Monday, November 30, 2009

Tim Tebow Not 2009 SI Sportsman of Year

Tim Tebow has been named 2009 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year! He was the obvious choice, but regardless, what a great --

Wait: What's that? Tebow didn't win Sportsman of the Year?

Well, who did?

Derek JETER?

(Spit-take.)

Derek Jeter has been named 2009 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. Tim Tebow has been... well, snubbed.

We talked about this at the beginning of the month: I think Tebow is the clear choice for Sportsman of the Year (SI), Athlete of the Year (SN) or whatever your superlative award (ESPY).

*Led Florida to a national title.
*Came back to school for senior year.
*Hasn't lost this season.
*His never-ending community commitment.
*The general hysteria around everything he does.

Finally: He is arguably the greatest college football player of all time. And if you don't like "greatest," then how about "most popular," "most compelling," "most high-profile" -- you pick.

Tebow hasn't lost a game in 2009. He has won championships. He has handled an absurd level of celebrity with relative ease. He has led. He has created an impossible standard.

If that's not worth "Sportsman of the Year," what is?

Oh, they must be saving him to be named "Sportsman of the Decade." That MUST be it....

Tebow Draft Watch: Will Vince Young Help?

Vince Young's success this season can't help but boost Tim Tebow's NFL stock. It is even more relevant today: Yesterday was the best game of VY's NFL career, culminating in that dramatic 99-yard 2-minute-drill and his last-second game-winning TD toss.

Lesson 1: Patience. Even though VY won Rookie of the Year, his career had fallen apart right through the start of this season. It took him 3.5 seasons to finally master the NFL -- folks need to remember that it could take Tebow that long, as well.

Lesson 2: System. Make no mistake: The Titans have optimized their offense to build around VY's strengths. VY has ultimately benefited from playing next to the most dynamic offensive force in the NFL today, Chris Johnson -- who keeps defenses honest.

If Tim Tebow is going to play QB in the NFL in a full-time role, he needs a similar set-up: Patience, plus a system geared to his strengths and being complemented by all-world players. (The problem is that it's not like you can find Chris Johnsons on any old team.)

Is Tim Tebow "Most Polarizing" Player?

Two terrific and interesting (and must-read) Tebow-related columns over the weekend, from Pat Forde and Bruce Feldman, both touching on this idea of Tim Tebow being the "most polarizing" player in college football history.

I love Tebow superlatives, but -- ironically -- that "most polarizing" one doesn't resonate with me.

In fact, of all of Tebow's superlative feats as a college football player, I would say that arguably the most impressive is the LACK of a backlash.

Oh, sure, there is a small but noisy minority of contrarians (I won't use "haters"). Maybe it's just semantics, but when I think of "polarizing," I think of a 50/50 for-against split with no one in the middle. With Tebow, it's more like 95 percent think of him favorably in some way, with 5 percent VERY unhappy. That's not polarizing.

As I have been saying all season:

Most fans -- even of Florida's biggest rivals -- have something a lot closer to begrudging respect for Tebow than hate.

That is the true measure of the player. He isn't Dave Matthews or Coldplay or Black Eyed Peas (does anyone like the Black Eyed Peas?) -- he's more like Lauryn Hill. From casual fans to true hip-hop heads, everyone likes Hill, even though she's a megastar.

Same with Tebow: Casual fans find him as fascinating as hard-core college football fans who appreciate Xs and Os that go into the career of a freak like Tebow.

Oh, some folks can find reason to quibble with one facet of Tebow's game/life or another: Some don't like his demonstrative displays. Some don't like his public expressions of his faith. Some don't like the way his passes wobble.

But few can't find something they like about his game or his personality. They don't like the eye-black but they love the competitiveness; they don't like the cheerleading but they love the efficiency on 3rd down.

And the reality is that most fans like most everything about Tebow -- and the ones that don't like most everything at least like something about Tebow.

To call him "most polarizing" is to give way too much weight to the tiny minority located at one pole that complain about him the loudest.

And even they, when pressed, probably could find something about his game that they respect -- and almost assuredly, if he was playing for THEIR team, they would love him.

Tebow Heisman Watch: Colt McCoy Comp

Stop what you're doing and read this fascinating analysis by the folks at He15man.net comparing Tim Tebow to Colt McCoy. When you factor in key "rate" stats -- and particularly when you factor in the level of defenses played against -- the case for Tebow over McCoy gets much, much stronger.

Tebow Heisman Watch: The Final Four

Per Pete Thamel, the Heisman race seems to be down to four players: Colt McCoy, Toby Gerhart, Mark Ingram... and Tim Tebow.

I predict all four will be invited to New York -- even if Tebow finishes 4th, there is no way they don't bring him as a finalist (rather than his attending as a former winner).

I have been saying since August that the Heisman is McCoy's to lose, because he will be undefeated and because voters love the "career achievement" angle, especially since he has never won it.

Ingram has to lead Alabama over Florida and have a monster game. After last week, I'm not sure he can.

Ironically, Gerhart reminds me of Tebow in 2007: A weaker team, but he is literally and metaphorically carrying them, with eye-popping stats and a terrific back story.

Tebow will be limited by three things: (1) Weaker stats relative to '07, (2) Southeast regional split with Ingram, (3) non-Southeast voters leave him entirely off their ballots (like last year, when Tebow had more 1st-place votes than Bradford or McCoy yet still finished behind both).

Here are the conditions under which Tebow might win the 2009 Heisman:
Condition 1: Texas loses to Nebraska.
Condition 2: Florida beats Alabama.
Condition 3: Tebow has a huge/memorable game.

All of those conditions would have to be met. Even then, I still would only give him a 70/30 shot. If McCoy leads Texas over Nebraska (as expected), I think it's over and McCoy wins.

Still: All signs point to Tebow finishing his Heisman-winning career as a three-time Heisman finalist -- unprecedented.

And, as Tebow will be the first to say, the Heisman is meaningless if Florida doesn't win the SEC title, then go on to win the national title.

Like Bradford a year ago, McCoy can have it -- if it offers comfort after the Big 12 champ loses the national title game.

Tebow Draft Watch: Late 1st/Early 2nd?

From OnlyGators.com and ProFootballTalk, about Peter King's report on Football Night in America:
On NBC’s Football Night in America, Peter King said he spoke to 17 NFL general managers about Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow. Asking them where they projected him being drafted, King said the average came out to No. 33 overall. However, two coaches of winning teams told King that he would not get past their pick in the first round.
Throw the "average" stuff out, entirely because of that last point: As the saying goes, all it takes is one team. Maybe it's posturing -- standard NFL draft disinformation.

But maybe it is legit. And, despite the coach's penchant for secrecy and subterfuge, perhaps one of those coaches was Bill Belichick. (Although I'm sure Belichick wouldn't discuss Tebow draft strategy with Peter King for public consumption, even anonymously.) PFT seems to think it's Jacksonville and Minnesota.

I had a vision this morning that one of the two teams was the Saints; Sean Payton is innovative enough to deploy Tebow (although it's hard to imagine the scenario where Payton wants to replace Drew Brees with Tebow at QB -- maybe 5 years from now, however).

The fact remains: Tim Tebow continues to prove himself to be the No. 1 storyline of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Favorite Tebow Swamp Finale Photo

I'm torn about picking a favorite photo from Tim Tebow's finale at The Swamp.

Contender 1 (from the AP):


This one, from the pregame ceremony, captures everything that defines Tebow: Faith (eye-black totally visible), family (hugging mom), football (uniform on) -- and the connection he has with the fans (looking up into the crowd). You can see how emotionally overwhelmed he is by the mixture of the hug from his mom and the cheers from the fans.

Contender 2 (from the G'ville Sun):


This one -- from the final seconds of the day's emotional intensity -- personifies Tebow's connection to the fans: The last thing he does as he exits the stadium is to do the Gator Chomp to the crowd. He isn't just the best player in Florida football history; he might also be the program's biggest fan.

(h/t to the Palm Beach Post's Ben Volin for capturing the best photos from the day in a terrific photo gallery at his Gator Bytes blog.)

Tebow Sunday Must-Read: Forde on Finale

Great column by ESPN.com's Pat Forde on Tim Tebow's Swamp finale, including a great superlative: "Most impactful player in college football history." True enough. Money quote:

None of us has seen anything like it. What makes Tebow unique in the 140-year history of this game is not just his unquenchable spirit. It's his generosity of spirit.

The numbers and awards are all impressive and voluminous, but they're not what have made the quarterback a historic figure in Florida and beyond. That's due to the winning attributes, the leadership qualities, the endless acts of charity performed off the field, the ability to graciously lead a heavily scrutinized life.

You just don't find all those things in a single college-aged package.

Forde overplays how "polarizing" Tebow is -- as I have said before, one of the most remarkable things about Tim Tebow is, in fact, how few real Tebow-haters there are out there. Even opponents' fans express more begrudging respect than anything resembling "hate."

Regardless, Forde has put together a definitive take on Tebow's finale. Definitely worth your time today to read.

More worthwhile reads from/about Tebow's Swamp finale:

*SI.com's Andy Staples: "Whether you consider him genuine or fake, Tebow, at the end of the day, is a Heisman Trophy-, SEC- and BCS-title winning quarterback who goes to class, goes to church and circumcises people less fortunate than him. More people should be so intolerable."

*Gainesville Sun's Pat Dooley: "There was a lot of hugging going on in The Swamp on this perfect Saturday night. Until, of course, Tebow got to the section of the stadium where the FSU band stood. They began to give him the chop. He responded with a chomp."

*Orlando Sentinel's Andrea Adelson: "People were lined up 20 deep, waiting for the sirens to signal the team bus had arrived. They turned over garbage cans and stood on top of them, climbed metal gates and sat on them for a better view. One person asked, 'Should I climb that tree?'"

*Fanhouse's David Whitley: "All he did for the past four years is behave himself, get good grades, work harder, win more, care more and inspire more people than any player we'll ever see."

More Tebow Fandom, But a Brief Digression

So we already know about Tim Tebow's lifetime allegiance as a Gators fan, and how that was a big influence on how much he cares about the program and the fans -- and, in turn, how much they care about him. Here is a bit more, along those lines, but a little more personal to me:

When I'm not helping my older son put on "Tebow"-themed eye-black in honor of Tim Tebow's finale at The Swamp, I am writing essays in today's Sunday New York Times about how I am trying to help him find his way as a sports fan.

(Obviously, his college football allegiance is covered -- this piece today wasn't about his Florida fandom. But there's a lot to be written about that, too.)

Tim Tebow On His Bond With Gator Fans

"That was special for them to do a tribute like that was very special and it meant a lot, my relationship with the Gator fans is great. One reason is because I’m such a passionate Gator fan. I care so much about this university because I was such a big fan since I was young. Gator fans appreciate that. They know I appreciate them. I try to treat all of them special the way guys when I was 6 years old treated me."

-- Tim Tebow, on his Swamp finale and the tribute that many fans paid by wearing eye-black in his honor. (What Tebow said also dovetails with what I wrote about last week and my wife's theory of Tebow's Florida fandom.)

Tebow Swamp Finale: Flashbulbs and Eye-Black

I want to go back to what I said in the previous post about the defining part of Tim Tebow's final game at The Swamp.

It feels like the organic celebration from the fans -- the frenzy of flashbulbs, the spontaneous eye-black tributes -- was the most powerful thing about the event.

The two "planned" components -- Tebow's Senior Day jog from the tunnel to Urban Meyer and his parents and the final play before he was taken out -- both were a little understated, even anti-climactic.

On Tebow's final pre-game entrance, the crowd was loud enough (and the TV replays of Tebow's misty eyes just before he ran out was powerful), but the whole thing lasted 30 seconds -- I guess it is most appropriate for Tebow to get treated no different from any other senior.

On his final play, it was a weird one, following a penalty. I think most fans will remember the final plays of the preceding series: The would-be jump-pass, followed by Tebow's 5th TD of the night, a Tebow bulldozing into the end zone.

Again: The most powerful part of the game setting had nothing to do with anything that Tebow or Florida could control -- it was all about the fans.

Between the flashbulbs and the eye-black, that is a perfect summary of the combination of star-struckness and emotional commitment to Tebow that Florida fans have.

(The photo above is of my 3-year-old son, who had on his Tebow jersey AND his custom eye-black.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tim Tebow Swamp Finale: Near-Perfect

The camera flashes. That is what stood out most from Tim Tebow's last game at The Swamp.

Even watching on TV -- where there was no lack of Tebow-love, as anyone who watched can attest -- the camera flashes were awe-inspiring. Reports from folks at the game were that the flashes were even more impressive in person. 90,000 witnesses to Tebow's final Swamp game.

The results themselves were appropriately "typical Tebow": 5 TDs -- three passing and two rushing, with one near-miss on a jump-pass TD that would have been the perfect ending. We'll settle for near-perfect.

221 yards passing on 17/21 throws. 90 yards rushing on 15 carries (6.0 ypc). A couple of bombs. A couple of shovel-passes. Some nifty footwork. Again: Typical Tebow, more than anything else.

That the defense played lights-out. That the NFL-ready juniors like Aaron Hernandez and Joe Haden had spectacular games. That the senior class could make their final Swamp game such a memorable domination. They crushed a rival. They finished a perfect 12-0 regular season, setting up a classic 1-vs-2 SEC title game vs. Alabama. These added to the festivities.

It is worth noting: Today was (mostly) about Tebow's career. But things aren't over -- not even close.

Next week: The SEC title game against nemesis Alabama. And, after that, the national-title game.

The expectations remain the same: Anything less than a national title will be a failure for Tim Tebow and this Florida team.

But for one afternoon, we could forget about all those expectations and instead concentrate on celebration.

It was welcome. It was earned. And it lived up to the hype.

(The NYT's Pete Thamel has a must-read first take on the game, putting it into perspective.)

Tebow's Eye-Black: Hebrews 12: 1-2

Tim Tebow's eye-black tonight -- in a sea of fans wearing their own eye-black in tribute -- was from Hebrews 12:1-2, which reads:
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I really liked part 1 of the passage -- something that had to be an intentional reference to the frenzied Swamp crowd he would be playing in front of.

(It is worth noting that as of 10 pm on Saturday night, "Hebrews 12:1-2" was the No. 1 most-searched term on Google Trends.)

Tebow Gator GameDay: The Swamp Finale!

Here we go: The final game at The Swamp for Tim Tebow, the most successful and popular player in the history of Florida football -- and possibly the history of college football.

I can't believe I won't be at The Swamp for this -- my in-laws will be there, representing, and my kids' Aunt Holly FedEx'ed eye-black strips for everyone to wear today. (Yes, even me.)

As we have been reviewing all week, it should be an emotional pre-game ceremony -- for fans, for Urban Meyer, for the Tebows and for Tim himself.

And that's BEFORE kickoff. Once that happens, it's all business: Complete the unbeaten regular season, against the most bitter rival. That is the best possible way to end Tebow's Swamp career.

More later.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tebow Swamp Finale: Those Uniforms

I buy an absurd amount of Gator gear, and I would be inclined to buy the Tebow version of the one-time-only Nike Pro Combat jersey... if only they used it in the meaningless quasi-scrimmage versus FIU, rather than Tebow's final game at The Swamp.

I am progressive about a lot of things, but on this point, I am a traditionalist: I would have liked to see Tim go out in the classic blue uniform, and out of mild protest, I won't be buying the alternate jersey.

(I think he would, too, but he's being a good corporate partner -- perhaps with an idea in the back of his head about the major endorsement deal he will get from Nike the morning after his eligibility ends in the bowl game.)

And so I will save my money for Tebow's first NFL jersey. I'm sure Reebok and the Jaguars-Patriots-Redskins-Raiders-Whoever will be happy to hear that.

(And yet... OK: If Tebow has some kind of crazy game in the jersey -- a Heisman moment or two, some kind of wild statistical day -- I could be compelled to buy it. After all, it IS the edition of his jersey for his final game in The Swamp, right? Must... resist... urge...)

Tebow Swamp Finale: GameDay in G'ville

ESPN College GameDay in Gainesville for Tim Tebow's final home game brings back memories of the first time GameDay came to Gainesville in the Tebow Era -- October 6, 2006 against LSU.

Kirk Herbstreit remembers, and he talked about it back in August:
In my lifetime, not to make this an overdramatic comment, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy have as big an impact on a powerhouse program as I’ve seen from Tim Tebow from Day 1.

I think GameDay was down at LSU-Florida his first year as a freshman and you hear about Tim Tebow, but you hear about a lot of guys. I remember when he took the field for a third-and-short with Chris Leak as the starting quarterback and he pushed that entire defense back 5 yards. I had never seen a stadium react to a player like that.

I said to (Chris) Fowler it’s like he’s Roy Hobbs from the movie “The Natural.”
It’s been a love affair from that point on. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like his last go around.
That LSU game was arguably Tim Tebow's greatest game in The Swamp. More on that later.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tebow Draft Watch: Jim Kelly Approves

Just a couple days after Jimmie Johnson claimed Tebow couldn't work out as a pro-style NFL QB, Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly told USA Today that the Bills should re-build... around Tebow.

I like Trent personally. He works hard. But he's had three years. It's time to find somebody who is the future of the Buffalo Bills. If I'm the owner, that's what I'm thinking. Whether it's Tim Tebow, whether they'll have a shot at him when draft time comes ... you have to look at the top three quarterbacks in the draft, really study them. And you look for a guy with good character, good leadership ability and good arm strength — and a guy who doesn't come from California.

It's not incompatible with what Johnson suggested -- that Tebow could play in the NFL, but would need a system tailored to his strengths.

The Bills should absolutely consider re-building around Tebow. Will they be willing to try a revamped offense that plays to Tebow's strengths? (Having a new coach who buys into that will help.) Consider how revolutionary it seemed when Kelly ran the no-huddle for Buffalo.

The Bills, by the way, have nothing to lose by trying an entirely new offensive system. It's not like they're going to the Super Bowl anytime soon under the current system.

(To answer Kelly's question: Based on current mock drafts, the Bills -- who will draft in the Top half of the Draft... if not the Top 10 -- should have a shot at drafting Tebow. If they feel like rolling the dice, they may even get a shot at him in the early 2nd... but, as I have said before, I wouldn't let the Pats get a chance at him in the late 1st.)

Now, back to your regularly scheduled "Tebow Swamp Finale" programming. Check out any of the 11 posts from the past two days, with more to come between now and Saturday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tim Tebow Swamp Finale: Spectacle

In this week's Yahoo Sports-TimTeblog collaboration, I analyze Tim Tebow's final game at The Swamp. I'd call it my unifying theory of his Swamp finale.

Tim Tebow Talks About the Finale

Via ESPN:

Tebow's Greatest Moment Ever at The Swamp: The Promise

Earlier today, I said that Tebow's Greatest Play Ever at The Swamp was the original "Jump Pass." But that wasn't Tebow's Greatest Moment Ever at The Swamp.

That greatest moment ever would be: "The Promise."

Technically, "The Promise" didn't happen on the field of The Swamp. It happened in the media room, after what was -- by all accounts -- a terrible loss for Florida and a particularly painful play by Tebow: His inability to convert a crucial 4th-and-1 late in the game that gave Ole Miss the win. It was the most distraught moment of the Tebow Era at Florida.

But, it can be argued, that without the blown 4th-down conversion, there would be no "Promise." And without the "Promise" (along with the win-or-die mentality that went along with the loss), there would have been no run to the 2008 national championship.

For me, "The Promise" is the defining moment of Tim Tebow's Florida career -- not just despite but because it happened off the field, a measure of his competitive drive and leadership, not just on the field but off of it. Let's revisit, in its complete form:



What was YOUR favorite Tebow moment at The Swamp?

Tebow's Greatest Play Ever at The Swamp: The Jump Pass

Let's re-live Tim Tebow's greatest play ever at The Swamp: The original "Jump Pass" against LSU on October 6, 2006 -- coming just before halftime on 4th down, it was the decisive score of the game. I like this first one: A bit grainy, but it captured the emotion of the moment.

(In the Comments: What do YOU think was Tebow's greatest play ever at The Swamp?)







Tebow Off the Field > Tebow On the Field

For all the success (awards, championships, signature moments) that Tim Tebow has created on the field, his larger-than-life status is a function of his off-field work. Ben Volin has a post with an anecdote that captures it perfectly. The core takeaway of Tebow's legacy is that you most certainly cannot replicate the way he plays on the field, but you absolutely can follow his lead off of it. (And I'm not talking about it in terms of religious values -- just human ones.)

Tebow Farewell Tour: Florida State

Every week marks one more farewell for Tim Tebow. Against an opponent. In a rival SEC town. He is a one-man Farewell Tour. Games to go: 3

Saturday, Tebow will play against rival Florida State one last time -- and, more emotionally, it is Tebow's final game ever at The Swamp. Let's look back at Tebow's history vs. FSU:

2006: 21-14 @FSU
Notable because: Quietest game of Tebow's career.
Tebow saw his most limited action of the season. He was on the field for five plays -- 4 runs for 3 total yards and one incomplete pass. No TDs. Amazingly, Tebow didn't merit even a mention in the game recap.

2007: 45-12 @UF
Notable because: FSU's Geno Hayes said Tebow was "going down." Whoops.
Instead, Tebow put an exclamation point on his Heisman campaign. Tebow accounted for 351 yards of offense (262 passing, with 3 TDs, 89 rushing with 2 TDs. His 2nd rushing TD tied the major college football record for TDs by a QB.)

Best quote: "We could not get him down. If he doesn't win the Heisman Trophy, it's because of the sophomore thing. But if he doesn't, he should win the next two years." (Bobby Bowden)

Meyer quote: "He's a great football player. I can't say enough about him and I think he's one of the finest players in America."

And Meyer, on Tebow's Heisman chances: ""I think Tim's one of the better players in America, but my opinion really doesn't matter. If I have the first draft pick, I kind of like who I've got."

Notably: Everyone -- fans, teammates, cheerleaders -- wanted Tebow to strike the "Heisman pose." He demurred, saying this: "I wasn't going to do it, but it was funny. Just trying to be humble and do it the right way."

2008: 45-15 @FSU
Notable because: That image of a rain-drenched Tebow, with the FSU crimson end-zone paint smeared over his face and jersey, looking like some kind of extra from "Braveheart."

In the sloppiest conditions that Florida had ever played in during the Tebow Era, Tebow accounted for 4 TDs (3 pass, 1 rush) and 265 of Florida's 317 total yards of offense, including a team-high 16 carries (for 80 yards).

Quote of the Game: "If it was up to me, I probably would have run him 50 times." (Urban Meyer on Tebow)

MORE: Jeremy Fowler's recap of Tebow's history against FSU.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tebow's Legacy Is Defined By Winning

ESPN.com SEC blogger Chris Low has an absolute must-read in trying to define Tim Tebow's legacy, heading into his final home game at The Swamp. The money quote:
[In] my book, what sets him apart is the way he’s won, the way he’s inspired his teammates to win and the way he’s managed to keep winning despite being one of the most visible targets college football has seen in a long time.
The entire thing is worth your time. Really great perspective -- succinctly delivered -- from an SEC expert. OK, one last quote from Low:
"I doubt we'll see one (at least any time soon) who impacts the game in as many different ways as Tebow did."
Agreed.

UPDATE: Here is another great retrospective, from "Mr. College Football," Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Tebow Award Watch: Academic All-American of the Year

Tim Tebow was named ESPN the Magazine 2009 Academic All-American of the Year. He becomes the first player to be named Academic All-American of the Year two years in a row. This is his third appearance on the Academic All-America team. Tebow is taking one hour of class this semester. (You have to presume that the award takes into account community service.)

Tebow Draft Watch: Jimmie Johnson Is a Hater

"I don't think Tim Tebow can play in the NFL if it's in a pro style offense."

-- Jimmy Johnson, on the Dan Patrick Show today. Yes, but who said he could... or even would? The longstanding argument (around here and in Urban Meyer's office) is that Tebow needs to be deployed creatively. Maybe that's as a starting QB in a totally revolutionary system, but maybe that is as a spot-starter in particular situations: Short-yardage, red-zone.

Johnson says it himself: "Coaches -- it doesn't make any difference or they're pro or college -- they're so set in their ways, sometimes they try to fit a square peg into a round hole."

Exactly: If Tebow plays for a smart coach (cough! Belichick!) who takes advantage of his unique skills, he can do just fine as a QB in the NFL. Look at how Vince Young is now thriving in an offensive scheme that is suited to his ability to move in the pocket.

Tebow Swamp Finale: Shortened Ovation?

I had this idea that Tim Tebow would get a crazy 10-minute standing ovation from the fans in The Swamp on Saturday. At LEAST 10 minutes.

Apparently, I am wrong. Per the Sentinel's Jeremy Fowler, it will be the standard Senior Day ceremony: Players run out of the tunnel, get a flower, greet their parents and Urban Meyer.

The ceremony is normally around 8 minutes. This year, it has been extended... to 10 minutes. Presumably, the senior class will take around 8, then Tebow will be introduced last and get 2.

And that will be it. I presume that Tebow himself wants to get treated no differently than anyone else in this spectacular senior class -- for a consummate team-first leader like Tebow, that seems like the most appropriate send-off of all.

Tebow Heisman Watch: Up to 4th

Tim Tebow has moved up to 4th place in the latest HeismanPundit.com straw poll. He sits behind Mark Ingram (1st), Colt McCoy (2nd) and Toby Gerhart (3rd).

Things still project fairly simply: If Tebow and Florida beat Ingram and Alabama, Tebow will not only knock Ingram from the top spot, but secure a place in the Top 3 for himself.

As an additional consequence, Colt McCoy would move up to the top spot and likely assure himself of being named the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, mostly for the Dayne-esque "lifetime achievement" rationale.

If Ingram and Alabama beat Florida, I still think McCoy ultimately beats out Ingram -- Ingram and Tebow will split Heisman votes in the Southeast; McCoy will have a solid block in the Midwest and Southwest.

Check out more awards talk -- Maxwell, O'Brien and more -- right here.

Tebow Award Watch: Most Decorated College Football Player Ever?

An interesting subplot coming into the season related to Tebow's place among the all-time greatest college football players, supported in part by this superlative:

Most Decorated Player Ever.

Postseason hardware is at least one proxy -- not all, but a part -- of the case for Greatest College Football Player Ever.

Tebow has already won one Heisman in 2007, with another Top 3 finish (most 1st-place votes) in 2008 and status as a Top 5 contender this season.

But he is also the two-time winner of the Maxwell Award, which goes to the best all-around player in college football, and the 2007 winner of the Davey O'Brien Award, which goes to the best QB in the country. He has made plenty of All-America teams, too.

That's just what's on the resume already -- now, for what he is up for THIS year. Just announced yesterday, Tebow is a finalist for:

*The Maxwell, for best all-around player (he is competing with Colt McCoy and Mark Ingram). Tebow is a three-time finalist and two-time defending award winner -- the first two-time winner since Notre Dame's John Lattner in the early 1950s.

*The Davey O'Brien, for best QB (he is competing with McCoy and Houston's Case Keenum). Tebow won the O'Brien in 2007 and was a finalist in 2008.

It's hard to predict: The odds would probably favor McCoy in both, but don't count out Tebow, particularly given his history with these awards.

Tebow is already one of the most decorated college football players of all time. Being a finalist for the Maxwell and O'Brien -- and perhaps the Heisman -- will only bolster his final legacy as THE most decorated college football player of all time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tim Tebow: Future Coach of Florida?

"He actually always gives me a hard time about that, saying one day how I'm going to be in his seat and coaching here. I don't know. That's something that intrigues me ... being able to coach them as far as life experiences and football."

-- Tim Tebow, on his future as a football coach and on Urban Meyer's encouragement for Tebow to be a coach.

And here was a note buried at the bottom of OnlyGators.com's recap of Urban Meyer's press conference today:

"Meyer also mentioned that he believes Tebow has the intelligence and ability to coach Florida later in his football career."

Consider that for a moment: Tim Tebow returning to Florida as a coach.

It makes sense. Tebow has all the qualities of a great coach -- high football IQ, leadership, recruiting ability, cachet.

Consider for a moment that Tebow's NFL career lasts some number of years -- ranging from a couple to, say, 10. He will be 32. I can guarantee you that Meyer would find room for him on his staff -- wherever he is. So would Dan Mullen. In fact, if Tebow didn't play a down of pro football, he could be a college football head-coach by the time he was in his mid-30s.

Presuming Tebow can get the requisite experience from coaching under Meyer (or a Meyer protege), I could see Tebow having a similar impact in his mid-30s as Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern. (Fitz started coaching almost immediately, and so when he took over the program at age 31, he was already 8 or 9 years into his coaching life.)

All signs point to a 5- to 10-year NFL career for Tebow.

Still: Something intriguing to think about, isn't it?

MORE:
*Ben Volin on "Coach Tebow"
*Mike Bianchi on Tebow as future Florida coach.

Tebow Knows: Will Urban Meyer Leave Florida?

"When he's ready to retire and he's done, which I don't think is now -- I don't think it will be for awhile -- I don't think he'll be at Notre Dame. I don't think that's anything he'll do now...I don't think that really interests him. I think he's enjoying his time here."

-- Tim Tebow at today's press conference, on the speculation that Urban Meyer would leave Florida -- for Notre Dame or anywhere else. (At his Monday presser, Meyer flatly rejected the idea he would go to Notre Dame.)

Not to parse too finely, but note Tebow's use of "now," which implies that some day, he will leave Florida for another job. Tebow knows Meyer as well as anyone outside of Meyer's own family. Don't discount Tebow's analysis.

Although I don't think that Meyer will leave Florida for another college job -- but that's not to say he will never coach another college team:

Tebow's phrasing dovetails with my longstanding theory that Urban Meyer will coach another 4-5 years at Florida, then Meyer will be hired by Patriots owner Bob Kraft to replace Bill Belichick when Belichick retires.

As if that theory wasn't enough for you: Meyer will coach the Patriots in the NFL for 6-7 years, then finish his coaching career by signing the largest coaching deal in college football history with Notre Dame. He will be just 57 years old when he finally gets to Notre Dame.

Urban Meyer Will Miss Tim Tebow

"The one thing about Tim is the unselfishness of his mission outside of college football is unparalleled. It’s almost like selflessness is a cool thing, kids realizing to give back and if you can brighten someone’s day you do it. And the impact he’s made on this team is phenomenal, and this coaching staff. It’s more noticeable behind closed doors than probably what you guys see, and it’s a significant impact."

-- Urban Meyer, at his weekly Monday press conference, when asked about Tim Tebow. Meyer visibly choked up and had to compose himself before answering.

"Urban Meyer Will Miss Tim Tebow" as this post headline is probably the understatement of the year.

Tebow Is A Florida Football Fan Himself (And Always Shows It During FSU Week)

"Why is it so important to me? Since I can remember watching football, I've been watching that game."

-- Tim Tebow, on Florida's rivalry with Florida State. Tebow followed with an FSU-rivalry story (familiar to those who track Tebow closely) that I think is essential to his mythic status:

"When Florida State beat Florida in 1996, we didn't think we'd go to the national championship. I remember my dad made me go outside and cut the grass and rake the leaves. The whole time I was raking leaves, I was crying because Florida State just beat Florida. That's just one example of how special this game is. Winning this game helps put a smile on your face, that's for sure."

It's easy to chuckle at the story, but I think it is telling in a fairly substantive way:

My wife -- who is the lifelong Gator fan and, as you know, is the one who converted me -- ID'ed during Tebow's freshman year what she liked most about him:

That Tebow, himself, was a die-hard Gator fan.

He grew up rooting for Florida, which -- she would attribute -- makes him that much more spirited about playing for Florida and his relationship with Gator Nation.

His tie to the school isn't just as a player -- it is as a fan. And that matters.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Image of the Day: Tebow's TD Run

Photo credit: Doug Finger, Gainesville Sun.

Contrary to popular belief (and unlike his idol, Danny Wuerffel), you typically don't see a whole lot of flashy religious gestures from Tim Tebow on the field -- even after TDs. Most of the time, he leaps into the arms of his offensive linemen or flexes his arms to the crowd.

On Tebow's career-best 55-yard TD run, however, he flashed a quick finger and glance to the sky when he entered the end zone, then received his teammates in celebration. The Sun captured it perfectly from the back of the end zone.

I think this was my favorite Tebow moment of the season so far, actually.

(Be sure to read Sun standout correspondent Ed Aschoff's terrific frozen-moment analysis of the run.)

Tebow Quote of the Day: Meyer on the QBs

“I’m not ready to run our current guy out of town yet."

-- Urban Meyer, on the eye-opening performance by John Brantley... but the fact that we still get three games more from Tim Tebow. (h/t: GC's Buddy Martin)

Love that quote.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tebow Heisman Watch: Did FIU Help?

"Tim Tebow is slowly crawling back into the Heisman race."

That was the assessment of the Palm Beach Post's Ben Volin in his always-must-read postgame notes. I'm not sure he was out of it -- he has remained in the Top 5 all season long, with the presumption that if Florida beats Alabama in two weeks (presumably beating FSU next week), he is a Top 3 lock.

Here was the case for Tebow that Volin made:
His Gators are 11-0, and his three touchdowns Saturday gave him 25 this year, against eight turnovers. He had 317 combined yards of offense and scored three total touchdowns, striking just the right chord with Heisman voters – his numbers looked great, and he didn’t go crazy with the stat padding. His 55-yard touchdown run in the first quarter not only was the longest of his career, but also was the 54th of his career, nudging him past former LSU running back Kevin Faulk for the most in SEC history. Tebow won’t be able to replicate his numbers from the past two seasons, but as long as he keeps winning, he will contend for the Heisman Trophy.
More Tebow Heisman tracking early next week, when the new straw polls come out.

Tebow Day or GameDay? ESPN in Gainesville Next Week

Call it College "Tebow Day": ESPN College GameDay will be in Gainesville next week for the Florida-Florida State game.

Hmm: I wonder why? Perhaps it's because it is the final home game for arguably the most mythic player in college football history. That seems like a good enough reason to show up.

Tebow Swamp Finale Lead-Up: Uniform Controversy?

We'll get into this more later this week, but it isn't without contention that Florida will play its final home game of the season -- Tebow's final home game ever -- in those new Nike "Pro Combat" uniforms, rather than the traditional uniforms.

Even Tebow touched on it, during his post-game press availability, via the Twitter feed of Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post:
#Tebow says he has "mixed feelings" about wearing the new #Nike uniforms next week in his last home game at The Swamp
It's pretty interesting to see a major de facto Nike endorser -- and presumably future cornerstone Nike endorser -- question the uniform choices. (Not that I expect him to pull a Marcus Jordan and refuse to wear the uniforms. But his "mixed feelings" speak volumes.)

But honestly: Would it have been so hard for the school to wear the alternative uniforms THIS week, against a non-opponent in a non-finale context?

Yes, it will -- even slightly -- tarnish next week's game. I'm all for Nike trying out -- and promoting -- new uniform looks and technologies.

Just not in Tebow's career finale at The Swamp.

******

Speaking of Twitter, I'll leave you for the evening with this, from Dick Vitale:
@DickieV : TIM TEBOW is such a winner. Don't measure Tebow by stats- he is MR HEISMAN!
Catch you in the morning.

Tebow's Eye-Black: Romans 1:16

Tim Tebow is wearing eye-black against Florida International sporting "Rom 1:16" -- Romans 1:16. Here is one version:

I am proud of the good news! It is God's powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.

(That's the Contemporary English Version. You can see other versions behind the link.)

Usually, I try to come up with a way to apply the eye-black to the storylines of the field. That's a bit of a toughie this week. Maybe something like:

Don't be ashamed of appreciating the wins -- no matter if they are close or blow-outs. Just appreciate that you're winning.

Let's start speculating immediately what eye-black Tebow will wear next week for his last game ever at The Swamp.

Tim Tebow Against FIU: Breezy

As dominating as expected:

17 of 25 for 215 yards and 2 TDs.
Highlight: Getting the ball to all the receivers.

7 carries for 102 yards and a TD.
Highlight: 55-yard TD run (longest run of TT's career)

Played one series into the 3rd quarter, then sat.

All in all, a nice little effort.
More later, including post-game quotes.

Let the build-up to Tebow's Last Game at The Swamp begin.

Tebow Superlatives: Longest. Run. Ever.

It feels like there can't be many superlatives left for Tim Tebow, but he just added another one: Longest run ever.

Tebow just broke off a 55-yard-TD run -- not just the longest TD run of his career, but the longest run of his career, period. (Couple of nifty stiff-arms made it almost Heisman-esque.)

Bonus milestone! The TD run also broke Kevin Faulk's SEC record for career non-passing TDs.

Life After Tebow Begins Today

Today is Tim Tebow's 2nd-to-last game at The Swamp. It should be a romp. The second team should see plenty of playing time, including Tebow's heir-apparent, John Brantley.

Think back to the November laugher in 2006: Western Carolina. Chris Leak was pulled early, and Tim Tebow was given the keys to the offense -- fans at The Swamp (I was there, too) left feeling thrilled about the prospects of the team for the next season and beyond.

Next week will be about Tim Tebow's Swamp farewell. This week will be such a blowout that it will really be about life "After Tebow." And that's what this week's Yahoo-Teblog column is about.

As you wait around until the 12:30 kickoff -- hopefully, you have access to the pay-per-view broadcast somewhere or will be going to the game -- it's a good way to think about today's game.

(Because, as soon as Tebow comes out of today's game, we start thinking about next week's game -- his Swamp finale. Wow: It's going to be crazy.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tebow Farewell Tour: November Patsy

Every week marks one more farewell for Tim Tebow. Against an opponent. In a rival SEC town. He is a one-man Farewell Tour. Games to go: 4

Tomorrow, Tebow will play against a November patsy one last time -- and his second-to-last game at The Swamp. Let's look back at Tebow's history vs. November cupcakes:

2006: Western Carolina, 62-0.
Why it mattered: Florida fans' first glimpse at What Could Be, with Tim Tebow getting starter's snaps in a full-blown Urban Meyer spread offense. He accounted for 4 TDs and nearly 250 yards of total offense (10/12 passing for 200 yards and another 49 yards rushing.)

After the game, Meyer with the understatement of the year about Tebow: "He's pretty good. He's a full-functioning quarterback."

2007: Florida Atlantic, 59-20.
Why it mattered: The "20/20" game for Tebow, as Tim became the first player ever to pass for 20 TDs and rush for 20 TDs in the same season. Tebow also set the SEC record for most rushing TDs in a season.

"20/20" was a big talking point for Tebow's Heisman chances. Dan Mullen: "He's definitely as deserving as the other guys out there. He's had a phenomenal season. He's obviously a major, major part of our offense -- one of the most important parts of our team -- and he's a great person. If I had an award to give, he's a guy I wouldn't mind representing you for that award."

Meyer was more critical: "Tim didn't play his best game. That's being critical. I'm being critical of Tim because he needs a little critical analysis every once in a while. He did not play his best game, but that tells you how good a football player he is."

Give Meyer the last word, when told about "20/20": "That's unbelievable. I can't believe that's never been done before. That's a great record to have. I'd much rather have our ninth win next week." (Note consistency of "Winning is all that matters from 2007 to 2009.)

FAU put up a little bit more of a fight than expected -- not entirely unexpected in what can be considered the Interregnum between title seasons. (And FAU was a substantial upgrade over either the 2006 or 2008 November cupcakes.) Tebow accounted for 4 TDs (3 pass, 1 rush) and threw for 338 yards (25/34 attempts).

2008: The Citadel, 70-19.
Why it mattered: Would this be Tim Tebow's final game at The Swamp?

The answer was uncertain and the adulation was overflowing. Tebow was non-plussed about the game: "I don't want to think about it like that at all."

Tebow played slightly more than a quarter, with Florida taking an absurd 42-0 lead before the 2nd quarter was barely a few minutes underway. Tebow had a game not unlike the 2006 laugher, throwing for 201 yards on 9/11 passing, with 3 TDs.

Tebow took a victory lap after the game, in what would become a bit of a populist -- and popular -- tradition for him:

"I think it's cool. It's not like a burden or anything. It just lets you know they want you."

Tim Tebow Swamp Finale: Prepare

Is it too early to start thinking about next week's game against Florida State -- Tim Tebow's final game at The Swamp? It's going to be a very very very very big deal:

The most popular player in the history of Florida football -- Florida anything, actually -- taking his final run out of the tunnel, snaps on the field, singing of songs in front of Swamp fans.

With tomorrow's game against FIU a foregone conclusion that it will be a walk-over, we can turn attention to Tebow's final home game, his final regular-season game as a college football player.

Wall-to-wall coverage all next week (there will be plenty to cover), but in the meantime, one fan had the clever idea to have fans at The Swamp for the FSU game wear eye-black in Tebow's honor. He created a Facebook group to promote it.

I kind of like that idea, actually. It's subtle but powerful, visual but not out of reach for ordinary fans. Some smart corporate marketing VP should sponsor eye-black stickers for everyone.

Hmm: Would it be crazy for Florida fans anywhere -- even outside the stadium -- to wear eye-black in honor of Tebow's final game at The Swamp?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tim Tebow NFL Draft Stock Tanking?

Extra-big kudos to the Sentinel's Jeremy Fowler for stepping into the usually quiet Thursday-of-game-week void with the storyline to drive today's Tim Tebow news cycle:

Has Tim Tebow's NFL Draft stock tanked?

Fowler quotes plenty of NFL draft experts and scouts who argue that it has. They cite his lack of progress as an "NFL" QB under Scott Loeffler (OnlyGators.com has more on that here); they mention (but discount) his average stats; they point out his decision-making against Mississippi State; there's even a Mel Kiper sighting! (Bearish on Tebow as an NFL QB, as you'd expect.)

Accuracy issues... mechanics issues... all the greatest hits are mentioned. And all of it leads up to a Kiper assessment that Tebow has dropped into the 3rd (or even 4th!) round.

This dovetails with something I noticed this morning: In Sporting News' latest mock draft, Tebow is out of the first round entirely -- this after being a Top 10 pick as recently as last month.

Now, let's begin the caveats -- and there are plenty of 'em:

*It's only mid-November. Remember how Tebow's NFL stock improved when he led Florida to the 4th-quarter comeback over Alabama last December? Plenty of time to show more skills at the college level. And Fowler quotes scouts talking about the opportunity for "defining moments." (You'd think teams would be more clinical in their scouting than to factor in "defining moments," but with Tebow, all bets are off.)

*Ignore the draftniks: How Tebow plays in college games won't have nearly the impact on his draft stock as his private and public workouts with teams -- and the training he will go through to prepare for those workouts, focusing entirely on his NFL skills.

(And not, say, winning games.) One draftnik Fowler talked to points to Tebow's performance during Senior Bowl week. (There's a presumption he will play in it... I wouldn't bank on it just yet. If his agent tells him not to, he might not. Then again, Tebow is such a competitor he just might do it to show he doesn't fear it. Same with the Combine: You don't think Tebow doesn't want to set the new combine record for bench-press reps by a QB?)

*On Draft Day, irrationality will rule. At least as it relates to Tebow. There will be at least a few teams -- maybe the Redskins, maybe the Raiders, maybe the Jaguars -- who will feel compelled to draft Tebow (even a 1st-round reach) for lots of reasons besides what scouts are saying in mid-November. Don't discount the power of "What if he...?" for an NFL owner. Especially when they take into consideration that the smartest coach in the NFL loves him. Segue to...

*The Belichick Factor: I will say it again. Tim Tebow will not -- let me be clear: WILL. NOT. -- slip past the Patriots in the first round.

Before Roger Goodell finishes saying, "The Patriots pick next...," Bill Belichick will snap up Tebow (I will cry a little bit, then suck it up and order my Pats Tebow jersey) and then creatively deploy him in a way that will destroy the rest of the league. Re-imagine Belichick on 4th-and-2 against the Colts on Sunday night with Tebow lined up next to Brady.

In the end -- as much as Pats-haters might dislike the idea -- the most ideal place for Tim Tebow in the NFL is playing for Bill Belichick.

If -- as currently projected -- Tebow slips all the way through the first round because other teams can't see his potential, that will be their loss -- and the Patriots' gain.

But slipping into the 3rd or 4th round? No way. If something crazy happens and the Pats don't take him, there is no way he doesn't go early in the 2nd round -- probably under the theory that a team will be overwhelmed by hysteria for Tebow.

As Urban Meyer will agree: Let's hope that team has a coach who can creatively use him.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Tebow Girlfriend" Now On Playboy.com?

One of the most interesting details of Tim Tebow Mythology is that whenever he is seen in a circulated photo with a woman, the immediate question is: "Tebow girlfriend?"

Go ahead: Check Google Trends. "Tebow girlfriend" is a consistent traffic-driver. (Even if the woman in the photo is not, in fact, Tim Tebow's girlfriend.)

There is one photo, in particular, that gets a ton of mileage. It turns out the woman's name is Erin Drewes and she is now on Playboy.com in Tim Tebow body paint... and that's about all.

I'm not going to put the photo up here. You can click through here to see it if you're curious (via Sports By Brooks). I personally find the whole thing pretty ludicrous.

In an odd way, you have to admire Ms. Drewes for turning a fleeting moment of Internet fame into a full-fledged photo spread via Playboy.

Let's reiterate: This is not Tim Tebow's girlfriend. Ms. Drewes was never Tim Tebow's girlfriend. As far as anyone knows, Tim Tebow does not have a girlfriend right now. It's just myth.

Now, the UAA would like a word about the use of "Tebow" on the back of her... um... "jersey."

(Upon further review, commenters on SbB seem to think that the woman in the photos isn't the same as Drewes, the woman in the famous "Tebow girlfriend" picture. So someone is merely exploiting Tim Tebow's name and number to promote some random nude model. Classy.)

This Day in Tebow: WCU Breakout

Hat-tip to The Bull Gator for reminding that November 18 is a notable anniversary:

November 18, 2006: In a late-season romp over an overmatched 1-AA opponent (Western Carolina), Tim Tebow quickly took over from starter Chris Leak and produced 4 TDs, including 2 to Riley Cooper (who caught 3 TDs in the game). Tebow finished 10/12 for 200 yards, with 47 yards rushing. The final score: 62-0.

I was actually at the game in person and remember feeling giddy watching Tebow run an open-throttle version of Urban Meyer's spread offense -- and at the prospects of Tebow taking over at QB full-time in 2007 and beyond.

Meyer summed it up best:

"He's pretty good. He's a full-functioning quarterback."

Let's call that "Foreshadowing."

What an interesting bookend, with overmatched Florida International coming in this weekend. It's not Tebow's final game in The Swamp, but it should have a similar "changing-of-the-guard" feeling as Tebow exits early for heir-apparent John Brantley, who will see extended action.

(I'm actually working on something more extensive about that right now.)

Are Tim Tebow and Florida "Bored?" Hardly

Kirk Herbstreit suggested that Florida was "bored" after winning two national titles in three years.

I would disagree. Most of all, I would say they are as focused as any football team in the country has ever been. The expectations of another national title have made this team all-business.

No other college football program in the country is run as professionally as Florida -- and I mean that admiringly. It is a hallmark of Urban Meyer's system: Treat this game seriously.

It's not boredom. It's professionalism. (No different than a high-level college journalist honing his skills by producing the campus newspaper in as professionalized a way as possible.)

The team is struggling -- either in perception or reality -- for a couple of factors that have been covered thoroughly: No Harvin-like playmaker, plugging holes on the O-line, opposing defenses having a better understanding of Florida's offense, Steve Addazio's play-calling.

Note that no one seems to think that the defense -- which is the best in the country -- is playing like it is "bored." Again: They are playing the game like it is a business. They are taking it seriously.

Teams that combine talent with a professionalized mindset are the ones that set themselves up to win three national titles in four years. The rest may look like they are "having fun."

They are also losing.

Florida players are serious because they haven't met their goal. We will see how "bored" the team looks after they win the national title again.

Tebow Heisman Watch: Meyer Supports

"Yeah, I'd be upset. He's one of the best players in college football, and he's the quarterback on the No. 1 team in college football. I think the Heisman goes to the best player, and I think it'd be hard to argue he's not one of the best players in college football.''

-- Urban Meyer, on whether Tim Tebow deserves to be invited to New York City as a finalist for the 2009 Heisman trophy. Needless to say, Meyer thinks Tebow should be a finalist.

(As Jo Goodman points out, Tebow gets to come to NYC anyway, as a Heisman alum. But it's another thing to be a finalist.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Heisman Watch: Tebow Down to 5th

Let's start with this: Tim Tebow doesn't care about the Heisman Trophy. Or, at least, he doesn't care about it relative to the level he cares about winning.

That said, Tebow comes in at No. 5 in this week's HeismanPundit.com straw poll.

The top 4 are Mark Ingram, Colt McCoy, Toby Gerhart and CJ Spiller. Can't disagree with any of those folks -- my ballot this week would certainly include Gerhart and Spiller.

What I continue to find fascinating is that even though everyone seems to keep insisting that Tebow is having a year that doesn't compare to either of the previous two, he's still Top 5.

I will continue to insist that he isn't out of it until the Alabama-Florida game, and if he leads Florida past the Tide, Tebow will finish in the Top 3 and go to New York for the ceremony.

I'm not saying he will win -- I think at that point, Mark Ingram drops off and Colt McCoy slides up to No. 1, as the pick that the most voters will find acceptable enough.

(Spiller reminds me of Darren McFadden as a sophomore or junior -- he's probably the best all-around player in the country. If he keeps racking up stats, he'll be in NYC.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tebow Quote of the Day: On the Heisman

"You know what, if we win those games, I won’t be too discouraged if I don’t go to New York for that. That’s my focus right now. It would be OK (if i didn’t go to New York)."

-- Tim Tebow, on his mindset about the Heisman. In other words: He doesn't care.

More from today's media availability:

(The Heisman) is not something I really think about or care about. When (the Heisman talk) comes on TV, I usually turn the channel and don’t worry about it. Winning the Heisman Trophy is very special. It’s a huge award, very prestigious, very humbling. But it compares zero to winning a national championship or an SEC championship.

That’s what you train for. That’s what you battle for every day in practice and in the weight room on your own or with your teammates for the last four years. That’s what you train for. You don’t train for winning the Heisman Trophy. That’s something that just comes from being blessed with a lot of guys on our team that help your out and make me look a lot better than I am. Winning a championship is what’s truly special.

I still think that if Florida beats Alabama for the SEC title and a place in the national-title game, Tebow will be invited to New York, along with Colt McCoy and -- perhaps -- Mark Ingram (if Ingram gets enough votes before the SECCG) or a wild-card like CJ Spiller or Toby Gerhart.

I understand why only three players were invited last year, but unlike other awards, "just being invited" for the Heisman ceremony IS a really big deal. And in a Heisman season as uncertain as this one, it would be really cool if they brought in five contenders.

Tebow Quote of the Day: On Winning

Following up yesterday's Tebow Quote of the Day, the complete context of Tebow's key quote following the South Carolina game:
"That's the great thing about winning. A (win) doesn't get bigger by how many points you score or how big the win was. And that's huge for us. You know we haven't won by huge margins in games, but we've shown a lot of character and we've pulled out wins and that's all you can ask for."

"The most important thing is winning. I could honestly care less how many touchdowns or how many passes or how many yards we have because we're winning. That's our goal. That's what we trained for. We don't train for stats, we train for wins. And that's what we're focused on."
The whole "and-oh" philosophy of fandom from last week is predicated on precisely that idea: A win is a win, and as long as the team keeps winning, who's to complain?

Tebow Monday Press Conference Notes

Tim Tebow took the podium for his usual Monday media availability. A few highlights:

On the Gators feeling like underdogs: "
We haven't done a lot of things right all season." (OSGators)

On his motivation: "
Tebow says winning SEC, national titles way more important than winning the Heisman." (via AP's Mark Long Twitter feed)

On missed connections with Riley Cooper: "I will make more accurate throws."

On his motivation these final two home games: "
Tebow says he will leave everything on the field in final two home games." (via Orlando Sentinel's Gators Twitter feed)

On his relationship with OC Steve Addazio: "Zero" friction (via Palm Beach Post's Ben Volin Twitter feed)

On Heisman hopes:
"Tebow says he won't be heartbroken if he doesn't even get an invite to NYC for Heisman presentation." (via AP's Long)

But: "Obviously, I would want to win." (via OSGators) -- That's nice to hear.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who Will Get Tim Tebow's Heisman Vote?

The New York Times' Pete Thamel -- who, in addition to being the NYT's national college football reporter, understands Florida football as well as anyone -- was at the South Carolina game and happened to ask Tim Tebow who he would give his Heisman vote to.

Tebow answered that he didn't know -- good answer. The race is still too close to call. If I had a vote and the season ended today, I would pick Stanford RB Toby Gerhart, who was the face of the Cardinal's epic destruction of USC in LA on Saturday. (And my No. 2 would be CJ Spiller.)

But Heisman voters have proven to be a pretty unsophisticated bunch -- part of the problem of having 900 voters, most of whom have no business being voters. It will still likely come down to Colt McCoy vs. Ingram (if Bama beats Florida) or Tebow (if Florida beats Bama).

And that would be a shame. Gerhart and Spiller have earned serious consideration as the best player in the country. (BTW: Ingram isn't better than either of those two.)

Tebow Quote of the Day: A Win Is a Win

"The letter 'W' doesn't get any bigger if you win by more points or anything like that."

-- Tim Tebow, on Florida's win over South Carolina, echoing the point I made Friday.

Tebow: Perfect SEC Regular Season

Much more later, but yesterday's game was precisely the kind of circumstances that I was talking about here, and here, and here.

10-0.

The perfect SEC regular season and the vanquished rival and the thrilling way it happened -- Trattou's INT was one of the biggest plays of the season -- are all bonuses.

10-0.

Tebow's last regular-season SEC road game wasn't pretty -- it was a win. What better testament to his legacy than that?

More later.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tebow's Eye-Black: Joshua 1:8-9

Tim Tebow is wearing eye-black against South Carolina featuring "Joshua 1:8-9":

8This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

9Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

That's the King James version. (You can use that link to check out alternative versions.)

Basically, it means: Study the game-plan, and don't get discouraged. Stick with it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tebow-Sized Expectations

One of the biggest appeals of rooting for Tim Tebow is his clarity.

Does he care about scoring TDs? Does he care about setting records? Not really.

He cares about winning.

That other stuff? If it's a byproduct of winning games, it's a bonus. Otherwise, it's about winning.

He has an expectation that he and his team will win every game. And that expectation is transferred to fans, who project it back on Tebow and the team.

It is a relentless focus that has made Tebow -- go figure -- a winner. One of the greatest winners in college football history.

That's why we can talk all we want about the offensive play-calling or its productivity, but -- in the end -- it all comes down to wins.

That's why Tebow consistently comes back to: "We're 9-0." Or "We're 8-0." Or "We're 7-0." And so on... all the way back to "We're 1-0."

That's all that matters.

And so in this week's Yahoo-Tebow column that I wrote, I focus on re-focusing on what matters: Winning.

We can freak about how the offense looks. But what's the point? I suppose it's some fear that the offense will stall at the wrong moment and cost the team a game -- cost the team a win.

Cost the team a championship.

But there has been no actual evidence that the offense is costing the team that win or that championship.

You can credit that to the all-world D or great special teams or, yes, even opportunistic offense. But the fact is, this team hasn't lost a game this season.

There has been no reason to doubt our expectations.

And, therefore, this is the bargain: Fans can stop focusing on the "how" of short-term results, because -- in exchange -- Tebow and the team are going to deliver a championship.

Unfair expectations? Hardly.

In fact, I would argue that this is the rarest of all seasons: "Championship-or-bust" is not something to be taken for granted.

It is, actually, the most elevated state a team (or a fanbase) can reach: When nothing less than a national championship will satisfy the potential of the team.

It's not like Florida fans haven't been here before -- the 2007 basketball team had precisely the same expectations. And what made them so epic was that they fulfilled them.

Check out the column, and between the column and this post, leave your comments below. Am I being fair?

It feels like "Championship or Failure" is precisely the attitude Tebow has -- and wants fans to have. It was the premise of The Promise a year ago, and it obviously drives him this year.

(If you enjoyed this post and the Yahoo column, please see this complementary post over at DanShanoff.com. It fleshes this issue out in a different way.)

Tebow Farewell Tour: South Carolina

Every week marks one more farewell for Tim Tebow. Against an opponent. In a rival SEC town. He is a one-man Farewell Tour. Games to go: 5

Tomorrow, Tebow will play South Carolina one last time -- and his final SEC road game. Let's look back at Tebow's history vs. the Gamecocks:

2006: Everyone remembers the game for Jarvis Moss' TWO blocked kicks, but Tebow scored what would turn out to be the game-winning TD, a 12-yard run on 1st and 10 with 3 minutes to go. On the same drive, Tebow had a key conversion on 4th-and-1 from Florida's 29.

(Fun trivia: Chris Leak had arguably his finest moment as a "dual-threat" QB, rushing for 30 yards on 3 carries on that game-winning TD drive.)

2007: With a night game on ESPN, this may have been the performance that locked up the Heisman for Tebow: 7 TDs. That's right: 7. (7!) Two passing and five rushing. SEVEN. He threw for 304 yards (22/32) and ran for 120 (on 26 carries). It was the quintessentially dominant Tebow performance of his entire Florida career.

(It was almost like Meyer, Tebow and Florida were punishing Steve Spurrier for having the temerity to beat Florida at in Meyer's first year in 2005, then to ALMOST ruin Florida's national-title hopes in 2006. There was some vengeance in there.)

2008: South Carolina was not a very good team. Florida was... well, the soon-to-be national champ. It was 21-0 after the 1st quarter, 28-0 a couple minutes into the 2nd, and the game was non-competitive. Tebow sat virtually the entire 4th quarter.

Notable: I remember thinking Tebow's two passing TDs were a nice foreshadowing of '09: A 46-yarder to Deonte Thompson and a 5-yarder to Aaron Hernandez. Tebow had a rushing TD, too, but was largely held in check: 14 carries for 39 yards (2.8 ypc).

(If the 2007 game was about punishing Spurrier, the 2008 was about humiliating him -- it was Spurrier's worst loss ever at The Swamp, and one of his worst losses ever as a coach.)

So here's the context: In 2005, Spurrier and South Carolina beat Meyer and Florida. But that was pre-Tebow. In 2006, Florida barely survived, and Tebow played a small but key role. In 2007, Tebow throttled USC. In 2008, Florida humiliated the Head Ball Coach.

All signs would point toward Meyer, Tebow and Florida owning Spurrier and South Carolina. This season isn't like the past two seasons -- at least offensively. But Florida's D is better than the one last season that held USC to two field goals. The special teams are spectacular.

And, as Tebow and Co. showed against Georgia two weeks ago, when they are motivated by rivalry, they find another gear. And Spurrier gets Meyer and Tebow's blood boiling.

I can understand the reasoning behind thinking this game will be close; I think it will not be close.

The defense will hold South Carolina to a couple field goals and maybe the errant TD; the offense will score more than 30 (or, perhaps some of those 30+ points will come from the D -- like Spikes' pick-6 a year ago -- or from something on special teams -- a blocked punt or a punt return TD).

It is this team's -- and Tebow's -- final SEC road game. Expectations from home fans at The Swamp are more daunting than the hoots and jeers from the Columbia crowd. Tebow and Co. will embrace the hostility from the South Carolina fans... find strength from it... and, ultimately, throw it back in their faces.

Prediction: 37-13.

Tebow Troubles Against South Carolina?

The Gainesville Sun's Robbie Andreu has a bad feeling about tomorrow's game:
The way the Florida offense is playing, the Gators are going to have trouble putting up a lot of points against a very good, very fast and athletic South Carolina defense. If Tim Tebow doesn’t get better protection, this could turn into a real meltdown game for the offense. Something tells me the Gators will be playing from behind at some point in this game. How they react to that will be huge.
This Florida team has looked a lot more like the 2006 edition than the 2008 edition all SEC season long. And everyone remembers that nail-biting (or nail-blocking) finish against South Carolina in '06.

I waver between blind, complete confidence and freaking out over the prospect of a season-killing loss.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tim Tebow Getting Media Industry Love

Sorry for the light posting today. I have been at a sports-media conference, where Tim Tebow's place as the entire and exclusive subject of a site -- this site -- was cited as something on the leading edge of the trend toward hyper-topicality (or hyper-locality) to best serve fans. (No: without prompting by me.) Always nice to be noticed.

More later, and a ton more tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tebow Quote of the Day: Tim Salutes Vets

"I just wanted to take this time to thank all the troops overseas -- and anywhere, for that matter. What you do is so important -- so much more important than what we do. We're playing a game; you're protecting a nation. Thank you so much. God bless."

-- In honor of Veterans Day, Tim Tebow salutes the veterans. Video:



(h/t: Tebow's Eye Black)

Tebow Smash: 25 Pct of Florida Offense?

This is why EDSBS is the best:

(Please note that "Tebow Smash" is not quite 25 percent of the offense... but more than everything but "dive" play, combined.)

Tebow Quote of the Day: "Feel Really Good"

This is a bit remaindered from Monday's Tebow press conference, but the fact that Tim Tebow says he feels as healthy this late in the season as he has ever felt is a huge deal.

It means that, despite the perception or reality of struggles with the offensive system, Tebow remains as able to execute as he ever has.

In a tough game at South Carolina, in a tough home finale against FSU, in an uber-tough SEC title game against Alabama -- how Tebow feels physically will be the No. 1 criteria for the offense keeping up with the D and special teams to fulfill the potential of 14-0.

Tebow For Heisman: Still In Top 5

In the latest HeismanPundit.com poll, Tim Tebow is 4th. Mark Ingram still leads -- but presumably, his fate rests on the Alabama-Florida outcome.

Houston QB Case Keenum is winning the "Andre Ware" vote: Ridiculous stats, helped by some dramatic highlight footage from last week's near-loss.

Colt McCoy is 3rd, and -- in my opinion -- still the odds-on favorite to win, presuming Texas runs the table through the conference-championship weekend/Heisman voting deadline.

Is Tebow out of it? Hardly. As long as Florida keeps winning, he will stay in the hunt -- the SEC title game will be his position to make his case.

(Then again, he may never have a Heisman moment as big as he did in last year's SECCG -- all it earned him was more 1st-place votes than anyone else... and a 3rd-place finish, thanks to biased voters in Big 12 country.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tebow Quote of the Day: Steve Spurrier

"Without a doubt the best third-down quarterback that maybe has played."

-- Steve Spurrier, on Tim Tebow. Of all the "[superlative] of all time" comparisons, this was a new one. I collect Tebow superlatives like some people collect Christmas ornaments.

Is it about Tebow's ability to convert on 3rd and short? Or his ability to either convert on 3rd and short with the run or on 3rd and long with the pass (and/or long run)?

(Although I will say that Spurrier engages in my pet peeve: "Maybe." It's the same with "might be." Just say it definitively and defend it. You won't get punished if you're "wrong," particularly given that it's impossible to prove -- or disprove -- any qualitatively based superlative.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tim Tebow: 2009 SI Sportsman of the Year?

This should not surprise you: I think that Tim Tebow is the easy and obvious choice for 2009 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.

It remains to be seen whether he actually will win -- and we're going to dig a lot more into this as we get closer to the December 1 reveal, and I think he will -- but he has at least one other vote.

SI's Austin Murphy -- who wrote the Missionary Tebow cover story in July -- thinks Tebow deserves the honor.
This nomination is pegged less to his production on the field than to his actions away from it. With an easy smile and a remarkably tireless, selfless example, Tebow has demonstrated to a generation of football fans that it's cool to be kind.

Tebow Monday Press Conference Notes

Notes from the usual Monday press conference with Tim Tebow:

*"The best physically I've ever felt in a season this late." (Sentinel)

It goes without saying that this is, by far, the most interesting and important thing that Tebow said today.

*Keeping up the winning streak? "Pretty hard." (Sentinel)

*Playing Spurrier in his final regular-season college road game? "Cool." (Sentinel)

*No more pain-killing injections? "Wonderful" (Sentinel)

More notes as they happen. (Or, if you're on Twitter, be sure to follow osgators, the Orlando Sentinel's essential Gators feed. Great live-tweeting.)