Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tebow Senior Bowl: Let's Move On...

OK, so while Senior Bowl week was jam-packed with storylines and excitement, the game...? Um, not so much. In fact, it might qualify as Tim Tebow's worst game ever.

Obviously, part of it was the hodge-podge context, but it was what it was. The McShays of the world will gleefully point to it; Tebow-backers will (rightfully) mitigate it.

The point of Tebow participating in the Senior Bowl wasn't the Senior Bowl itself -- as I'm sure the sell-out crowd figured out pretty quickly. The point certainly wasn't to impress NFL scouts.

The point was to get a week of NFL coaching and to show that Tebow is willing to do whatever it takes to get better. That has nothing to do with scouts' analysis and nothing to do with the game itself.

What next from here? A few weeks of under-the-radar training in Tennessee or back in Florida, gearing up for the next stage of this: The NFL Combine in late February.

Of course, in the meantime, it's not exactly like Tebow will be off the radar. There is that little Super Bowl commercial that will keep Tebow very much in the conversation.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

James 1:2-4: Tebow Senior Bowl Eye-Black

In perhaps the last game Tim Tebow will be able to wear Bible verses on his eye-black, he chose James 1:2-4. It's a pretty relevant message, given the criticism this week:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Just in case you ever wondered whether Tebow was willing to pick Biblical passages with very secular double-meanings.

Tebow Senior Bowl Gameday Reads

With a couple of hours until the kickoff of the Senior Bowl -- either Tim Tebow's last-last-last game as a collegian or his first-first-first game as a pro (or something in-between) -- here are a couple of things that have been published over the last 24 hours that are worth a read:

*Time for Tebow to shine (Robbie Andreu, G'ville Sun)

Terrific, personal insight from Tebow's hometown beat writer.


An analyst who actually builds a case for Tebow's success as a QB, rather than a knee-jerk summary judgment that he can't be.


A little too self-indulgent (pot, meet kettle!), but the point is well-taken.


Did people really think the Tebow Super Bowl ad would go unnoticed?

*The origin of Tebow's long wind-up (Jeremy Fowler, Orlando Sentinel)

Great back-story on Tebow's mechanics -- the crux of the criticism against his NFL potential.


Good analysis of both sides of the debate over Tebow's NFL potential as a full-time QB.

*Tim Tebow, the Movie (Ben Volin, Palm Beach Post)

I'll see it.

Those are about Tebow in the Senior Bowl and/or his NFL stock after this week. (Did I miss any good ones in the last 24 hours? Shoot me an email at the address on the upper-right.)

Then there are the many, MANY things that have been published about the Super Bowl ad. I'm going to have a larger round-up of them next week -- if you thought the attention given to it last week was crazy, just wait until we get closer to the game.

In the meantime, if you really need your fix of Tebow Super Bowl ad opinions, try this piece from Jason Fagone from Slate: The real meaning of Tim Tebow's Super Bowl ad. It definitely has a point of view, but it's not far off from the end of my post from the other day, talking about the SB ad as the ultimate extension of the "John 3:16" revelation the Tebows had in the 2008 national title game about Tebow's potential for influence as a college football superstar.







Senior Bowl Tebow: Todd McShay D+

Todd McShay -- who seems intent on making his could-not-be-worse evaluation of Tim Tebow his career legacy -- weighs in with a final grade for Tebow from Senior Bowl week: D+

"Overall, Senior Bowl week could not have gone worse from an on-the-field standpoint."

Two points in reaction:

(1) Couldn't it have gone worse if Tebow didn't bother to show up at all? Guarantee his learning curve improved from the five days of NFL coaching. And his pre-draft hype got even bigger (which must drive McShay batty).

(2) If it "could not have gone worse," why did McShay give him a "D+" and not a "D" or "D-" or "F." For someone so sure of himself, that feels like a hedge.

It will be most interesting the day that McShay has to reconcile his grade for Tebow with where Tebow will actually go in the draft -- which is all fans really care about: Mock drafts.

McShay thinks that Tebow is a 3rd-round talent (which, itself, is odd given how poorly McShay thinks of him -- 3rd round still makes him a Top 100 prospect), but will he slot him in the 3rd-round in his mock draft? If so, he will be so wrong as to discredit him as a draft expert. Mock drafts aren't about how draftniks grade the prospects, but their best guess where those prospects will be drafted. Two totally different things.

It's funny: I have heard McShay provide two different things -- he says he gives Tebow a "3rd-round grade," yet he also says he could be "over-drafted" as high as a Pat White-ish 44th, in the middle of the 2nd round. McShay seems to completely ignore the very real possibility the Jaguars will pull off among the biggest reaches in NFL Draft history and take Tebow 10th.

In the end, it doesn't matter how McShay grades Tebow. It matters where McShay predicts Tebow will be drafted -- and if all signs point to the Jaguars taking him in the 1st round with the 10th overall pick, will McShay reflect that in his mock or insist on his own version of reality?

And even where McShay predicts Tebow will be drafted is pretty irrelevant -- McShay could fall on his sword and get it totally wrong by putting Tebow where McShay believes he should be drafted... or McShay could cynically ignore his own analysis and put Tebow where he will be drafted.

The irony is: It's a no-win for McShay.

All that matters is where Tebow is actually drafted: The right fit, a good coaching staff, a willingness to invest in developing him while simultaneously unleashing him in unorthodox ways.

And one thing is an absolute, lock-solid, make-me-a-draftnik certainty: The round and pick Tim Tebow is ultimately drafted in won't be nearly as bad of a slot as McShay thinks it should be.

(Update: I think I figured out the appropriate analogy. Todd McShay is to Tim Tebow as Frank Grimes was to Homer Simpson on that classic episode where Homer unwittingly developed a nemesis in Grimes, who drove himself insane -- and worse -- trying to figure out why Homer was so successful despite Grimes' emphatic belief that Homer shouldn't be.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

NFL Tebow: The Case For Success

ESPN.com's terrific Bruce Feldman tackled the Tebow debate in his column today (Insider subscription needed), and he brought in an NFL scout to dis, then ESPN colleague Seth Wickersham to make the point I've been trying to make (Seth does it more eloquently): The context of where Tebow lands matters... a lot. Here's Wickersham:

Fact is, nobody knows how Tebow will do in the pros.

There are too many unknown variables. Nobody knows where he'll be picked, or what pressure he'll be under to play immediately. Nobody knows who his coach will be, or the level of his surrounding talent. That stuff matters, more than many I-told-you-so scouts want to admit.

The knocks against Tebow -- that he has a slow release, doesn't read defenses quickly, and played in an offense that doesn't translate to the pros -- are the same things scouts once said about Steve Young and Mark Brunell, the two quarterbacks most analogous to Tebow. Those guys had great college careers and were panned before coming into the pros. They were lucky to be drafted by quarterback gurus (Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren) who believed in them and invested in their success. Despite what many close-minded scouts will lead you to believe, a quarterback can actually, you know, improve in the pros.

The Tebow of today will not be the Tebow of 2013, if he enters the right situation. I'm not advocating Tebow as a top-10 pick -- or even a first-rounder. He's got potential, and you can't dismiss him so quickly. If Tebow is drafted by an open-minded quarterback guru like Mike Shanahan, Norv Turner, Bill Belichick or Josh McDaniels -- a patient teacher who will make Tebow his pet project -- how can you believe any scout who says he doesn't have a chance to turn out?

See the whole thing here. Very interesting perspectives.

By the way, Only Gators has a comprehensive round-up of all of the various things that the "experts" have been saying about Tebow this week. Definitely worth a look.

NFL Tebow: Going to Cardinals?

Kudos to SI.com's Don Banks, who offers up a mock draft projection for Tim Tebow that I have not seen before: No. 26 overall... to the Arizona Cardinals. Extra points for the novelty!

Tim Tebow vs. Todd McShay

I spend a lot of time pointing out Todd McShay as the standard-bearer of draftniks who think Tim Tebow has no ability to play QB in the NFL. This is for two reasons: (1) As ESPN's leading draftnik (sorry, Mel Kiper), he has the most dominant platform of anyone in the world related to the NFL Draft. (2) McShay continuously is willing to promote his opinion. Like so:

"He can’t play quarterback in the NFL, I’m convinced of it."

But, Todd: Tell us how you really feel. Can't put it any more clearly than that. As I've said before: It must drive McShay bonkers to get asked about Tebow's potential as an NFL QB when McShay is so clearly convinced Tebow has no potential as an NFL QB.

Because if a team is willing to take Tebow in the 1st round -- or even the 2nd round -- as a QB, that says less about the team doing the drafting than it does about about McShay's authority on the issue. And without authority, draftniks have... well, not much.

It IS a stretch to think that someone whose skills are so devalued by scouts -- at the game's most important position, no less -- could go in the 1st round of the NFL Draft... and, in my opinion, the Top 10. (You might say I'm convinced of it.)

But that's the weird Tebow exceptionalism at work. He is unlike any prospect -- QB or otherwise -- that has ever come through the NFL Draft, certainly at QB.

It's the same thing that has scouts -- virtually every one (even the anonymous ones) except McShay -- caveating all of their bearish analysis with "But I wouldn't bet against him."

Scouts and draftniks simply don't have the track record of accurately projecting NFL QBs to really make end-all-be-all pronouncements (particularly when you factor in how much context has to do with success).

I'm not saying that Tebow will be a starting QB in the NFL for 10 years -- few QBs are, whether they are taken at the top of the 1st round or at the end of the entire draft. Prospects with phenomenal NFL-ready tools have washed out; prospects with NFL-ready tools have slipped to the late rounds.

Prospects with some tools have been coached up (Matt Cassel), and some have been in terrible coaching situations and never reached their potential.

But I go back to that quote from Gene Smith from this morning: Tebow is willing to work and study as hard as any QB ever to get better. Provided he has the right coaching (and that's no guarantee), you can't say he won't have given himself the best shot possible.

But I'm willing to give him a few years to develop -- in the meantime, I hope that the team that drafts him is willing to deploy him innovatively in the short term. He can make a contribution immediately, while maintaining his potential to develop into an NFL quarterback.

I'm convinced of it.

Tebow Super Bowl Ad: On Palin, Influence

When I first brought up Tim Tebow's Super Bowl ad with Focus on the Family a month ago, I probably should have staked out that I thought it would become a big deal.

Actually, I thought it would get rejected by CBS as an "advocacy ad" -- in line with Super Bowl precedent -- and that would be that. The ad would get some life on YouTube and that's it.

But I was entirely wrong: CBS accepted the ad, presumably because they wanted the money, but also presumably because Focus on the Family presented them with a muted message. (Anything more provocative would surely have been rejected.)

And since the news of the accepted ad came out, it has become a lot bigger than my original claims that there's really "no controversy" there. Again: I was wrong.

The ad's subject -- implicitly or explicitly, depending on who you ask -- is abortion. And abortion is the most heated issue of our time. It has triggered a lot of heated discussion.

This week, the issue -- tackled up til now by some sports columnists -- has crossed over from sports into mainstream media: Joy Behar talked about it on The View. And, yesterday, Sarah Palin gave the ad a huge profile by talking about it on her much-watched Facebook page, which undercuts the argument from CBS that the ad's topic is apolitical. Regardless, as you will see from my conclusion at the end of this post, that kind of profile you get when everyone (including Sarah Palin) talks about your issues is at the heart of the decision to do the ad.

And so let's revisit a couple of the key issues:

*Participating in the ad should shock no one who knows or has followed Tebow. It is entirely consistent with his values and actions, as Tebow himself re-affirmed yesterday.

*To the extent that an ad essentially about the abortion debate can be non-controversial, the content of the ad will be as toned-down as it can possibly get. Some apparently have this presumption that the ad will show Tim and Pam Tebow marching with posters of baby fetuses. Without having seen the script, I guarantee you that it will be softly spoken (and entirely sincere) treacle, because CBS couldn't approved it any other way.

*Some see the ad as a gateway for some of Focus on the Family's "non-muted" viewpoints. And by appearing on behalf of Focus on the Family, Tim Tebow endorses those viewpoints. Those people obviously haven't followed Tebow throughout his career -- he might not constantly talk about it, but he is doing the ad because he supports FoF's planks. Many Tebow fans who don't agree with or support Focus on the Family's positions on issues came to terms with that a long time ago. People who don't know Tebow (or know him beyond a cariacature) will likely have a less nuanced view, whichever side they support.

*This will not hurt Tim Tebow's endorsement potential in more secular sectors, like sports drinks or video games or sports equipment. There is a huge market of fans who will like Tebow for his off-field values; there is a huge market of fans who like Tebow despite his off-field activity; and there is a huge market of fans who don't care and will buy Gatorade or Nike sneakers or video games featuring Tebow regardless.

*Mostly, there seems to be an overwhelming group in the middle that doesn't care about Tebow's affiliation with Focus on the Family, one way or the other. What they care about is the politicization of an apolitical national event like the Super Bowl -- no matter how soft-sold the ad might be. They don't want their politics and their sports to mix. Some will love seeing the ad. Some will hate seeing the ad. But how about most people?

Most will watch it, take 5 seconds to have an opinion about how it made them feel -- I'm predicting mostly "what was the fuss all about?" -- and then they will either (a) hush the other people in the living room because the next commercial is on, (b) forget about the ad because the game is back on, or (c) hustle out to go to the bathroom or to the snacks table.

CBS has the right to run any ad they want. People have the right to feel how they want about it and about Tebow himself.

And Tebow has the right to make any ad he wants. I'm not even sure he and his marketing team or family made any sort of economic calculus about how this ad might hurt (or help) his larger marketing appeal. In fact, I doubt they even considered it.

*****

I go back to something we heard over and over when Tebow made his decision to come back to Florida for his senior year. It wasn't about winning a championship (although that was part of it). It wasn't about getting better-prepared for the NFL (although that was part of it).

No: The anecdote you heard over and over was about how blown away Tebow and his family were by the Google dominance of "John 3:16" when Tebow wore it on his eyeblack in the 2008 national title game. The revelation -- so to speak -- was that Tebow, coming back as the biggest rock star in college football history, had a massive platform to influence people... far more massive than he would have as an early-entry NFL rookie QB.

The Focus on the Family spot is not an ad during "How I Met Your Mother." This is an ad during the Super Bowl -- the most-watched TV show of the year, and regularly among the most-watched TV shows of all time.

This is -- by many, many multiples -- the biggest single platform Tebow has ever had to share his values and influence people.

Tebow: "It’s a good time and place. There are a lot of people watching. It’s a great opportunity to show something very happy and a special story and my mom fighting for me. There are a lot of great things in that."

(Tebow also seemed generally -- and genuinely -- surprised at the controversy. Again, this shouldn't surprise anyone, and it is part of what makes Tebow simultaneously someone of tremendous clarity -- even simplicity -- yet complexity.)

Given what we know about how important that influence is to Tebow and his family -- and Focus on the Family's recognition that between CBS's desperation for Super Bowl ad money and the softly sold story of the Tebows that would pass corporate muster, they could get their own brand on the biggest stage possible -- Tebow's participation in this ad should come as no surprise.

NFL Tebow: Wildcat or a "Real" QB?

Money passage from Robbie Andreu's comprehensive analysis of the state of Tim Tebow's draft prospects:

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Gene Smith said Tebow is no different than any other quarterback making the transition from college to the NFL. He needs to be developed, and that probably includes work on his mechanics and other aspects of playing the position.

Smith said Tebow's work ethic, intangibles and passion for the game will play a significant role in his development.

"You talk about Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, coming out of college they were so passionate about competing at the very highest level," Smith said. "No one worked harder than those two. It's not like they had just God-given ability and just stepped out on the field and performed. The honed their skills.

"That's one thing Tim has. He has the mindset of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees from a preparation standpoint. He'll put in the time. How good he becomes, I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball. I do know he's a tremendous competitor who has played quarterback in a great program and he's won national championships. He's certainly showed the ability to lead, and that's the No. 1 thing you have to have in a quarterback."

It's not (just) about Gene Smith laying groundwork for taking Tebow with the 10th overall pick on behalf of the Jaguars. Tons of good stuff in here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Break From Tebow Super Bowl Ad Frenzy

Let's just take a second from the heat over the Super Bowl ad:


(Photo by Chip English, AP)

Brand Tebow: Too "Goody" For Consumers?

Whether you agree or not, Gawker's Hamilton Nolan offers up a provocative perspective on Tim Tebow's marketability, precisely because he's too good.
The point is, Timmy, that just because people say they admire your missionary work and your Bible-verse quotes and your constant invocation of Jesus' name doesn't mean they actually do. Your appeal outside the South is already woefully limited. Add in the fact that you're happily wading into the public debate on the more acceptably debatable portions of Christian doctrine, and you're just giving everyone a good excuse to write you off. I admire your guileless good will, Tim Tebow. But nobody likes a goody-goody. This, after all, is America.

I would go back to my usual "exceptionalism" argument: We simply haven't seen an athlete like this before, so I understand why it's hard to see an analogue in sports marketing history.

Do fans want their heroes to be epically flawed (or not so "goody-goody?") It's possible, although isn't that more from circumstance of their available options than by choice?

I continue to think that Tebow will rack up endorsement deals: Sports drinks, shoes, video games -- and, yes, products geared for evangelical consumers.

Ultimately, there will have to be some sort of validation on the field. I remain convinced that can happen (not necessarily as a full-time QB to start), although I recognize I'm in the minority.

But even though there are plenty of haters, you have to look no further than the stands in Mobile -- and the reporters' notebooks, too -- to recognize his popularity and marketability.

HamNo is right about one thing: Tebow has graduated from the provincial world of college football media to the pros, including Gawker. The Super Bowl ad has only multiplied that.

Senior Bowl Tebow: Officially a Mania

Draftniks might still be battling to see who can most scrutinize Tebow's mechanics, but one thing is clear: Tebow's rock-star status has translated to the pros. (To say the least.)

Commensurate with his position as the biggest star in college football history, he is the biggest star at the Senior Bowl -- this year's version or any other. The fans are there for him.

As Fowler notes, Tebow has a superstar's posse in Mobile, too, including a documentarian -- the son of Florida's biggest booster (and Bob Tebow's college roommate).

It is more obvious now than ever that he will enter the NFL as one of its biggest rock stars, regardless of where he is drafted or, frankly, how he is used.

And that doesn't even account for the frenzy over Tebow's Super Bowl ad, which is sizing up as the biggest non-game story of the Big Game. That takes Tebow to an even bigger level.

If the NFL is the country's biggest sport and the Draft is the biggest NFL event between the Super Bowl and 2010 Kickoff Weekend, Tebow will remain among sports' biggest stories.

Senior Bowl Tebow: Progress, Day 3, SB Ad

Pretty interesting day yesterday for Tim Tebow, leading into today's practice at the Senior Bowl:

*On the field, he had a better day on Tuesday than Monday -- unsurprising, because this process is going to be all about the learning curve. And from all accounts, Tebow keeps moving up:

On Tuesday, he did not have issues taking snaps and set up well in his drop. When he rolled out to his left or right, he set himself before throwing and was typically on target. However, it took him too long to set and throw on the move. It was obvious he worked on shortening his delivery, but he fell back into old habits as the practice went on, winding up and allowing cornerbacks to jump out routes.

Tebow displayed nice touch on deep balls and the zip down the seam that he has always had. When he held onto the ball too long or faced pressure, however, Tebow made bad decisions, throwing two near-interceptions that bounced off the chest of South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood and the hands of Miami middle linebacker Darryl Sharpton.

*Is Tebow a fit for the Wildcat? Jeremy Fowler has a reported analysis, but it begs the question whether a team (besides Jacksonville) would use a 1st-round pick on a part-time QB (although the presumption is that they would simultaneously try to develop him into a starter). Also, they will have to out-pick the Jaguars for him, meaning it would have to be a team in the Top 9 (like the Bills) or trade up (unlikely, given the cost of trading up into the Top 10).

*There was the whole "View" thing, where Joy Behar decided to have a lamentably unnuanced opinion about Tebow doing the Focus on the Family ad. Dr. Saturday has a good take.

*In fact, the ad IS becoming a bigger issue, between yesterday's news that women's groups are going to protest it to today's column from USA Today's sports media reporter FINALLY writing about it. (The top CBS sports exec reflected the ad's divisiveness by totally ducking it when speaking to the media.)

*Chris Mortenson had this to tweet: "If anyone thinks Tebow is going to compromise his beliefs for marketers, they're badly mistaken." (Nothing that would surprise anyone who has followed Tebow.)

*Jack Del Rio weighed in. (Covered here.)

*Check out this interview Tebow did with the NFL Network group. It was a given that he would be able to ace interviews with teams and the media -- this is a pretty good representative sample.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Senior Bowl Tebow: Del Rio a Fan?

"I thought the uniform fit well. The helmet was outstanding."

That's Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, making his first appearance at the Senior Bowl -- and getting asked, obviously, about Tim Tebow.

I'm not sure how to read Del Rio on this. On the one hand, he is a friend of Urban Meyer's -- which will make Meyer feel more comfortable about the Jaguars drafting Tebow.

On the other hand, you get the sense that it won't be Del Rio's decision -- in the least -- about whether the team will draft Tebow. If they do, it will come down from owner Wayne Weaver.

(Why? Because, based on skills and immediate fit, there is little reason for the Jaguars to use the No. 10 or No. 11 overall pick of the draft on Tebow. But, as I've said: That hardly matters.)

And so Del Rio has to put on a happy face -- even a pleasantly coy face -- about Tebow, whether he likes it or not.

But it's not like everyone doesn't know Jacksonville's interest. It's not like a team is going to vault ahead of the Jaguars to steal him from them.

And so for every stone-jawed compliment Del Rio pays Tebow, you wonder whether he really means it.

Senior Bowl Tebow: Sick, But Better

The big news from Day 2 of the Senior Bowl workouts was that Tim Tebow is battling strep throat and had a 103-degree fever last night. Still went out there today and had a good -- not great -- day: Hit a couple long passes, avoided a couple of near-INTs and bobbled one snap. Other than that, the discussion mainly centered on him being talked about on The View.

NFL Tebow: Peter King's Draft Pool

A little fun until the afternoon practice starts...

As part of his MMQB column yesterday, Peter King mentioned a Tebow draft pool with some writers he was having dinner with. Here's how it went -- my commentary in italics.

Mike Silver, Yahoo! Sports: Jacksonville
The smartest, safest bet. Where I'd put my money.

Sam Farmer, L.A. Times: St. Louis
Presumably not with the No. 1 overall pick. Top of the 2nd? Won't last that long.

Albert Breer, Boston Globe: Buffalo
At No. 9, just ahead of the Jags? Maybe. But can Tebow play in cold weather and high winds?

Peter King, Sports Illustrated: San Francisco
Not going to happen. We've gone over this already.

Jeff Duncan, New Orleans Times-Picayune: Miami
Not after taking Pat White in the early 2nd last year and Henne as the solid starter.

Alex Marvez, Foxsports.com: Cleveland
With the No. 7 overall pick? No chance. And won't last until Cleveland in Round 2. He's not a Holmgren-type QB, either.

Jeff Darlington, Miami Herald: Tampa Bay
Right: The year after they drafted Josh Freeman? No. 3 overall? Never. Top of the 2nd? Won't be there.

Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports: New England
You all know this was my pet theory. But the Pats can't afford to ignore their defensive issues, can they? If Tebow is available at No. 22 -- and he might be, if the Jags inexplicably pass at No. 10 -- then Bill Belichick has a big decision to make that violates everything we know about him.

Plus this:

Asked Rick Gosselin, the hugely respected draft/NFL man for the Dallas Morning News who does the best mock draft in our business, for his over/under on the overall pick for Tebow. "Twenty-eight,'' he said.

I will take that under and wonder how good "best" could possibly be if he doesn't recognize the high likelihood of Tebow going to the Jaguars. Gosselin seems to still think the NFL will react rationally about Tebow, as they have about all the other picks in its history.

Senior Bowl Tebow: Draftniks Pounce

As soon as you saw last Friday's opening notes of experts coming out to bolster Tim Tebow's draft stock after weeks of expectations-dampening punishment -- a backlash, if you will -- you knew that the Senior Bowl would present the opportunity for a "backlash to the backlash."

And yesterday's performance by Tebow at the Senior Bowl allowed the draftniks to do just that: Question his fumbles during the center exchange, question his accuracy, question his mechanics.


He is a big enough story -- the most intriguing NFL Draft prospect of the 2010 Draft (and, arguably, ever) -- that I led my Sporting News column today with an argument that I think a lot of you will find familiar, but certainly in the new context of Senior Bowl Day 1 criticism:

Does it matter HOW Tim Tebow performs at the Senior Bowl this week?

Does it matter that in is first Senior Bowl practice, he bobbled the exchange with the center? Does it matter that his throws were inaccurate? Does it matter that gleeful draftniks took the moment to pounce?

No, for a couple of reasons:

*Expectations: Scouts had already battered Tebow's mechanics over the past few weeks to the point where his ability to merely walk without stumbling is a moral victory. Low expectations always help; nowhere to go but up.

*It was Day 1: Did scouts really expect Tebow to come in and seamlessly transition to a new style, with new players around him? No pre-draft rookie QB is instantly ready for the NFL. Give him a week... or three months... or three seasons.

*Tebow defies grading: Commensurate with his status as the Senior Bowl's -- and college football's -- biggest rock star, there is a strong chance that he could have mediocre workouts yet still go in the Draft's Top 10, to the Jaguars.

Undoubtedly, this drives the draftniks crazy, because it is irrational -- and because it makes their opinion about the most intriguing prospect in NFL Draft history irrelevant.

Draftniks have two choices: Bash Tebow and look like fools when he goes in the 1st round, or abandon their analysis and reflect more accurate "reality" in their mock draft. Either way, the only mockery is the draftnik-industrial complex.

It's fair to be torn about Tebow -- fans are close to 50/50 on whether he will be a "good" pro QB -- but that's what makes his NFL prospects so interesting. Unfortunately for them, draftniks aren't paid to be torn.
We will see what will happen today. But there are a couple of things we know: Tebow will perform better, if only because he will have another day of reps under his belt. It's still not clear that he even HAS to perform better. And this will drive the draft "experts" batty.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Senior Bowl Tebow: Peter King Approves

From today's "Monday Morning Quarterback" column, Peter King talks about Tebow -- including a conversation he had with Tebow directly:

We in the media business are going to spend the next three months writing the Tebow story into the ground, but there are good reasons for it. He's had unparalleled college success, he's a too-good-to-be-true kid by all accounts, and he's a polarizing football prospect because there's great debate whether his mechanics and arm will allow him to be an every-down NFL quarterback.

***

Tebow will wow everyone he meets one-on-one in Mobile and at the Scouting Combine next month with his poise, presence and humility. That you know, obviously. When I asked about one of the biggest faults NFL scouts find with him -- his elongated throwing motion -- he said it's something scouts also said about Brett Favre and Philip Rivers when they were prospects, and it hasn't seemed to hurt them. Then he said: "I've been training every day since the Sugar Bowl. Every day. And that's one of the things I've been working diligently on. I think the scouts and coaches will see it's something I've improved on.''

Tebow wants to open himself up totally, beginning this week. He wants to show every team in the league everything he can do physically and mentally, and he wants to begin to prove he's not a one-trick pony -- a triple-option quarterback who loves to bowl over linebackers and make weird jump passes and other counter-NFL-culture plays.

"I want to show, number one, that I'm a competitor and I'm not afraid for teams to see everything about me. My goal is to find just one team, one out of 32, to believe in me as a quarterback. I'm not just the guy who can play in the spread offense, or throw a jump pass or run the triple option. I'm a football junkie. I study it all the time. I've studied every type of offense -- pro style, West Coast. Just because I haven't played every kind of offense, why can't I? Why can't I run the West Coast? My coaches at Florida didn't just teach us a system. They taught us football. So I want the NFL people to put me through everything. Grind on me, test me. I feel I've worked my whole life to prepare for this.''

Tebow will excel when NFL teams (mostly at the combine in Indianapolis, but some in Mobile) get him up on the board and start talking specific plays with him. He'll need to prove he can be an accurate downfield passer and that he isn't totally reliant on running to be a good quarterback. I asked what he'd do if a team wanted him to be a versatile player instead of an every-down quarterback.

"It's a possibility,'' he said, "but I'm trying to get someone to believe in me as a quarterback.''

I expect he'll do that.

Remember that King has been promoting Tebow the past few weeks -- but still only has him rated as a player to go in the early 2nd round. What I really want to see is King work his sources to confirm the theory that the Jags are taking Tebow at No. 10 and that's that.

Senior Bowl Tebow: The Weigh-In

Tim Tebow weighed in at the Senior Bowl: 6-foot-2 (and a half), 236 pounds. (Unsurprising that UF media guide rounded up. About the same weight.)



Be sure to read the post below for a full context to the Senior Bowl week.

NFL Tebow: Senior Bowl Mania Begins

Tim Tebow arrived at the Senior Bowl in Mobile yesterday, making his intentions very clear:

"I'm here to be an NFL quarterback."

*And that is why Tebow is the most intriguing prospect of the 2010 NFL Draft -- or, arguably, any NFL Draft.

*It is why Tebow is the biggest storyline not just of the 2010 Senior Bowl -- but of any Senior Bowl.

*It is why Tebow's commitment to play in this game triggered a sell-out of tickets.

*It is why Tebow will command media scrutiny and scouts' attention like no other player ever.

As it turns out, playing in the Senior Bowl was -- as NFL Network's Mike Mayock put it -- a "brilliant" decision. Not only does it show Tebow's fearlessness in the face of scouts' skepticism, but it forces himself into (and at the top of) the draft conversation right now, rather than at the combine.

I dug into this a bit late last week: If Tebow has anything going for himself in this draft process, it is that scouts and draftniks already did the hard work for him: They lowered the expectations so much that if Tebow can walk without stumbling, it is an improvement on scouts' take on his footwork. If Tebow can make a completion or put any zip on the ball, it is an improvement on scouts' scathing analysis of his mechanics.

Tebow has already won the expectations game: He can only go up from here.

And he will. Because he will out-perform scouts' expectations -- he already has (see last week's early momentum in favor of Tebow). And none of the scouts want to be so outside of the mainstream that they look like fools. And so they will improve his "grade."

I read a quote from Todd McShay this weekend that Tebow will be "overdrafted" (taken too high) and end up in the mid-40s, like Pat White a year ago. I find McShay's idea that his grade or evaluation somehow matters to be cute. How will he reconcile it when Tebow is drafted in the Top 10 -- as expected by all sorts of draft "realists" who see him going to the Jaguars.

(You can already see it with the talking point "All it takes is one team." And that team, at a minimum, is the Jaguars. Everyone already knows it. No matter how much another team may like him, not another team in the Top 10 will be willing to spend a Top 10 draft pick on him like the Jaguars will. And so plenty of other teams might be willing to take him in the back half of the first round -- or any pick of the 2nd. He simply won't last that long, whether that is "over-drafting" or not. Your draft value is not what the scouts say it is, but the position you are actually drafted at. By the way, check out the new site Draft15.com, a populist effort by Jags fans to get their team to take Tebow. I don't think they have to worry. I even like the T-shirt they made for it. Or, at least, the front side. I could do without the trite "If you draft him, they will come" slogan on the back. As if drafting Tebow solves the Jaguars' attendance issues -- it doesn't, at least entirely. They may be drafting him for marketing, but -- Senior Bowl ticket sales data point aside -- I don't think he will solve that problem in the comprehensive way some think he will.)

Anyway, Tebow will be THE center of attention in Mobile this week. Practice starts today, and if you have NFL Network, you can actually watch. Otherwise, there are a ton of reporters there, eager to tell you everything that Tebow is doing -- and what the scouts are saying. Expect a ton of "better than I expected" and "already see improvements" and -- especially -- "extremely coachable" and "intangibles are off the charts." I think that seeing his leadership and attitude and willingness to learn up close will change a lot of opinions.

I think that a big misconception that some scouts are promoting is this idea that Tebow has to look and play like an NFL quarterback already. Few college QBs -- certainly at the stage of the Senior Bowl -- are NFL-ready. Why can't he simply show that he has the raw tools to be an NFL QB? Isn't it the NFL coaches' jobs -- once he's on a team -- to take those tools and turn him into an NFL QB? I just don't buy that he has to be polished TODAY.

And even though I discount the scouts and draftniks, I find it intriguing to follow the way the conventional wisdom about Tebow will shift. You saw the first signs of that late last week, and I anticipate that it will grow even stronger this week as more jump on the bandwagon.

Then, of course, we can wonder about when the "backlash to the backlash" will happen.

The kicker is the advice that Tebow said Urban Meyer gave him: "Just be you, and you'll be fine."

I'm going to assume that by "you," Meyer meant Tebow's infectious enthusiasm, drive, leadership and will to dominate (rather than his elongated throwing motion). And Meyer is right: Tebow moves up the draft with a little bit of technical improvement.

But the reason he will go in the Top 10 to the Jags... the reason he is the biggest star ever at the Senior Bowl... the reason he is the most intriguing draft prospect of all time...

...Is because Tim will be Tim.

*****

UPDATE: Tim will be Tim in at least one way -- he will wear jersey No. 15 in the Senior Bowl. (BTW, I love the intentions behind Draft15.com... um, what happens when he wears No. 5 in the NFL? No confirmation on this, but I presume that because he wore No. 5 in high school, Tebow would have taken No. 5 at Florida as a freshman if Andre Caldwell didn't already have it. Of course, the Jags have both No. 15 and No. 5 open on their roster, so Tebow can have his choice.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

NFL Tebow: Next Vince Young?

Tim Tebow and Vince Young had similar profiles coming out of college: They put up prolific stats, they played in friendly "systems," and they were both massive winners. That's why when you see rankings of the top college football player of the past decade, it usually went TT-VY as 1-2.

Interestingly, when Young went into the NFL, the only question was how high he should go. Some thought the Texans should take him No. 1 overall. He eventually went to the Titans at No. 3 overall, and plenty of people thought he was a steal -- confirmed when he won Rookie of the Year.

But Young's mechanics were questionable. His football IQ was bashed from all sides when his alleged Wonderlic score (appallingly low) was leaked. And yet there was little question that he was a 1st-round talent and a "game-changing" NFL QB.

As it turns out, Young had trouble after that rookie season -- last season, he was even benched, buried deep behind Kerry Collins, who led the Titans to an incredibly successful season. It was only this season -- after Titans' winlessness made it a "nothing left to lose" proposition -- did VY get the job back. He turned it into a Pro Bowl-worthy run of starts.

Interestingly, it's not like he redefined the QB position this season. In fact, with Jeff Fisher, Young was a game manager, if anything. Get the ball to all-world playmaker Chris Johnson and otherwise try not to lose the game with dumb turnovers. (Young did have that sick last-minute 90-yard game-winning TD drive against the Cardinals, a career highlight.)

So the question is: Why don't scouts see Tim Tebow's potential in the same way they see Young's? Is it just a question of mechanics? Isn't that the easiest thing to fix?

Anyway: NFL.com's Gil Brandt -- perhaps my favorite person at the league, from the year I worked there -- has been bullish on Tebow from the start, projecting him as a 1st-round pick when others were grading him out as a 3rd-rounder. (It happens to be that Brandt also decides what players come to NYC for the Draft, and I would be stunned if Tebow wasn't in that group, no matter where he is projected to get drafted) -- gets asked about Tebow all the time, and he compared him to Young:
"Tim’s situation is just like Vince Young. Just like they have Tim, people doubted (Vince). And we now have a lot of negative Vince Young people becoming positive Vince Young people because of his success."
Just one more data point, heading into next week's Senior Bowl mayhem.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Draft Tebow: Buzz Continues to Build

First this morning, there was the report in the Tennessean about the rave reviews Tim Tebow is getting in his private workout facility in Franklin, Tennessee.

Now, add a report from ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli, giving air time to a perspective directly at odds with his colleagues Mel Kiper and Todd McShay.

Pasquarelli provides an unambiguous platform for Ken Herock, who runs a pre-draft clinic for players to prepare for combine interviews. Herock also has long experience as an NFL scout. Listen:
"He's by far the best [prospect] with whom I've ever worked. He walks into a room and he just energizes it. Whatever 'it' is, he's definitely got 'it.' & Even for a guy like me, who's done this for so long, you almost get goosebumps."
There you go. Now, Tebow is Herock's client, so it's fair to say that Herock was going to be positive. But this is beyond positive. More:
"His release might be a little low at this point, but a lot of people talked about Philip Rivers' delivery too before he was drafted, and look at what he's done. I've heard all the supposed [negatives]. But I watched [Tebow] on the field and his velocity is good enough, and so is his accuracy. As far as his learning, you don't have to tell him anything twice. And he's a student of the game. I recommended that he watch some tapes of Steve Young, and he said, 'Oh, I've already done that.' He wants to be good. He wants to succeed. And he will succeed."
From the pre-Senior Bowl buzz that is already building, it is obvious that the strategic decision by Tebow to participate will pay off huge. If the last few weeks -- if not last few months -- was dominated by "Who knows?" at best and "Meh" at worst (McShay/Kiper), we are about to see not just "exceeds (low) expectations," but flat-out "yes, he can play; yes, he's worth a 1st."

That will be the meme coming out of next week in Mobile. That will be the talking point. As I wrote earlier today, that is the benefit of the low expectations to start.

As I have also said repeatedly over the months of draft discussion, it is going to be fascinating to see all the doubters/haters walk back their criticism to fall in line with conventional wisdom, rather than keeping themselves out there against it.

They will almost certainly use the Senior Bowl to start that process.

The draftniks are not dumb -- they know they can't be too far outside the mainstream. There is interesting contrarianism, and then there is looking foolish. Draftniks -- like all pundits -- have a supreme weakness: Fear of looking like a fool.

And thus conventional wisdom is generated....

(h/t: OnlyGators)

Tim Tebow's Private Tennessee Workouts

Tim Tebow has one of the most important events of his professional life next week -- his public debut for NFL scouts and coaches (not to mention the draftnik-industrial complex) in Mobile, Alabama, at the Senior Bowl.

In preparation, Tebow has been working out at D1 Sports Training, a facility in Franklin, TN. He has not had any media availability, but a new report today has a couple of very interesting details.


Kudos to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean for doing some sleuthing and getting a couple of peripheral reports from Tebow's workouts.

The money quote, from Kurt Hester, who runs the training at D1:

I told him when he came in, this place is not for everybody. We are that blue-collar facility, we work. And he has not skipped a beat. He is not a prima donna. He does not complain.

He has a stronger arm than I thought he would. You hear different things, but he has a ton of velocity on the ball.

When they see him in person, how he moves and throws, his work ethic at the Senior Bowl, and his passion for the game, I think that is what is going to move him up on the draft.

This guy has fire. He has that Brett Favre fire about him. He has that switch where if you challenge him in any way, you can see it in his eyes, he is ready to compete.'

Wyatt reports that Tebow has been working out with former Georgia and NFL QB Zeke Bratkowski, and former NFL head coach and QB guru Sam Wyche has helped, too.

See that part of Hester's quote I bold-faced above. The absurdly low expectations that have been set out by many NFL scouts and draftniks works in Tebow's favor in one very important way:

He has nowhere to go but up.

When Tebow shows up in Mobile and shows he can make the throws, the scouts will invariably improve their ratings -- again, it's not like they can get much more bearish.

And then you will see the buzz about drafting Tebow explode -- and this is before the interview segment.

I have been saying this for six months: Teams WANT a reason to draft Tebow. They just want to see a glimmer that they can develop him into a full-time NFL QB (or at least see how they can use him creatively).

Some, like the Jags, might take him regardless of scouts' grades. But if even a few scouts come around on him -- as early as next week in Mobile -- he will shoot up draft boards on the merit of his skills... and not just as some anomaly to Jacksonville.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

NFL Tebow: Leftwich Meets Alstott?

You know I love the "Tim Tebow is like..." comps to current or former NFL players: Steve Young. Donovan McNabb. Eric Crouch. (Ugh.) Frank Wycheck. (Ugh.)

Here's a new one, passed along by the PBP's Ben Volin:
The people at WalterFootball.com compare Tebow as a hybrid between Byron Leftwich and Mike Alstott. Sounds about right.
A combo of Leftwich and Alstott. I love that. It's totally freaky -- not unlike Tebow's pro potential. I hope wherever he lands, the coaches simultaneously develop him as a QB and deploy him in weird ways that push the envelope of strategy.

In their latest mock draft, the folks at WF currently have Tebow going No. 10 to the Jaguars -- kudos to them for reflecting "reality" in their mock, rather than irrelevant grades from scouts.

Sometimes it's about best player available. Sometimes it's about filling a need. Sometimes it's about organizational fit. And sometimes -- very rarely -- it's about marketing.

(Here's a mailbag from WF, defending the pick along those lines.)

Tim Tebow was an anomaly as a college football phenomenon and he will be an anomaly as an NFL draft prospect. He may very well be an anomaly as a player, too.

To wit: When was the last time you heard of a prospect compared to a cross between an immobile QB and an oversized RB? (By the way, isn't that Daunte Culpepper in his early years?)
*****

By the way: Next week around here will be wall-to-wall NFL Draft coverage -- specifically focused on the Senior Bowl, where Tebow will be THE player to watch. In case you still don't think that the college mania translates to the pros, just watch how insane the Tebow coverage will be next week.

Brand Tebow: Most Marketable Player Ever?

"He is the most marketable guy we've ever seen coming out of college."

-- CNBC's Darren Rovell, on the Dan Patrick Show this morning talking about Tim Tebow's marketing potential.

Rovell is right. No college athlete has ever combined the name recognition, installed popularity and built-in sponsorship partnerships like Tebow has. That his role or value in the NFL is still being debated makes it all the more remarkable.

So which traditional sports marketer will be first: EA? Nike? Gatorade?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tebow Super Bowl Ad: Money Seals Deal?

Earlier today, a TV industry exec emailed me making the good point that the Super Bowl broadcast isn't sold out and that CBS might be more inclined to take Focus on the Family's ad featuring Tim Tebow -- and their money -- than CBS would if there was a feeding frenzy by advertisers for game slots.

Then I just saw a tweet from Brooks of Sports by Brooks, who talked to another exec who did nothing to make me think that money wasn't a factor:
I talked to a high-ranking network exec (not CBS) on why CBS cleared Tebow ad: "It's a money decision & Tebow's presence gives them cover."
That may very well be true. It certainly rings true. Everyone's using everyone: Yup, sounds like business.

Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad: No Controversy

UPDATE: Via Ad Age, CBS has approved the ad's script and accepted the ad for airing. It is worth noting that the ad is not expected to be a "hard sell" or "anti-" anything, at least from FoF's perspective. I don't think this changes any of the analysis below, and -- if anything -- will create even more of a muted response from sports media and fans.

The key here was the spot's low-key delivery. Everyone assumed this would be some raging freak-out spectacle, like so many advocacy ads in the past have tried to be. Not only would that have been rejected, but I'm sure Tebow would not have agreed to do it -- after all, he has always been about high visibility for his values, but he has never been about the "hard sell." Original post follows:

*****

Let's talk about Tim Tebow's Super Bowl ad.

You know: The one produced by Focus on the Family, featuring Tim and his mom Pam, referencing Pam's decision to give birth to Tim. It is, to say the least, controversial.

Start with this:

The ad is not going to run during the Super Bowl. I do not have inside information from CBS; I can only go by historical precedent. And, based on precedent, advocacy ads such as this one are rejected by the network televising the Super Bowl.

[Ed.: Obviously, the preceding statements are wrong, given the new information.]

That said: It will not matter. As we saw during the 2008 Presidential campaign, advocacy groups regularly released "TV advertisements" that would run sparingly in some tiny media market (if at all), only to gain wide attention after the cable news networks endlessly played them. It was very effective.

Similarly, the Tebow commercial will have extended life -- and distribution (if not quite as wide as the Super Bowl) -- by running on YouTube, where it can be obsessed over by everyone from political pundits to sports columnists. (More on that in a sec.)

So whether or not the Tebow ad airs during the Super Bowl broadcast, it will have its intended effect: Raising awareness of the group that commissioned it -- the point of any ad.

But what does it mean for Tebow?

*****

Start with this:

Participating in this ad is entirely in line with Tim Tebow's core system of priorities, which he has outlined consistently throughout his public life: Faith first. Then family. Then football. (Academics used to come between family and football, but that's not in the mix anymore, so I'm condensing it.)

That Tebow would make a TV ad or endorse a viewpoint that supports his faith (and, in the process, showcase his family) should not surprise anyone. In fact, it makes all the sense in the world if you understand Tebow. Even if -- or perhaps ESPECIALLY if -- it is the first "ad" he does as a pro.

A more secularly minded marketing consultant -- and Tim will surely have those, in charge of cutting his deals with the likes of video-game companies or shoe manufacturers or sports-drink companies -- might have cringed at Tebow doing an ad that would be so polarizing.

But to crib a phrase from the past four years: That's just Tim being Tim. (Tim's well-established value system is, in fact, at the core of his marketing appeal, particularly with fans who share his system of values.)

*****

Tebow is a master student of the powers of influence. Does that mean he totally understands the implications of doing the ad? Or is it something that he simply believes in so strongly that he will ignore any potential negative consequences? In fact: ARE there consequences, either positive or negative?

Here is an interesting dynamic to consider:

Sportswriters do NOT like to talk about politics. This is for a couple of reasons: Most sports writers are entirely out of their depth when talking about politics -- or any issue beyond the superficialities of sports. This is why sports columnists who moralize or try to opine on subjects of gravitas -- even related to sports -- more often than not look foolish.

The other reason is that sports fans don't like to see politics and sports mix. Sports is meant to be a haven from politics -- or anything else. They want their sports coverage -- and their sports stars -- to be apolitical. (At least until they are out of sports and turn into politicians.) The exception is for issues that transcend politics, like asking fans to donate to the United Way or relief in Haiti.

Interestingly, Tebow was such a powerful presence that his most public displays of religious faith -- the eye-black -- was, more often than not, accepted and celebrated by sports media. For their part, fans were mostly comfortable with giving Tebow the freedom to express himself as he wanted to. But largely, sports media didn't touch it. And that is for Bible verses -- let alone the complicated issues related to abortion.

So here is where the dynamics of Tebow's Super Bowl ad get interesting: Sports media really doesn't want to -- or cannot -- talk about it. At least, not without a ton of collateral issues coming into play. And I doubt many sports editors or producers want to attempt to navigate that.

So what happens? Do people talk about the ad? Is it referenced in a boring, meta, "we're not talking about abortion, we're talking about an ad talking about abortion" kind of way? Is it not referenced at all? Is it one of those issues that is hot in the blogosphere but all but ignored in mainstream media?

In sports media, that is almost assuredly the case.

*****

And then there is this:

Tebow has a lot of fans -- he is the most high-profile player in college football history. He is the most high-profile entrant in the NFL Draft. He has more endorsement potential than anyone in the NFL besides Peyton Manning.

Some of those fans agree with Tebow's value system. Some of those fans agree with some of Tebow's value system. Some of those fans agree with little of Tebow's value system. (Put more bluntly: Some fans are pro-life, some are pro-choice. Some approve of Focus on the Family; some don't.)

By being so public with his allegiances, does Tebow risk alienating the devoted Tebow fans who disagree with Focus on the Family?

I would argue he doesn't. No Tebow fan doesn't already understand Tebow's system of spiritual values. And those who disagree with any of those values came to terms with that a long time ago. No TV ad -- no matter how prominent -- undermines that.

(For my part, I have long-reconciled any differences between Tebow's value system and my own by instead focusing -- no pun intended -- on the commonalities, many of which transcend purist definitions as spiritual or secular.)

Might fans with nothing but a superficial awareness of Tebow have an out-sized reaction to the ad (or the news of the ad)? Very possibly, but it cuts both ways: People who support FoF will instinctively support Tebow; people who don't will instinctively dismiss him.

Again, I'm not sure there's a calculus involved in this for Tebow -- for him, it's a natural extension of his core belief system. I'm don't think he cares about people he might be offending, even if it might pain him after four years developing a very non-divisive culture of personality.

*****

Much has been made recently about Tebow that "the NFL isn't college" -- for example, he won't be able to wear messages on his eye-black. Professionalism comes with all sorts of new opportunities (marketing deals) and challenges (media scrutiny).

I don't think this ad impacts that, whether or not it ever reaches the Super Bowl broadcast. (Again: Even if it doesn't, it will surely find traction through YouTube.) Everyone already connects Tebow to Christian values, specifically of the kind promoted by Focus on the Family.

Even in the event the ad is not allowed on the broadcast -- even with a media backlash from FoF because of it, to gain even more publicity-- in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, fans will be focused on another showcase for Tebow: His performance in the Senior Bowl.

Again: When fans are thinking about sports, they don't want to think about -- let alone linger -- on politics. If they haven't exiled this storyline to the backs of their minds by the time the game rolls around, they will as quickly afterward as they can. They will go back to thinking about...football.

And at that point, Tebow remains the most intriguing prospect of the NFL Draft. Debating the policies of Focus on the Family? No thanks. Debating Tim Tebow's potential as an NFL QB or his worthiness as a 1st-round pick? Bring it on. Fans can -- and will -- talk about that all day.

(At the same time, Tebow will inevitably be part of an ad campaign for EA's NCAA Football 2011. Or Nike. Or Gatorade. These are three companies that excel at symbolism and myth-making. If you thought a montage on College GameDay was inspiring, wait until Weiden & Kennedy take on Tebow.)

But you won't hear much in sports media about Tim Tebow's Super Bowl ad. And cable news networks know that non-sports fans don't really know or care about Tebow. (The only debate for talk-show hosts will be CBS choosing to reject or accept the ad, no matter who is starring in it.)

*****

On its face, this ad seems "controversial" for an athlete, let alone Tebow. It's not. It is entirely in line with Tebow's value system. People entrenched on either side of the issue aren't changing their mind -- about abortion, about FoF, about Tebow himself -- from it.

And it is enough of a hot-button issue -- unrelated to sports -- that sports fans won't just try to ignore it, they will actively try to avoid it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brand Tebow: How Marketable? Very

I am a huge fan (and friend) of CNBC's Darren Rovell -- best sports-busines reporter out there -- but I think he seriously undersells Tim Tebow's marketing potential in this post. Florida-based sponsorships? What: Like local car dealerships and banks?

*Tebow will be EA's cover guy for NCAA Football 2011.

*He will have high-end Nike and Gatorade endorsements by the time we get to the draft.

*He will be sought after by every major sponsor that still wants to be in the athlete-sponsorship game, in a way like no NFL rookie ever -- and, in all of sports, not seen since LeBron.

*His draft position will not reflect his marketing potential, even if he isn't in the 1st round. (He's not slipping past the Jags at No. 10 anyway.)

*Tebow's marketing appeal bears more resemblance to a NASCAR driver than a football player. No one is buying Sony TVs because Peyton Manning is playing Ping-Pong with Justin Timberlake. But NASCAR fans of Jimmie Johnson are going to Lowe's instead of Home Depot.

*To define Tebow's appeal as merely regional or limited by his lack of standing in the NFL defies two things: (1) his emergence as the most popular and talked-about college football player of all time, and (2) his national appeal to the evangelical Christian community.

NFL Tebow: Eye-Black Messages OK?

"Personal messages of any type cannot be displayed by players during our games."

-- NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.

So if the question is whether Tim Tebow can continue to wear Bible verses on his eye-black, the answer is "No."

(h/t: Tebow's Eye-Black)

For those who have been waiting for it: Yes, I am working on a post to talk about the Super Bowl ad. It's a really big issue, and I'm trying to do it justice. While you wait, try Clay Travis' take. I don't agree with some of it, but he approaches the subject earnestly, which is all you can ask.

Tim Tebow: EA NCAA Football 2011 Cover?

Of all of Tim Tebow's potential endorsement deals -- Nike, Gatorade -- the most obvious one was that he would be on the cover of EA's NCAA Football 2011. In fact, I predicted it here a year ago, complete with fake cover:


Although Sports Business Journal couches it in terms of "there is talk that he could be close to a deal," this is so obvious that the announcement itself will be a mere formality, whenever it happens. As will the deals with Nike, Gatorade and all the rest.

(Hey: I got to cover to the EA NCAA Football 2010 release event a year ago.... maybe I'll get to go this year and actually ask Tim a question myself.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

NFL Tebow: 49ers in the Mix?

Peter King had his eye on Tim Tebow a few weeks ago, even if his "how can you pass on this guy?" was mitigated by saying he wouldn't let him slip later... than 40th -- hardly an endorsement.

We know the conventional wisdom about who might take Tebow -- Jaguars, Redskins, Bills, Patriots. This week, King wants to add another team to the mix: The 49ers.
I think, if I had to guess right now, I'd say the best shot for Tim Tebow on draft day is San Francisco, at number 13. No proof. No solid evidence. Just this: The Niners gave a tepid endorsement to Alex Smith as their quarterback of 2010 after the season; and Mike Singletary didn't draft him; and Singletary is going to fall in love with Tebow once he meets him after the season; and Tebow is the kind of winner that Singletary has preached he wants since he took the job from Mike Nolan in mid-2008. After Singletary meets Tebow at the Scouting Combine, this is my prediction of his reaction: He'll turn to GM Scot McCloughan and say, "That's my guy. We've got to have him.''
Let me point out a few things to undermine King's theory:

*I find it very difficult to believe that the 49ers would draft (and pay) another QB in the 1st round so soon after Smith -- particularly a Meyer protege. Plus: If the team thinks Smith is its QB of the present and, presumably, future, why would they draft his eventual replacement?

*Urban Meyer has been extremely critical of the way that the NFL has mis-used Smith throughout his career -- and that means the 49ers. To the extent that Meyer will help -- or want to help -- Tebow avoid Smith's issues, he will steer him clear of San Francisco.

*Every team -- not just the 49ers -- will be blown away by Tebow during the interview process. King's logic could apply to the Colts and Saints, for crying out loud. That doesn't mean that any of them will draft him off of that interview, especially if they already have a pricey QB in place.

*The simplest of all explanations: The Jaguars pick a few slots ahead of the 49ers at No. 13, and there's no way the Jags let Tebow slip past them -- to 13th or anywhere else.

Friday, January 15, 2010

NFL Tebow: Jags Pick Clausen? Ha

My colleagues at Sporting News have their latest 2010 NFL Mock Draft up, and what amazes me is not just that Tim Tebow isn't in the top half -- it's that they have the Jaguars drafting a QB... but it is NOT Tim Tebow. It's Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen. Hunh?

So let me get this straight: The Jaguars WILL take a QB with that No. 10 pick, but will PASS UP Tebow for another QB? I don't care how good Clausen "grades out," this makes no sense, based on all the signals being sent from the team -- not to mention the pressure they will get from fans.

This is what I was talking about the other day when I said that there is a cognitive disconnect between the scouts' grades and mock-draft "reality." Clausen may very well grade out higher than Tebow; in the case of the Jaguars, that has nothing to do with anything.

If the Jaguars decide they don't want to take a QB -- heck, if they decide they really need the help on defense? OK, fine. I think we can all agree that's reasonable. But if they are going to take a QB with that No. 10 pick, there is no way -- NO WAY -- it won't be Tebow.

(I should stop evaluating mock drafts -- particularly in mid-January -- because they are so unreflective of reality. But I just can't help myself...)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tim Tebow Time On Facebook?
(Or: Can Tebow Help Haiti Relief?)

I just got an email from a regular reader asking whether Tim Tebow might use his influence to rally people to support relief efforts in Haiti.

It's a great idea (and totally in line with Tebow's personality), but it begged an interesting observation:

Mainly because of the way Florida kept access to Tebow tightly controlled, now that he is an independent pro, he has no direct relationship with fans.

No Facebook page. No Twitter profile. No Web site.

Unrelated to the tragedy in Haiti, now is the time for Tebow to build that direct connection. (It is possible he is waiting until he hires a marketing firm to do it.)

For better or worse, look at how the Facebook presence became the primary way that Sarah Palin went from inaccessible politician to someone who can communicate directly with people.

Now, being an athlete isn't quite the same as being a politician or political commentator. But look at the way other athletes have gotten on to Facebook and Twitter: It's the future.

I totally understand why Tebow was not on Facebook or Twitter while he was in college. (And goodness knows how many fake accounts and tribute accounts were set up.)

But now that he is no longer a student or a representative of the University of Florida, he is free to build that direct relationship with fans they obviously want -- and that he might want, too.

Using that platform to ask his fans to support relief efforts in Haiti is just an immediate implication.

(FWIW, my wife and I just made a donation to Doctors Without Borders, but there are plenty of worthy organizations out there who can help.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NFL Tebow: Jags GM Peeks Team's Hand?

"I'm a firm believer that will wins more than skill."

-- Jaguars GM Gene Smith, in a quote that supports the idea that the Jaguars will draft Tim Tebow... but also might provide insights as to why the Jaguars were 7-9.

I'm pretty sure that if he was asked to elaborate, Smith would likely suggest that at the NFL level, the skills are all pretty much the same. At that point, "will" would make a difference.

But whoever the Jaguars backup RB might be, he may have all the will in the world, but he ain't doing a better job than the more-skilled Maurice Jones-Drew. (See Taylor, Fred.)

More from Smith about Tebow, from Tuesday night:

I hope he has a great career in the NFL wherever it's at, whether we're a cat in this hat or somewhere else in the league. He's gonna be successful at anything he pursues in life.

"Whether we're a cat in this hat" is one of the strangest phrasings you'll ever hear. It's certainly new to me. I'll take that as some kind of secret code for "Yes, we're drafting him."

The whole "will beats skill" thing sounds like continued building of an affirmative case for the Jaguars to take Tebow in the 1st round of the NFL Draft in April.

(As if Smith was going to either (a) go against owner Wayne Weaver's previous complimentary comments about Tebow, or (b) say anything to knock Tebow, at all.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

NFL Tebow: Would Pats Pass on Tebow?

Where will Tim Tebow go in the 2010 NFL Draft? Last week, we covered the first 20 spots. Four more spots have been determined: (21) Bengals, (22) Patriots, (23) Packers, (24) Eagles.

With Carson Palmer the franchise in Cincinnati, I can't imagine the Bengals taking him. Same with Rodgers in Green Bay. And the Eagles have enough drama at QB without adding Tebow to the mix. But then there's that prominent team sitting at 22: The Patriots.

Of course, the Patriots have long been linked to Tebow:

*Because of Bill Belichick's close relationship with Urban Meyer.

*Because of admiring things Belichick has said about Tebow in the past.

*Because he is the coach who is innovative (and secure) enough to utilize Tebow in creative ways (at least until Tebow is ready to assume a starting QB role, which in New England may be a few more years). Consider how Tebow might have helped on 4th-and-2 against the Colts.

Two things are working against Tebow landing with the Pats at No. 22:

(1) The overwhelming sentiment that the Jaguars will take Tebow at No. 10/11, regardless of any other factors.

(2) That as much as Belichick might like Tebow, he can't use that No. 22 pick on him, when the Patriots have such an obviously pressing need on the D-line.

Now, maybe the Patriots can address that through free agency -- but the cheapest, easiest and probably most effective way to do it is through the draft.

If Tebow slips past the Pats at 22, I could see them circling back quickly -- using some of their draft-pick stockpile in 2010 and 2011 -- to be in a position to draft him again.

But given the way the Patriots' season unfolded, their need is D, not T.

(None of this precludes what I think is a reasonable scenario: That Tebow is drafted by Jacksonville -- or whomever besides New England -- then struggles in a bad fit to the point that the team releases him, at which point he will be picked up by Belichick and unleashed on the league.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

NFL Tebow: Senior Bowl Sales Rep?

Fun data point: The day the news came out that Tim Tebow would participate in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 30 in Mobile, Alabama, game marketers set a new single-day record for ticket sales.

This cannot be more stressed: Whether we are talking about TV ratings or ticket sales or jerseys or endorsement products, Tim Tebow spurs people to spend money.

We knew this at Florida, and it is translating to the pro level with the Senior Bowl. Remarkable, but hardly surprising.

NFL Tebow: Senior Bowl a Strategic Call

One of the most interesting things in moving along from College Tebow to NFL Tebow is that things start to move away from the Florida beat folks -- Volin, Fowler, Goodman, English, Long... I love 'em all -- and move to the NFL reporters.

The Miami Herald's Jeff Darlington has a nicely nuanced explanation of how and why Tim Tebow ended up committing to play in the Senior Bowl, and it has a lot to do with his new agent, Jimmy Sexton:

You see, Sexton also represents Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and executive vice president of football operations Bill Parcells. That’s the same staff, of course, that created the Wildcat offense. Although less popular, it’s also the same staff that created an NFL-type spread offense that would probably be better suited for Tebow than Pat White.

So not only are you getting a coaching staff that understands how to prepare a player for those types of packages, you’re also going to get a staff far less likely to put Tebow in any jeopardizing situations because of their ties to Sexton.

Ultimately, it's going to be hard for Sexton to keep Tebow from getting dinged by scouts -- they are already inclined to ding him, if only because of the cognitive dissonance from having their recommendations largely be ignored.

But putting Tebow with sympatico coaches allows Team Tebow to live up to Tebow's insistence that he won't be intimidated to perform for the NFL scouts, while mitigating as much of the unknown as possible. You want to have as much of the draft process in your hands as you can.

NFL Tebow: Carroll in Seattle Shakes Up Draft Priorities?

There are a handful of NFL teams who had been widely considered to be amenable to drafting Tim Tebow in the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft: Jaguars, Bills, Redskins, Patriots, Seahawks.

I think we can scratch Seattle off the list. Despite having two 1st-round picks, they have a new head coach (and decision-maker), Pete Carroll, and Tebow doesn't fit Carroll's model for QBs.

Consider: Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley. Technically perfect, accurate, strong-arm QBs who play in a prototype "pro-style" set.

Given that Matt Hasselbeck has a few years left in him and that there will be plenty of Carroll-style QBs available in the draft in coming years -- including Barkley in 2012 -- I don't see Carroll using one of those two 1st round picks on Tebow.

There could be reverberations: Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has been mentioned as a possible successor to Carroll. Beyond the fact that it would be a terrible move for USC (and give Jags fans some hope), it is unlikely this would impact whether or not the team drafts Tebow -- Tebow has always been a bit of an irrational pick for the team, and a new coach won't change that.

The Bills are still looking for a coach -- this should, in theory, impact whether the team is interested.

In other recent coaching changes, I find it hard to believe that Mike Shanahan's first pick as head of the Redskins will be on Tebow in the Top 5 of the draft.

All signs continue to point to Tebow going to the Jaguars at No. 10 or No. 11.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tim Tebow's Agent: Jimmy Sexton

Tim Tebow has selected his agent: Jimmy Sexton.

Sexton's biggest client is Philip Rivers -- not a bad model to emulate. Per Fowler, Sexton also reps some of the SEC's top coaches: Saban, Kiffin, Spurrier, Nutt.

As I was mentioning in yesterday's post
, Sexton will have a unique challenge: Scouts will grade Tebow as a 2nd-rounder; the reality is that he will be a 1st-rounder.

Sexton will have at least a few teams picking in the 1st round who will have interest in Tebow. Among the more popular names: The Redskins, the Bills, the Pats and -- of course -- the Jags.

(I would actually say that Pete Carroll becoming president and coach of the Seahawks almost assuredly spikes any chance the Seahawks would use either of their 1st-round picks on Tebow.)

If there will be plenty of interest in Tebow in the 1st round, Sexton's biggest challenge will be to find the right FIT for Tebow -- the team that is willing to invest in developing him into a full-time QB, while also comfortable enough to deploy him creatively in the short term.

While an agent's incentive is almost always to maximize value for their clients, in this case I think that it is critical that Sexton maxmize fit.

And, for his part, I hope that Tebow tells his agent that he absolutely will not hold out, even if it means missing out on a few dollars. Sign quickly, and get to work.

Tebow will be in a unique position of earning so much money from endorsements that a marginal couple hundred thousand (or even million) dollars shouldn't matter, relative to signing and getting his pro development started, earning a ton of cred with fans in the process.

Tim Tebow To Play In Senior Bowl

Tim Tebow WILL play in the Senior Bowl at the end of the month, according to an ESPN.com report.

This is a bit of a surprise to me -- but certainly consistent with what Tebow has been saying that he won't duck the chance to perform in front of NFL coaches.

I say: Bring it on. He instantly becomes the biggest story of the game in Mobile.

Tebow will be under intense scrutiny, but he will also get a ton of credit for actually playing in the game, not shying away.

(UPDATE: Per Andreu in the Sun, Tebow will play for the South team, which will be coached by the Miami Dolphins coaching staff. I'm sure Tebow wants to play in "pro-style" sets, but if it's the Dolphins coaches, you can be sure they will line him up in some variation of the Wildcat.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

NFL Tebow: Theory vs. Reality

Been sitting on this CBSSports.com column by Clark Judge about NFL scouts' problem with Tim Tebow for a few days, and I just want to make a few points:

*One of the most fascinating things -- if not THE most fascinating things -- about Tim Tebow's draft status is that he uniquely defies traditional scouting reports.

Scouts and draftniks pinpoint problems with his mechanics, then grade him out as no better than a 2nd-round pick, maybe 3rd.

And yet, in what I'm quite sure is to their consternation, Tebow is going to be a 1st-round pick. Probably a top-half-of-the-1st pick, possibly a Top 10 pick overall.

This must drive the scouts and draftniks bonkers, if for no other reason than it creates a cognitive dissonance: Their opinions are dismissed.

And if their opinions can be so easily dismissed -- whether an owner loves Tebow's attitude or is sure he's a "winner" or likes his potential as a superback or just sees marketing appeal -- what good are they?

I have said this for months: It is going to be hilarious to see the draftniks have to adjust their rigorous rankings and grades to fit the reality of their mock draft lists.

Consider that for a second: Scouts like to claim that Tebow's appeal is qualitative, but the analysis of the tape shows the reality.

When in fact: The scouts' analysis is the vapid theory, and Tebow's draft status is the only reality that matters.

And so even though a McShay or Kiper has Tebow graded -- in their expert analysis -- as a 2nd-round talent, they will have to list him in the mock-draft Top 10.

Why? Because they don't want their mock drafts to be wrong. That, more than Tebow's projected struggles as a pro, is considered a greater test of their value as draftniks than their scouting.

And it's not the mere optics of mock-draft listings and results: Tebow actually will be a 1st-round pick. Again: Imagine the cognitive dissonance the draftniks have to navigate.

The point is this: Scouts can say that Tebow doesn't grade out as a 1st-rounder, but that is entirely inconsequential.

All that matters is if he is a 1st-rounder, period. Is a team reaching? Who cares? At least one team will value him enough -- for whatever reason -- to take him in the 1st round.

And probably high in the 1st round.

No matter what the scouts tell them.

That is the disconnect between the draftniks' theory and the reality of the draft.

Will Tebow have to work on his mechanics? Of course! No one disputes this. And Tebow himself has said he'll work as hard as he can at the position -- do you doubt him?

Short of Tebow stubbornly believing that he actually is perfectly capable as an NFL QB right now, as-is (which he has never said), there is no reason to believe he can't -- with appropriate NFL coaching -- will himself to get better. No one will work harder at it.

Frankly, I'm surprised that more scouts haven't hopped on the Kiper/McShay bandwagon and suggested that Tebow absolutely has a future as an NFL player, but only as an unprecedentedly versatile QB-RB-TE "superback" (which will take a confident and innovative coach).

The scouts Judge talks to seem to think that in a year, Tebow could actually develop into a full-time NFL QB. (How many QBs start their rookie year anyway? Hell, Matt Leinart has been a pro for four years and still isn't very good.)

Anyway, I just wanted to note that Tim Tebow's mechanics may bother scouts, and they may not give him a 1st-round grade.

But that won't keep him from being a 1st-round pick.

I'm with Meyer: I think that Tebow needs the right coach and the right system. To start, right out of the gate, he can be a contributor as this novel QB-RB-TE "superback" hybrid. But at the same time, he can be working on his mechanics, footwork, reads -- a few years later, he will be ready to start.

If the team that drafts him isn't willing to give him that innovative use or that intensive training and he ends up a quote-unquote "bust," the nano-second he is released, Bill Belichick will sign him and unleash his potential.

Belichick will remind you to just ask the scouts who graded Tom Brady an unremarkable 6th-rounder.

Tim Tebow Leads Florida to No. 3 Ranking

Add one more accomplishment to the list for Tim Tebow's career:

In Tebow's four years, Florida was the only team to finish in the Top 3 three times.

2006: No. 1, obviously.
2008: No. 1, obviously.
2009: No. 3.

It is worth noting that Florida finished behind Texas, presumably because Texas gave Alabama a tougher game than Florida (despite not having their QB). I'm not sure this is fair:

Playing Florida, Alabama was as up (and on) as I've ever seen a team for a game.

Playing Texas, Alabama was in "do what's necessary to win," which explains the way Saban played not to lose from halftime onward (and almost blew it -- don't think that last-minute TD wasn't about avoiding the post-game storyline being "Texas almost won," rather than "Alabama wins decisively.")

It is also worth noting that Florida edged out unbeaten Boise State, which finished 4th. Boise State fans will rightfully be very upset by this. I will say that Florida's position ahead of Boise before the bowls started probably helped, as did a pre-bowl No. 5 Florida absolutely crushing pre-bowl No. 3 Cincinnati. (Boise barely beat pre-bowl No. 4 TCU.)

Lastly, it's important to say this:

For a team with "championship or bust" expectations, the difference between "14-0" and "13-1" is the widest gap in the world. It is nominal solace that Florida's only loss was to the No. 1 team (and that the loss was decisive and not because Tim Tebow was injured on the 1st series).

But 13-1 is not 14-0. And No. 3 is not No. 1.

As with the Sugar Bowl, if you couldn't have a national championship, 13-1 and a No. 3 (arguably No. 2) ranking are the next-best (if distant next-best) thing.