detail? Or did He set things up perfectly and give the world a spin, and now we're on our own?
The way I figure is if nothing bad ever happened, there wouldn't be a need for faith. The Bible says we're tested and made stronger through trials and tribulations. But He's here, helping us out.
What I mean is that there could be a person in the hospital who is going to die of cancer, and down the hall, someone who is going to beat it. I find it hard to believe that God would say, "All right, you, you get to die. And you, you get to live." Do you think that's true?
God has a plan for everything. Some people might say, "Well my plan's not as good as this person's plan." But in God's eyes, it is. Not everybody's called upon to do the same thing or to be here on Earth the same amount of time. It's like the Body of Christ. Not everybody's going to be the eye or the mouth. Somebody has to be the foot. I'm not saying that's anything less. In fact, in God's eyes it's the same. You just have to look at what He called on you to do and do it to the best of your ability. You can't question why, because then you won't have the faith you should.
I haven't been to church since having knee surgery. Do you have the authority to absolve me of my sin there?
I don't have any authority to do anything with your sin.
You once wore John 3:16 on your eyeblack, similar to how Reggie Bush has worn 6-1-9 for his area code. What is the significance of that passage to you?
Yeah, I wore that for the national championships. It's the essence of Christianity: "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." God calls on us to do one thing, and that's believe. People try to complicate it, but it's very simple. That's why I wrote it.
What if it had smudged into John 8:15? Could you have quoted that passage?
I know a few verses, but not John 8:15. I'd have to have someone write on a new one.
Note the way Tebow very seriously answers Mayne's joking question about absolving him of his sin of not going to church, or the joking line about "John 8:15." And yet Tebow still manages to be pretty chill about the whole thing. For all the jokes throughout the rest of the interview, I found this exchange fascinating.