Thursday, February 25, 2010

NFL Tebow: Just Get Through Pro Day

When Chris from Smart Football spends a little time on Tebow, it's worth clipping for you:
Tebow is changing his release. I’m fine with this: it needed to be done, it appears (from the few clips I’ve seen) that he’s getting good coaching and things are improving, and if he didn’t the story threatened to derail him from getting drafted at all. And most importantly, if it works, he should be a better quarterback. Two points. One, realistically, Tebow just has three timelines with all this. The first is his pro day. If he can improve enough there to get drafted somewhere, then that’s a major hurdle. And then guess what? He has a long time to work on these mechanics and get better — his next two deadlines would be (a) preseason when he might play a bit, and (b) the eventual day he would get in a regular season game, which might be years hence. So while this overhaul requires a quick turnaround for his pro day, it is just one day and involves throwing in a controlled environment to receivers he knows, like Riley Cooper. (Of course, this fact that Tebow needed to learn to play pro quarterback is why I said he should have gone pro last year and sat the bench working on these mechanics all year.)
I totally agree with Chris on the idea of hurdles: Once he's on a pro team, he has months -- if not YEARS -- to develop, under what would ideally be expert NFL coaching.

Because of the duality of both the reality and perception that Tebow is improving and the fact that his Pro Day is under very carefully curated conditions, I think that his stock goes up and the meme out of Pro Day is: "He looks good enough! So how high can he go?"

Chris has more on the ridiculous "blame Meyer" meme, and it's worth a read. Chris has no axe to grind and pretty plainly tells it like it is about Tebow's mechanical flaws at Florida.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Meyer's Role In Tebow's Mechanics

I cannot stand this latest meme that somehow Urban Meyer is at fault for the need for Tim Tebow to rework his mechanics for the NFL. I don't even want to go on at length about it, because it is so ludicrous. I'll leave it to Mike Bianchi, who does a terrific job debunking the argument.

NFL Tebow: Two Months To Go

Two months from today -- Saturday, April 24 -- Tim Tebow's story will enter a new phase: We will know which team has drafted Tebow, a moment that will either come during the 1st round on Thursday April 22 or the 2nd/3rd rounds on Friday April 23.

In the roughly 60 days between now and then, Tebow will be the biggest story of the 2010 NFL Draft -- as he has been since he announced he was coming back to Florida in January 2009.

His press conference at the NFL Draft Combine on Friday will be the most-watched/-scrutinized moment of the week -- if the early-week frenzy over "Tebow 2.0" (per ESPN's Schefter) was any indication.

Less than a month from now, Tebow's "Pro Day" workout at Florida on March 17 -- which I bet will be carried live on ESPN and the NFL Network -- will be the biggest draft deal between now and the 1st day of the draft itself.

In the 4-week sprint from Pro Day until the 1st day of the Draft, there will be a day-to-day mania around rumors about which teams are interested in Tebow: Who might take him in the 1st round, who might trade up, what kind of scrum happens if he falls to the 2nd round, etc.

I still contend that despite the doubts of the draftniks, Tebow will be a 1st-round NFL pick. Revamping his mechanics -- in any sort of noticeable way leading up to March 17 -- will only make that easier.

It will drive the draftniks crazy, but they too will find themselves falling into line -- because even Todd McShay doesn't want to have his entire career defined around Tim Tebow. (You have already seen it in the way McShay dismisses Tebow's skill-set but still has him in the 2nd round.)

On a personal note, I'm still not sure what happens 60 days from now. When I launched TimTeblog, I saw his story in two parts: the 2009 college season and the lead-up to his being drafted into the NFL.

But what the Tebow frenzy -- particularly since the season ended -- has shown is that the intense interest in Tebow will only extend into the pros, from post-draft to minicamp to training camp to fantasy drafts to the regular season itself.

Should be a wild two-month sprint.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sam Wyche Loves Tim Tebow

"If this guy can't be a starting quarterback in the NFL then I was in the wrong profession for a lot of years."

-- Sam Wyche, former NFL coach, NFL QB guru and current member of Tebow's NFL-prep posse.

Gary Shelton has a great column in today's St. Pete Times featuring Wyche and Wyche's take on Tebow. Needless to say: It's all positive. Per Shelton:

Wyche admits that if he knew nothing more than what he was seeing on film, that would concern him. As it is, Wyche thinks Tebow will quickly overcome his flaws in the manner that former NFL star Randall Cunningham did when he came out of college with his own awkward delivery.

"Boy, he worked hard at it. He could tell when he tried and it wasn't right. He was coaching himself."

The "franchise re-boot" storyline continues.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tebow 2.0: Re-Booting His NFL Storyline

Great story from ESPN's Adam Schefter about the process Tebow is going through to re-work his mechanics. A couple of things to take out of it, which I'll get to below, but I wanted to offer this one piece of overarching analysis:

It's not about the Combine or Pro Day, or even about his mechanics. This is about flipping the storyline from the bearish analysis the week of the Senior Bowl to the bullish "redemption" storyline that every single sports media person thrives on. "He's working on it"... "He's getting better"...

Whether or not Tebow is ready to start as a full-time NFL QB in the fall of 2010 -- and why should he be? -- is irrelevant. What is entirely relevant is the story goes from "Tebow can't throw" to "Tebow can throw just fine," which gives a team that wants it the permission to draft Tebow in the 1st round, no matter what the draftniks say. It pushes back against the draftniks.

This story -- including its timing (pre-Combine) and who is filing it (ESPN's lead NFL "information" guy) and how it reads (sympathetic) -- is as much about the perception as the reality of how his throws actually look. Thus Schefter's "Tebow 2.0" characterization. That Senior Bowl stuff? Old Tebow. What is happening now? The re-boot.

A few more thoughts:

*Tebow was always going to have to work on his mechanics.

*Contrary to some opinions (like Kiper's), Tebow did NOT make a mistake in going to the Senior Bowl. If not for the scrutiny at the Senior Bowl, I don't think he and his handlers would have nearly the grasp of the magnitude of the questions about his mechanics.

However, I don't doubt the comprehensive criticism wasn't helpful to those in his training camp who were trying to impress on Tebow and his team that some serious work had to be done. (Although to Tebow's point, I don't doubt that he has always been open to improving his mechanics, although I think the pre-Draft context is a lot different from pre-Senior year context.)

*It is unsurprising for Tebow to skip working out at this week's NFL Combine. He is still working on his revamped mechanics; it would be crazy to roll out the product before that work was done, like announcing the iPhone a year before it was ready.

*Florida's Pro Day on March 17 -- featuring Tebow and the restructured mechanics -- will be the most-watched, most-hyped pre-Draft event until the week of the Draft itself. I would not be surprised if the event was broadcast live.

*Even by the time we get to Pro Day, don't expect his form to be flawless -- but definitely improved. The point is that he is rebuilding it not for that particular day -- or even for mini-camp or training camp -- but for next fall... and even the fall of 2011, 2012 and beyond.

*The work is actually working. Now, his tutors Bratkowski and Trestman are being paid, in part, to promote Tebow's improvements. But I trust them entirely when they say stuff like this:
"You're not looking at the same quarterback," said Bratkowski, who has worked with quarterbacks such as San Diego's Philip Rivers, Philadelphia's Michael Vick and Boomer Esiason. "To say we're there 100 percent where we want to be, no. But we'll be more improved come pro day than we are at this point in time now."
...

"That's the reason we're trying to rep it and rep it and rep it," Bratkowski said. Those who have seen Tebow's new delivery believe it is noticeably quicker.

"The ball is coming out a lot faster now," Trestman said.
Watch the video in the ESPN link: His mechanics DO look better, already. Just wait for another four weeks' worth of work, then another few months of work after that, then another two years after that. You can see the glimmer of a pathway to mechanics not being a problem, which opens the door for Tebow to be a full-time NFL QB, no matter what draftniks say in January 2010.

UPDATE: Ben Volin has a terrific bit of original reporting on this.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tim Tebow's Autograph: $160

I appreciate that now that Tim Tebow is a professional, he can enjoy the paid perks -- like tapping into the big-money memorabilia market.

But it seems to fly in the face of the populist brand that he has built up that he would align with a company that is charging $160 for the chance to get Tebow to sign something for you.

That just seems... excessive. $20? Totally. $50? Maybe -- especially if I'm cynical enough to think that the majority of folks in line are going to be memorabilia sales agents or eBay sellers, who will turn around and try to hawk the autographed stuff -- at a huge mark-up.

But if I'm just a working guy with two young kids and I'd really like Tebow to sign a Sports Illustrated cover or a photo for them so that they can connect with their favorite player, that just seems unfair.

Obviously, Tebow and his team can charge whatever they want, and I'm sure they tried to gauge what the market would pay for. But that approach seems cynical -- as cynical as the folks in line probably will be. I wonder if Tebow will notice, when it's less die-hard fans in line than die-hard sellers.

(h/t: Fowler)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

NFL Tebow: Bradford Double-Standard?

Apologies for the light posting this week. I'd like to say that I needed a bit of rest after the Senior Bowl/Super Bowl two weeks of insanity, but the news flow was simply slower.

But let's get right to it: I am mystified by the double-standard applied by the draftniks between Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford as it relates to the NFL.

In no particular order:

"BRADFORD WANTS TO DUCK THE SCOUTS? NO PROBLEM!"

*Tebow participates in the Senior Bowl -- the most high-profile participant ever, putting himself under the full scrutiny of the scouts (most of whom were eager to tear him down).

*Bradford is skipping all but the most benign parts of the NFL Combine (the measurements, interviews and Wonderlic), instead going for the inflated workout at his school's "Pro Day."

And not a peep from the scouts about Bradford's character or the potential that he's trying to hide something by ignoring their opportunity to perform in front of them at a neutral site.

"TIM TEBOW IS JUST A PRODUCT OF HIS OFFENSE."

*Tebow was a product of his offense; Urban Meyer's system can't produce pro QBs.

*But somehow, Bradford is a natural fit for the NFL. This, despite all evidence we have that Oklahoma QBs in the Stoops Era were ENTIRELY products of their system.

"SAM BRADFORD IS A MUCH BETTER PASSER THAN TEBOW."

*Tim Tebow's career stats, by season as a full-time starting QB:

Completion percentage: 67%, 64%, 68%
Yards-per-attempt: 9.39, 9.22, 9.22
QB Rating: 172, 172, 164

*Sam Bradford's career stats, in his two seasons as a full-time starting QB:

Completion percentage: 69%, 68%
Yards-per-attempt: 9.1, 9.7
QB Rating: 176, 180

But let's not entirely discount Bradford's abbreviated junior year in 2009, in which he had a 56 percent completion rate, 8.1 YPA and a QB rating of 134.

The point is: They are entirely comparable -- if anything, Tebow did it over roughly 50 percent more games.

"AND THEN THERE IS THE MOST OVERLOOKED FACTOR OF ALL..."

*Tim Tebow is a physical freak who could actually run between the tackles in the NFL -- not every down, but certainly occasionally -- and not break. I wouldn't worry if he got sacked.

*Sam Bradford's shoulder is literally hanging on by the physiological equivalent of a few strands of tooth floss. Does ANYONE think that Bradford could survive a direct hit from a lineman? He crumpled TWICE last season -- and that was against BYU and Texas. And the team he ends up on will, more likely than not, have a crappy O-line. Bradford is not going to have an NFL experience like he did at Oklahoma, where he was barely touched (although how can it not be a huge warning sign that in the few times he did get touched, he crumpled?). He is going to get sacked... hard.

I find it baffling that Tim Tebow's mechanics are enough for some to scuttle him all the way to the 3rd round, while Sam Bradford's tissue-paper shoulder ligaments are so little worry that a team would be willing to spend Top 10 QB money on him.

Let me make a rather bold prediction: I can't tell you how long or how successful Tim Tebow's NFL career will be, but I'll bet it is longer than Sam Bradford's.

I have nothing against Bradford. He seems like a nice guy and he was a terrific (even prolific) college QB -- when healthy. My problem is with the draftniks, who cherry-pick the things they like about Bradford and virtually ignore the glaring warning signs -- namely, that he is as much of a "system" QB as any other Oklahoma QB in the draft in the last decade, and that his shoulder cannot possibly withstand the punishment it will take week-in and week-out in the NFL.

If they're going to hold Tebow to some absurdly high standard of scrutiny, I wonder why they won't do the same thing for Bradford.

Because Bradford's mechanics are perfect? It is going to be really hard for him to display those mechanics when his arm is in a sling 14 weeks out of each season.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Tebow Rule": NCAA Bans Eye-Black Messages

Jeremy Fowler got to this first with the tagline, "The Tebow Rule": The NCAA has banned Bible verses (or words, numbers and logos) from player eye-black.

I can guarantee you that people will call it "The Tebow Rule," and chalk it up as yet another big impact Tim Tebow left on the sport of college football.

I find the new ban itself pretty silly: Did it really hurt anyone to have a Bible verse or a hometown area code or -- god forbid -- a corporate or team logo? If anything, it was interesting.

And, as we have talked about before, it was precisely the Google-fied impact of the "John 3:16" message during the 2008 national title game that inspired Tebow to come back in 2009.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tim Tebow at Daytona

"Gentlemen, start your engines!" (or will it be "Gentlemen, giddy up!")

Tim Tebow is at the Daytona 500
as a grand marshal of today's qualifiers/preliminaries. It's a perfectly reasonable honor for him to accept -- contrary to the meme that he was going to lay low. Why should he, coming off the Super Bowl ad? But Twitter reports out of Daytona from Adelson and Goodman and others are that Tebow is not only just talking about the race, but he is also actively avoiding the media. That seems unlike his usual m.o. But it seems like he's having a good time while he's there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tim Tebow: Daytona 500 Grand Marshal

Why should you have been suspicious of the analysis yesterday* that Tim Tebow is going to keep his head low and simply focus on working out in advance of the NFL Combine?

Because the Super Bowl ad -- and accompanying "discussion" -- put Tebow on a superstar stratosphere occupied by the Peytons, LeBrons, Phelpes, Lances and (ahem) Tigers.

It makes no sense for Team Tebow to sidestep all of the opportunities that will come his way in the wake of the Super Bowl, when his concurrent goals are both the NFL and larger influence.

Tebow will be the Grand Marshal of the qualifying races on Thursday at the Daytona 500, per the AP's Mark Long. Of course he will be: It's not just local, but the NASCAR fan is right in the Tebow sweet spot.

(In fact, I have compared Tebow's marketing appeal to that of a top NASCAR driver -- his fans are going to be willing to buy his endorsed products in a way beyond other team-sport athletes.)

* - To be fair, Robbie Andreu's analysis was mostly informed by Tebow's agent Jimmy Sexton, who doesn't do much for his credibility by pushing this "keeping focused on the NFL prep" line and conveniently ignoring telling Robbie that Tebow will be part of the D-500. Then again, Sexton's job is to get Tebow drafted as high as possible, not manage his off-field marketing.

The point is: The safe route is assuming Tebow's continued off-field marketing presence, commensurate with his mega-star status.

NFL Tebow: Mike Mayock a Fan

"If you're ever going to take a chance on a kid ... this is the kid."

-- Mike Mayock, on Dan Patrick's radio show this morning. It wasn't all glowing reviews: Mayock called Tebow's footwork "out of whack" and said he needed a "redshirt" year.

He also said Tebow "might" rise "as high" as the 2nd round.

Okay, one more time:

Unless I am totally reading the signals wrong -- and, of course, I might be -- everyone keeps presuming that the Draft market for Tebow is rational (3rd round, or 2nd in a "stretch"), when -- of course -- the market for Tebow could very well be entirely irrational.

In the draft's first 10 picks, the Jaguars (more precisely: Jags owner Wayne Weaver) could simply pick Tebow for all of the ancillary benefits that come from drafting him, rather than some ludicrously fictitious standard that he be ready to start at QB in the NFL immediately. (How many college QBs are ready to make the leap immediately? Or after one year? Or even two years? Hell, how many years has Matt Leinart taken?)

Even Mayock's quote at the top implies the irrationality around him: Under any other anonymous circumstances, no player of Tebow's NFL-QB-skill-set profile would be considered a 1st-rounder -- perhaps even a 2nd- or 3rd-rounder. But "Tebow being Tebow" has a way of influencing people, from Mayock... even to Todd McShay, who probably thinks -- talent-wise -- Tebow isn't even a 3rd-rounder and yet who has irrationally inflated him (by his own standards) into the 2nd round.

Brand Tebow: Biggest Super Bowl Ever

If Tim Tebow and his family were impressed by Tebow's scope of influence during the 2008 college football national title game, I cannot imagine how they felt when they found out that Super Bowl 44 on Sunday night was the most-watched TV show of all time.

NFL Tebow: Next Stop, NFL Combine

Per Andreu, Tim Tebow's agent Jimmy Sexton says that Tebow will be laying low -- just working out with his training team -- until the NFL Combine at the end of February.

After the Senior Bowl hysteria -- combined with the Super Bowl ad frenzy -- this will be a relatively quiet few weeks. I'm surprised no new marketing deals will be announced.

Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad: More Reax

First, the ad:



Obviously, a lot of reactions. Here is one from an unexpected source: The New Yorker.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad: Reaction

I go back to what I have been saying for weeks: That CBS would never had approved Tim Tebow's Super Bowl ad for Focus on the Family had it been incendiary or provocative in almost any way.

And it wasn't.

In fact, it was entirely benign -- even playful, with Tebow tackling his mom at the end of the spot, which was a total surprise given the play-it-straight versions that ran in the pre-game.

The only problem, if you could call it that, was that the ad ran right after a Snickers ad featuring Betty White being tackled by a young football player -- not entirely different from the Tebow ad.

Anyway, the dominant reaction during the game, after the game and tomorrow will be: "Well what was the fuss all about?" The ad could NOT have been more benign.

(There are plenty of discussions to be had about Focus on the Family's positions -- thankfully, we won't have those discussions here on this blog -- but the ad itself was so non-contentious.)

Back to football tomorrow. Congrats to you Saints fans out there.

Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad: Watch

As predicted here for the past few weeks: As seen in the pre-game show, the Tim Tebow Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad is quite benign in form, tone and content, with the instant reaction on Twitter largely along the lines of "Was that all?"

Watch for yourself (via HuffPo, with a better version up when I find one).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tim Tebow and Gatorade: Deal Close?

Anyone else watch yesterday's Ustream live video of Tim Tebow participating at the Gatorade station at the Super Bowl? He was riding a stationary bike, hooked up to all these tubes and answering questions from fans online. The big question for me, of course, is: So does this mean that the obvious Tebow-Gatorade endorsement deal is imminent?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tebow Super Bowl Ad: Final Thoughts

Friends, I'm going to make a confession: This Super Bowl ad situation has me wearied. Not unsurprisingly, it has brought out a lot -- A LOT -- of opinion, from people on either side and from plenty of sportswriters, political writers, op-ed columnists... almost everyone.

And -- a lot like the issue itself -- there is a fair amount of intractability. We all have our individual opinions -- what I personally have tried to do is see it from multiple angles and at least try to understand everyone's position. That's how I've worked through it.

I've written about it here a few times -- most notably, here and here -- any more than that would have really worked me over. I was one of the first to spot this as an issue, more than a month ago. I should have seen the last two weeks' craziness coming.

I can't say I will be bummed when we get to next week and everyone moves on. (Although I'm quite sure it will be an issue Monday morning, when the dominant topic at the water cooler will be: "So what did you think of the Tebow ad?")

I do think there are a couple of bigger points I have tried to make and will reiterate here. And, barring something crazy, I think it will be the last I write about it until Sunday night when the ad actually runs.

*That Tebow would do this ad should surprise no one; it is entirely consistent with his values and priorities.

*That CBS would run the ad DID surprise. (Remember my first reaction? "CBS will NEVER run this ad." Yes: WRONG.)

*But it indicates that the ad's message will be notably soft-pedaled. Otherwise, CBS wouldn't have accepted it. And, I suspect, that if it was particularly strident, Tebow himself would not have agreed to star in it. He wants to promote his views, but not torch the boats.)

*This is the ultimate manifestation of Tim and the Tebow family's interest in influence: From "John 3:16" dominating Google during the 2008 national title game to what may turn out to be the most-watched show in the history of television.

*The discussion of the ad -- let alone the NFL stuff -- over the past two weeks (and culminating Sunday night) has vaulted Tebow into an elite group of the most well-known athletes. Before, he was college football's biggest rock star. Now, he is one of the biggest rock stars in sports, period.

*People who didn't know very much about Tebow have reacted to the ad based on their own feelings about abortion or about Focus on the Family or about having an advocacy ad run during the Super Bowl.

*People who were already Tebow fans and don't necessarily agree with his values or beliefs reconciled that a long time ago, perhaps having a bit more of a nuanced view of all of it than the folks in the group above, just learning about him.

*I do not think that doing this ad will impact Tebow's mainstream marketing potential at all. I think he will still get his sports-drink deal, his shoe deal, his video-game deal, his soft-drink deal, his home-improvement-store deal... whatever.

In fact, that he is getting his own TV ad in front of 120 million U.S. consumers will only improve his Q rating and make him MORE marketable -- even if some small percent of those millions don't like his message. The fact is, a huge percent of those millions DO like his message, and will like him more for it -- and respect his product endorsement more for it. And even the ones that don't like his message still drink Gatorade and wear Nikes.

*Finally, because I believe that CBS would never have accepted the ad had it been at all strident in message, tone or form, I think that while everyone will anxiously await the ad during the 1st quarter of the broadcast -- it will get more of a "SHHHH!" as it starts than any other ad at your viewing party -- the general reaction afterward will be something along the lines of "What was all the fuss about?"

(We can get into the idea that the fuss was about Focus on the Family's unadvertised, more strident positions or that CBS would accept an advocacy ad, but the ad itself will necessarily be muted -- as a result, so will fans' reaction to it.)

But there's no question: I am tired of the subject. I have read virtually every column that has been written about this -- from mainstream newspapers to fringe blogs, from ESPN.com to evangelical Web sites -- and I'm ready for the ad to run and the "Tebow Super Bowl Ad" issue to move behind us.

I probably should have made this blog a hub of all things Tebow Super Bowl Ad, sort of like the way I have tried to make it a hub for his senior year or his larger college football legacy or his NFL prospects. But the issue at hand... it's a tough one to try to be THE source that makes sense of it all. There is no unifying theory -- perhaps those knowable "truths" I listed above.

Expect coverage on Sunday night when the ad airs -- I'll certainly be monitoring Twitter and blogs for immediate reaction, and we will dig into the media and consumer reaction as it comes in overnight and into Monday morning.

But enjoy the game.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tim Tebow vs. Uche Nwaneri

You know what's going to be awkward? When Tim Tebow is drafted No. 10 overall by the Jaguars and he and Uche Nwaneri get to hang out for the first time. Nwaneri isn't much of a fan.

Tim Tebow vs. Joe Theismann

"Rock star status preserved." -- Joe Theismann actually advocated that Tim Tebow retire after college football, rather than try for the pros. And I don't think he was kidding. Seriously.

Tebow Closes National Prayer Breakfast

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NFL Tebow Meets Malcolm Gladwell

On Thursday night, Malcolm Gladwell will be speaking at Varsity Letters, the monthly sportswriting reading series I founded four years ago, since under management from the brilliant folks at Gelf Magazine.

In advance of that event, Gelf did an interview with Gladwell and the topic of Tim Tebow came up. When asked how he thought Tebow would do in the NFL, here's how Gladwell responded:
The answer is that we don't know how he'll do: The lesson of past quarterback performance is that college performance, and NFL estimation of the value of college performance, aren't terribly reliable guides to pro performance. My guess is that if Tebow were drafted by the Jets or a team like that, he'd look good. And if he were drafted by the Raiders, he'd look bad.
See the whole interview here. Don't forget to see Gladwell's original New Yorker article on the factors that go into estimating performance.

Tim Tebow at National Prayer Breakfast

I will guarantee you that "First Fan" President Obama's favorite part of tomorrow's National Prayer Breakfast will be talking with Tim Tebow, who might be considered the headliner of the event. Unsurprisingly, Tebow will reportedly be speaking. Between the Super Bowl ad and this and the Foundation launching, this is as big of a week for Tebow off the field as last week's Senior Bowl was on the field.

Tim Tebow Foundation Launches

The Tim Tebow Foundation was publicly launched this week -- a logical move for Team Tebow to make early in his professional career, particularly with the attention from the Super Bowl ad.

NFL Tebow: The Formula for Success

The Senior Bowl insanity is over, and we get a bit of a lull about Tebow's NFL potential -- until the NFL Combine in a few weeks. I wanted to take a second to step back and put into perspective where we are, after the experience in Mobile.

There is at least one strange assumption that goes into critics' complaints about Tebow's NFL potential: That he somehow should look or feel ready to be an NFL QB right now.

No one is suggesting that Tebow is ready to step into the NFL and start as a conventional QB right now. Very very few college QBs are ready to do that.

What I don't get is the idea that with 2-3 years -- YEARS -- of full-time training from NFL coaches who presumably know what they're doing, Tebow can't become an NFL QB.

That's like saying take Tebow's entire college career as a starter and devote it instead to simply learning (or re-learning) the proper mechanics of being an NFL QB.

It says less about Tebow and more about NFL coaches if they aren't able to take one of the great college QBs of all time and equip him to make the transition to the NFL.

Now, should Tebow be a 1st-rounder? Should any QB who needs that much help be a 1st-rounder? It's a lot of money and there's a lot of opportunity cost.

Here's the thing: It doesn't matter, particularly in the case of Tebow. His draft position was never going to be based purely on his skills or his potential.

It was always going to be informed -- heavily -- by his star power. That's why a team like Jacksonville -- maybe even Buffalo -- would defy the scouting reports and take him in the Top 10.

It is, simultaneously, irrational and rational. It is irrational because scouts don't grade him as a Top 10 pick (hardly). It is rational because Tebow might impact the bottom line, far more than a highly graded defensive tackle.

And I'm still convinced that with a bold and innovative coach -- and I'm not saying the NFL has many of them, but you can always hope -- Tebow can contribute significantly as a rookie, even if he is playing a limited role: Short-yardage situations or near the goal-line.

It's not unlike how he was used his freshman year -- and that worked out OK.

The same scouts who are doubting Tebow now had no conception of the Wildcat or single-wing in the NFL before the Dolphins sprung it on the league two years ago. Now, it's a staple.

In the short-term, all it takes is a coach creative enough to build on the success of the Wildcat. In the long-term, it takes a coach good enough to teach a talented player how to be an NFL QB.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tebow Super Bowl Ad: Biggest Story?

Tim Tebow's Super Bowl advertisement with Focus on the Family remains the most-talked-about ad of the Super Bowl -- and most-talked-about non-football story of the Super Bowl.

Following up its Sunday editorial supporting the airing of the ad, today's New York Times Business section has an entire column dedicated to the story.

Here's the money quote:

The extensive discussion about the spot demonstrates a reason advertisers spend so much on Super Bowl commercials: the talk value. Consumers chat about Super Bowl ads before, during and after they run — not only in the living room or around the water cooler but also on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

Two companies, Alterian and Zeta Interactive, reported on Monday that their monitoring of online conversations about Super Bowl ads had found that the Focus on the Family spot had already been discussed more than any other planned to run in the game.

I'll go back to my big point from last week's post -- it's all about influence:

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.

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.
Now consider the point presented in the Times column: It's not just that the ad will be seen by 100 million-plus people on Sunday; it's the multiplier effect of the exposure the ad has gotten -- in support and against -- in the last two weeks. And, arguably, the time spent discussing it before the game is a lot more intensive than the 30 seconds of the spot itself, which as I've argued, will likely be followed, for most people, by "So what was all the fuss about?"

We don't know what's in the ad, but we do know a couple of things:

*Tebow doing the ad is entirely consistent with his values -- although I doubt he would have done the ad had it been particularly strident. Tebow knows the value of the soft-sell.

*CBS doing the ad is entirely within their purview as the broadcaster -- although again: I doubt they would have allowed the ad had it been particularly strident.

*Put the last two bullets together: The ad will not be particularly strident. Yes, Focus on the Family has some strident positions, but they know better than to try to air them here.

Maybe you find that appropriate. Maybe you find that insidious. Maybe you care deeply -- one way or the other -- that this issue is getting a Super Bowl stage. Maybe you don't care -- perhaps even wishing that we could keep politics or moral issues out of a sports event.

The fact remains that this has become the most prominent story line of the Super Bowl that doesn't have to do with the game -- and, perhaps, even including the game.

UPDATE: You really must read this interesting, provocative and nuanced column from the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins.