Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The NFL's Tebow Experiment

Great piece by SI's Tim Layden on the NFL's "Tim Tebow Experiment." (Layden should know: He is working on a book about the history of the NFL through its greatest playbook innovations.)

Money quotes:
The NFL is fascinated with Tebow because he represents a potential evolutionary step in offensive professional football. (Emphasis here on potential because it's all a guessing game at this point.)

...

Slowly, however, rigid old rules are loosening. There is no movement afoot to install the Air Force flexbone in the NFL, but there is absolutely an interest in using option principles to complicate defensive preparation. "Somebody, someday is going to run the option in the NFL,'' says Gailey, "and when that happens, all bets are off.''

...

As I quoted Belichick in the Dec. 1 issue of Sports Illustrated, "It's going to be very interesting to see what happens when Tebow comes into this league. There aren't many players who can run and throw."

[D.S.: Feeds my "Pats-Will-Draft-Tebow" Theory.]

...

The challenge for NFL thinkers is how best to use Tebow. Can he be a full-time quarterback? (Not likely, unless he is re-made as a pocket passer). How many times can he carry the ball, making himself a threat without getting, as Belichick says, "broken in half?'' (Maybe 10 times a week? Maybe only five?). Can an NFL offense function effectively with two quarterbacks. Say, Tyler Thigpen for 40 snaps and Tim Tebow for 20? What would this do to your salary structure? Is a Super Bowl worth paying two quarterbacks NFL-starter money?

No answers here. Not yet. But know this: The questions are being asked by the people who write the checks. The Tebow Experiment is forestalled for a year, but it will absolutely take place.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Oh, And By The Way...": Tebow Comes Back

"Oh and by the way, one more thing, let's do it again. I'm coming back!"

Deadspin's Dash Bennett had the best overview of "what it all means" that Tebow was returning to college football in 2009.

(I merely dubbed 2009 "The Year of Tebow.")

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Austin Murphy On The Jump Pass

Phenomenal breakdown of Tebow's jump-pass TD that sealed the BCS title-game win for Florida over Oklahoma. The phrase that pays is: Trey Left, 341 Stop Bend X Fake

Friday, January 9, 2009

Should Tebow Stay a Gator Or Go Pro?

Should Tim Tebow stay at Florida or enter the NFL Draft?

I have laid this out before: Tebow can't do much more as a college player. National title? Check (twice, including once as a starter). Heisman? Check (one win, one 3rd-place finish).

Further, given what you read about what NFL scouts say about him, I'm not sure his draft stock improves with another year of college "seasoning." His NFL flaws will remain his flaws. (UPDATE: Not necessarily true. Florida's new QB coach is Scott Loeffler, who was the QB coach at Michigan and for the Lions -- OK, don't snicker; he knows what the NFL needs in a QB.)

And then there's the money: Sure, he won't make first-round money -- this year or even perhaps in 2010 -- but the endorsement dollars should be among the highest in the NFL. And if Tebow wants to support his father's ministry with his pro earnings, why put it off a year?

That said, there is an appeal to staying:

*If, in fact, he is not seriously considered a long-term NFL starter, why not just stay in college, where he is not only prolific, but beloved -- the poster guy for the sport.

*The endorsement dollars will still be there in a year, and the ministry can probably wait for it; they have waited this long.

*Finally, for all of his accolades and accomplishments, if Tebow returned, he would have the chance to cap an unprecedented career:

Another title? Another Heisman? How about an unbeaten season, which has never happened in Florida history?

How about status as the greatest college football player of all time? How about leading a team that would compete for status as the greatest college football team of all time? (USC '05 alert)!

The idea is hardly unprecedented -- it's not even unique for Florida. When the basketball team won their first title, Joakim Noah and Al Horford would have both been Lottery picks. Corey Brewer would have been a first-round pick.

But they all came back, for the chance to accomplish something special: Back-to-back titles, and status as -- arguably -- the greatest starting five of the modern college hoops era and -- inarguably -- status as one of the greatest teams/dynasties of the modern college hoops era. All that, plus a hell of a lot of goodwill for putting the game and each other ahead of pro dollars.

I'm sure it is tempting for Tebow to stay.

In college football, he is a god (no: not a "lower-cased god," like that creepy "Zombie Jackie Robinson" in the Gatorade "What Is G?" ads). In the NFL, he is a sideshow.

Opportunities for true, Mount Zeus immortality in sport are rare. There are probably only a dozen or so athletes ALL-TIME who qualify -- none in college football. Tebow could be It.

You could argue that he is already almost there -- one of the "all-time greats" in his sport -- even if his career ended now.

There are two telling tales from recent years:

*Vince Young: VY left early, after a transcendent season and championship-game performance, and that hasn't dimmed his place in college football's Pantheon any.

(More similarities: In addition to reaping tons of endorsement dollars that Tebow is likely to similarly create -- more, actually -- VY has run into problems in the NFL on the field, similar to what Tebow might face.)

*Matt Leinart: Leinart stayed all 4 years -- for much of the same reasons Tebow would stay: He loved college life. His USC team had the potential to be one of the best -- if not THE best -- ever. Win another Heisman. And it all ultimately collapsed around him, unfulfilled. I would argue that Leinart's star as a college football super-great dimmed, perhaps just slightly, by staying.

It is a complex decision.

I think that Tebow has nothing left to prove in college -- success came so early, so comprehensively and so exhaustively that his senior year seems superfluous.

And yet I think Tebow IS college football; how could he be one of "those" players who abandons it early? Particularly -- especially -- if there is no great demand for him in the NFL.

I will be torn either way he decides. I will be thrilled if he comes back -- it is almost overkill. (Almost.) I will support him as an all-time college football great if he leaves.

I can only imagine how difficult it is for him. His particularly unique disposition -- and I would say his disposition, of anything, is what puts him over the top as an all-time great -- is uniquely suited for a decision like this. He possesses an uncanny sense of clarity.

And yet in analyzing it here, there are simply no easy or obvious answers.

My prediction: I think he will come back to Florida for his senior year. And it will be mayhem.

(Reprinted from DanShanoff.com, 01/09/09)

Tebow: The Next Donovan McNabb?

Tim Tebow's closest college football -- and perhaps NFL -- analogue is... Donovan McNabb. So says Allen Barra of the Village Voice, with stats to back it up.

About Tebow's John 3:16 Eyeblack

OK, so about Tim Tebow's "John 3:16" eye-black...

Some don't like the in-your-face evangelism. Unsurprising.

However, surprising even myself, I don't mind it, because -- generally -- he's so much less in-your-face than others...

...And much less in-your-face than you would expect from a player whose faith is as integral to his life as Tim (a development that made me re-think my own biases, to be honest).

In his first interview last night on the award podium, note the first thing he said. It wasn't "I want to thank Jesus." It was this:

"I just want to thank the fans. They are so unbelievable... I just love being a Gator and I thank all of you!"

From my observations -- and I have observed him a lot (specifically about this issue of proseletyzing) -- he seems to make an active effort to be inclusive. He doesn't -- and won't -- ignore his faith; he brings it up all the time. He simply does it in a fairly thoughtful/careful way.

Just got this message on my Facebook Wall from an old college buddy, with an Onion-like headline mashing up Tebow's faith -- and my faith in Tebow:
This just in: Shanoff Converts to Christianity - "Christ makes me feel closer to Tim."
Want to hear the most ridiculous part? When Tebow originally came out onto the field last night, I was like, "Hey, what happened to Phil 4:13? John 3:16 is so cliche."

(Seriously: It's like I was waiting for the guy in the rainbow wig who sits behind field goals to show up and do a little dance on the sidelines about it. He totally ruined John 3:16. Honestly: What was wrong with Phil 4:13? There was a nice little winning streak with Phil 4:13! Did he really want to jinx things by changing it up NOW? Come ON!)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tebow John 3:16 Eye-Black a Google Sensation

Tebow changed his eye-black from Phil 4:13 to John 3:16 -- and the Bible verse is dominating Google Trends. Talk about a symbol of Tebow's influence...

Two Takes on Tebow

If you love Tebow, read this.

If you hate Tebow, read this.

(But, seriously, how can you hate Tebow, beyond hating the IDEA of Tebow? Yes, I'm biased: He is my favorite college football player -- probably my favorite athlete -- of all time. But he really does seem to live up to his ideals; not to be too messianic about it, but he is a once-in-a-lifetime player. I hope he comes back to school, if only because he is the very ideal of a college football player. While he may or may not be an effective pro player on the field, he will continue to be the model pro player off the field.)