Friday, April 30, 2010

Broncos Tebow: Going Mini-Camping

UPDATE (5:30 ET): AP report from Tebow's first practice. Money quote: "All football, all the time, and I love it, it's great."

All eyes will be on Tim Tebow as Broncos mini-camp for rookies starts today. I'm betting he arrived as early as possible yesterday and will be an enthusiastic participant on the field this weekend.

More news as it becomes available, but I recommend Twitter-following Denver Post Broncos reporter Lindsay Jones (@PostBroncos) for updates.

UPDATE (1-ish p.m. ET): Tebow throwing to an equipment manager. The Post's Mike Klis thinks he's awfully clever... until he figures out that his sarcastic, throwaway blog post will probably lead DenverPost.com in traffic today. He'll learn....

Meanwhile, I know I'm 10 days late at this point with the post about meeting Tebow in New York before the Draft. Sincere apologies. Promise it will be published early next week.



(Photos via MaxDenver.com)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Broncos Tebow: Why He Will Succeed

Broncos pundits and analysts are, for good reason, already locking onto Tim Tebow's place on the team. In the last 24 hours, there have been two must-reads representing two sides of the analytical spectrum:

(1) Woody Paige, Denver Post: Paige is the lead columnist of the Denver Post and the most influential sports voice in Denver (he and I had a couple of friendly sparring sessions during my erstwhile career on "Around the Horn.")

In his weekly mailbag, Paige takes advantage of a reader's doubts about Tebow to deliver a qualitatively excellent analysis that draws on Paige's 30 years in Denver and experience covering -- and discovering -- Tebow templates John Elway and Steve Young.

Money quote: "He has that same aura Elway had as a rookie."

(2) TJ Johnson, Mile High Report: MHR is the leading Broncos blog and also quite influential. Despite being a Broncos fan (and, initially, not a fan of the Tebow draft pick), Johnson takes a dispassionate look at how Tebow might be used by Josh McDaniels, and delivers an analytical clinic -- with terrific citations -- about how and why Tebow will succeed. The simple-yet-brilliant insight: When arguing Tebow can't fit in a "NFL" offense, why are you assuming the Broncos will even run an orthodox pro-style offense?

Money quote:
"McDaniels didn't bring in Tebow to run a pro-style offense. He brought Tebow in to continue what he's been doing--punishing teams with the spread/shotgun, whether it be with the run or with the pass. To fail to realize this is to fail to realize what has made Josh McDaniels excel as an offensive coordinator."

Paige is breezy and anecdotal; Johnson is rigorous and analytical. Both end up at roughly the same conclusion:

McDaniels will run an offense to maximize Tebow's skills -- and to doubt either McDaniels' insights or Tebow's talent is to ignore both long-term and recent history.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Broncos Tebow: Jersey Sales King

"Tim Tebow can't... lead the NFL in jersey sales as a rookie." Oh really?

Tebow crushed the opening weekend jersey sales after the NFL Draft, setting a new record by a rookie since they started recording it in 2006.

That bolsters a theory that many have scoffed at: Tebow will become the first rookie ever to lead the NFL in jersey sales over an entire season. Just wait.

(UPDATE: Not unsurprisingly, 30 percent of the sales are coming from Florida, according to CNBC's Darren Rovell. I'm actually surprised it's not higher.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Broncos Tebow: Peter King Agrees

It's almost like Peter King reads TimTeblog.com. Here are some quotes from King's analysis of Tebow in Denver playing for McDaniels:
McDaniels will find something this year for Tebow to do. I don't know what it is. But last year, I don't think we saw everything McDaniels had to offer in terms of offensive play-calling. There's a lot inside him I think he's waiting to script and put in the hands of some offensive talent he mined and developed.

***

I wouldn't be surprised if McDaniels invented some sort of red zone or goal line package for Tebow. Could it be the kind of draw/jump-pass thing Tebow did with the Gators? Maybe. But something to get Tebow on the field a few snaps a game if he doesn't win the job, just to throw a changeup at the opposition. Now, this would be interesting for team chemistry, because whoever wins the starting job (I assume Orton) will have to swallow hard to be OK with getting yanked a couple of times a game for Tebow. But McDaniels is sure to preach the all-for-one, one-for-all team-think attitude in OTAs this spring and training camp this summer, and if the quarterbacks don't buy in, they'll move on.

***

Monday, April 26, 2010

Broncos Tebow: McDaniels' Playbook

Here's an early peek at a New York Times piece by Judy Battista that reports on the McDaniels-Tebow dynamic. She emphasizes something I have been saying around here this week:

What if McDaniels is precisely the kind of confident, innovative coach who will change the game with a QB like Tebow?

In 2010, that might mean evolving the Wildcat into something more potent. Beyond that, maybe he chucks NFL coaching orthodoxies for something new -- not unlike the way the Pats incorporated the spread a couple years ago... under McDaniels.

But to presume the standard template for Tebow -- either as a Wildcat or a starting QB -- simply because that's the way it's always been done? Well, that's #timtebowcant territory.

Farewell, Tebow's Eye Black

Since it launched, I have been a big fan of the good folks who produce Tebow's Eye Black. They have always been supportive of this blog -- we have different perspectives, to be sure, but that is one of the reasons I like them so much. (As I learned in my sit-down with Tebow last week, there is also a very good chance that Tebow's sister is a regular reader of T.E.B., too.) Well, I was bummed to learn they are shuttering their blog... but excited to learn they are launching a new project: Rockin' the Orange and Blue, a site dedicated to Tebow's pro career. Well worth your bookmark, RSS add or Facebook "like."

The NFL Future of Tim Tebow:
Rookie of the Year -- and More

The 2010 NFL Draft is behind us, and it is time to look ahead to the next stage of Tim Tebow's career.

As of this morning, I presented at least one scenario that carries forward last week's "Tebow exceptionalism" analysis:

I think there is a strong argument to be made that Tebow can be -- even will be -- the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010.

Before critics scoff, consider that award voters will be inclined to magnify everything Tebow does. That Josh McDaniels has a vested interest in Tebow's success -- even early success, when he is not yet a full-time starting QB.

And, most importantly, that McDaniels looks likely to implement the next evolution of the Wildcat, tailored specifically for Tebow. If Ronnie Brown was used by the Dophins 3-5 times per game, what is stopping McDaniels from using Tebow 8-10 times per game?

Remember: The single-wing is most effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations -- that means plenty of opportunities for Tebow to impact games, even if he is only getting a half-dozen snaps per game: Critical first downs... touchdowns.

That is precisely how Tebow was used in his freshman year at Florida -- as a result, he was arguably not just national freshman of the year, but I would argue he was Offensive MVP of Florida during their national championship run.

And it's not like the ROY barrier is overwhelmingly high: Percy Harvin -- another doubted player -- won the award last season on the back of a mere 6 offensive TDs and 2 return TDs.

I think that if McDaniels is confident about using Tebow at the goal-line, Tebow could account for even more TDs than Harvin.

(For the record, Tebow as a freshman had 5 TDs passing and 8 TDs rushing in a 14-game college season, but I'm willing to discount 2 of each from the Western Carolina laugher. That's still 9 TDs in a 14-game season, in which Urban Meyer probably used Tebow -- even in a part-time role -- way more conservatively than he would have wanted to ideally. Don't think Meyer won't impress that on his friend McDaniels.)

As with everything Tebow, to use past precedent as the guide is the ultimate error. It is like saying in the summer of 2008: "Ronnie Brown will NEVER take direct snaps en route to the Dolphins humiliating the Patriots." A year later, the Wildcat formation was a sensation.

Again, McDaniels has a couple of vested interests:

*In proving Tebow has value -- even immediate value.

*In proving how smart McDaniels is to have drafted him.

*In getting his most versatile (even valuable) offensive player on the field at critical times.

And this:

In the successful arbitrage that comes from unorthodox strategy -- like taking out your "starting" QB in short-yardage or goal-line situations in favor of a "specialist" QB who gives you a better chance of converting the play.

Some of the things McDaniels has said in the last 96 hours already foreshadows a willingness to (a) be innovative when it comes to Tebow, and (b) use Tebow early and often.

Let's go back to that great pre-draft meme, #timtebowcant. Are doubters really going to insist that "Tim Tebow can't be NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year?" Because when critics say that, they just make it that much more obvious that it can (and will) happen.

Let's throw a few more in there for good measure:

*"Tim Tebow can't lead the NFL in jersey sales as a rookie." Unsurprisingly, Tebow is already leading all NFL rookies in jersey sales after the first post-draft weekend. I have been saying for weeks that Tebow will lead ALL players' jersey sales by the time the season is over.

*"Tim Tebow can't solve the Jaguars' ticket problems." Not only are ticket sales for the Jags' season opener against the Broncos selling like crazy, but it is Tebow's presence that is driving them. The Jaguars will sell out that season-opener.

*"Tim Tebow can't start at QB as a rookie." I'm not sure he will, but then again, per the above argument, I'm not sure he has to. If Tebow takes 6-10 meaningful snaps per game, he will have every bit as much of an impact on winning games as any rookie QB out there.

*"Tim Tebow can't make the Pro Bowl as a rookie." If you think that he can be Offensive Rookie of the Year, then he absolutely could be a Pro Bowler in 2010. And if McDaniels' super-charged Wildcat is as potent as I think it will be, why couldn't Tebow make the Pro Bowl as a "Wildcat QB specialist," specifically for a Wildcat play or two during the game? And, oh by the way, the league has a vested interest in having one of its most popular players participate in its all-star game, which is as much a marketing event as a reward for a superlative season.

*"Tim Tebow can't be a fantasy football star as a rookie." Fantasy football GMs are an unsentimental bunch. If you score TDs, they love you; if you don't, you are useless. It doesn't matter who you are. So if Tebow does turn into some TD-creation sensation (say, 6-10 on the season), he will be beloved by a community that drives a ton of football coverage: Fantasy football owners.

The critical step will be that fantasy football providers like Yahoo, CBS Sports and ESPN list Tebow as eligible at both QB and RB, even if McDaniels insists that Tebow will only play QB. Tebow won't get enough snaps to justify starting him at QB, but if he is getting goal-line snaps, he would be very attractive at the "flex" position, which is usually limited to RBs or WRs.

Just watch that season opener at Jacksonville, where McDaniels will have every reason to let Tebow put on a show. After that, the bandwagon will be in full force. Want a barometer of Tebow's popularity, as filtered through fantasy football? Watch how many fantasy football GMs have Tebow on their roster after Week 1. Let's peg it two ways: Absolutely (40-50 percent of GMs) or relatively (higher than the percent of ownership for the next-most-owned rookie QB.)

I will add more to this list as needed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Exceptionalism of Tim Tebow

It is a day for a little Tebow triumphalism.

So many doubted that Tim Tebow would be -- or could be -- a 1st-round NFL Draft pick. Settled.

In fact, the most prescient analysis on the day of the draft came from the group of Tebow fans on Twitter who were contributing to the #timtebowcant topic. It was a quick-hit history lesson on all of the things over the years that critics said Tebow "can't" do.

But rather than triumphalism, I want to talk about exceptionalism, because I think that is the phenomenon that best describes Tebow.

Here's what I mean by "exceptionalism":

Virtually everything related to Tebow proves to be an exception to what many (even most) seem to feel are conventional expectations, which -- in the end -- simply don't apply to Tebow.

We see it over and over. The media delivers some pronouncement of Tebow's limitations -- ironically, based somewhat fairly on what they have seen before, from other athletes -- only to have Tebow exceed them. It's not necessarily the media's fault; there is simply no template for Tebow.

It is why he is the greatest college football player of all time -- there has never been the same combination of winning, statistical dominance and mythos.

It is why he turned out to be a 1st-round pick when most everyone told us he wouldn't/couldn't be.

And, to the point of this week's transition to the next phase of Tebow's life, it is why Tebow will succeed in the NFL as a quarterback. Tebow exceptionalism has been proven and re-proven.

Consequently, at some point, the endlessly recycled doubt should transform into benefit-of-the-doubt. The default should be that he will succeed, if only because he has never NOT succeeded.

To his NFL future specifically: What in Tebow's history makes you think that a combination of his own ethic plus a context conducive to his success -- namely, a QB guru of a coach who comes from the same Belichickean school that Tebow himself was developed in -- won't give him not just the best chance at succeeding, but the simple yet profound expectation that he will succeed.

(To that point: Just look at the initial quotes from Tebow about how devoted he already is to McDaniels and the Broncos and to working hard and to winning. And McDaniels reciprocated; he has his perfect disciple. And Meyer confirms it, a triangulation that indicates an ideal foundation for success.)

Tebow is going to contribute immediately to the Broncos. McDaniels implied as much, and if he is the Xs-and-Os mind he thinks he is, he will evolve the Wildcat to fit Tebow's unique abilities and deploy him in crucial short-yardage and goal-line situations throughout every game.

But more importantly for Tebow's legacy as an NFL player -- when today's triumphalism is long-buried under a resume of Sunday results -- he must develop into a starting -- even starring -- NFL quarterback for the Broncos.

To suggest that Tebow can't or won't become that starting/starring NFL QB -- particularly under these most ideal conditions -- is to ignore Tebow's legacy of exceptionalism. His unique history is not merely of succeeding, but of exceeding.

From high school through college through this pre-draft scrum, on the field and off of it, he has defied expectation and convention -- and proven time and again that he is an exception.

So when "everyone" insists that Tebow can't be a starting NFL quarterback for the Broncos, that Tebow can't succeed in the NFL -- let alone succeed wildly -- I merely direct them to the simple reality of Tebow's own history. Given that, it would be the diametrically incorrect conclusion to doubt him.

Instead of presuming his failure then expressing shock at his success, presume his success -- and be shocked only if he doesn't reach it (not without precedent).

But every sign points to his success. Exceptional success.

****

More updates through the weekend as merited, but otherwise, please come back next week for an important update on the future of TimTeblog.com.

Bronco Tebow: Quote of the Day

Very Teblog-esque analysis:
[The] red zone is becoming so crowded with larger and faster athletic specimens that unconventional offensive methods are required. Tebow is equipped with the skills to become a red-zone beast, and he has a coach who is bold enough to try a different approach. The first time Tebow replaces Orton on goal-to-go — I'd bet in the Broncos' season opener in Tebow's hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. — and scores his first touchdown? The Project will become The Product....
-- Denver Post columnist Mike Klis, on Tebow's star power and potential in Denver.

Broncos Tebow: "He's a Quarterback"

"He's a quarterback." That's all you need to know about how Josh McDaniels feels about Tim Tebow. He is in Denver to be a quarterback -- eventually, a starting quarterback. In the short term, that may mean he is a quarterback who lines up for specific situations, like short-yardage downs or goal-line situations, but McDaniels is very clear about Tebow: "He is a quarterback."

Broncos Tebow: Pic Worth 1,000 Words

OK, maybe I did have 1,000 words to say about Tim Tebow's exceptionalism -- as symbolized by his first-round selection in the NFL Draft -- but I can still show you this, which captures it:

Broncos Tebow: Post-Draft Quotes

A few things to read this morning about Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos:

Dan Shanoff, DanShanoff.com: "Tebow exceptionalism has been proven over and over again. At some point, doubting should become benefit-of-the-doubt. The default should be that he will succeed." Link.

Clay Travis, Fanhouse: "The rest of the NFL just got Tebow'ed." Link. (This is a terrific column.)

Chris Brown, SmartFootball.com: "I like Tim Tebow as a player and I have always thought he will one day start at quarterback in the NFL — the only variables are how long it takes and how long he stays there." Link. (I left a long comment at the end of this post.)

Woody Paige, Denver Post: "Get on the roller-coaster, buckle your seat belts, sit back and enjoy the ride. It definitely will be fun, fascinating, fantastic." Link.

Sayre Bedinger, Mile High Report: "In all honesty, this is a perfect pick for the Broncos, who are in need of a long term solution at the quarterback position." Link.

Tim Tebow (via Len Pasquarelli, ESPN.com): ""I just have a passion to play football. When you do things different than other people sometimes do them, and you don't settle for just being average, you open yourself up [for criticism]. But I'm ready for it. I've learned to live with it. I never just wanted to do things the same way everybody else does." Link.

Darren Rovell, CNBC: Tebow No. 1-ranked "Winner" of the Draft. Link.

Bill Williamson, ESPN.com: "Tebow is now McDaniels’ pet project. He is the guy he has been looking for since he came to Denver." Link.

BroncosStable.com: "To make a short story long, Tebow is viewed as the ultimate wager for an NFL coaching staff seeking the ultimate project." Link.

David Ramsey, Colorado Springs Gazette: "Too-good-to-be-true Tebow trots into our lives here in Colorado. He’s one of the most intriguing athletes of our time, a young man concerned about much more than a mere game. He’ll make our state a better place. But I’m doubtful he will ever excel as an NFL quarterback." Link.

Josh McDaniels, Broncos head coach: "Tim is a player who is capable of doing different things. He could be a gameplan-type thing if that's what we determine is best early in his career. ... He's a guy that gives you the opportunity to create some packages like that and if you want to use that then you can get creative." Link. (Tons of quotes here, from McDaniels and Tebow.)

Kissing Suzy Kolber: Tebow draft photo gallery (amusing)

Mediaite.com: Nice recap of the pick, featuring a cameo quote by me.

If you see any other good articles, columns or quotes, please feel free to put them in the comments.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tim Tebow Drafted By the Broncos

Tim Tebow has been drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 25th pick of the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft.



Complete coverage throughout the night.

*As of 10:30, "Tim Tebow Draft" is the No. 1 trending search on Google. What an appropriate bookend to the 2008 National Championship Game night on Google that got him back in 2009.

*Tim Tebow is the 2nd QB taken in the Draft. There were only 2.

*Tebow: "Not everybody has to like you, only one team has to like you. I’m so blessed to be able to go play there."

*Meyer: "The Denver Broncos are getting a winner. Tim will show on the field what he is capable of doing and more than anything Tim has a competitive fire that will constantly push him to get better and do whatever he can to help his team win."

*Gruden: "This guy Tebow will not be denied. He’ll be huge in the Bronco community. I love this pick. Who knows when he’s going to play, what he’s going to play, how he’s going to play, but you are adding one big time human being on your football team."

*Though the Broncos have two QBs on the roster (Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn), neither have locked down the starting QB job beyond a season or two. Meanwhile, Tebow can get on the field (and contribute) as a rookie in valuable (short-yardage and goal-line) situations.

*Broncos jersey No. 15 is open. Top 10 seller in the NFL next season.

*The Denver Broncos open the 2010 season with a game... at Jacksonville.

*Sounds like the Bills really wanted Tebow. The Broncos just wanted him more.

Highlights of Twitter in the 15 minutes immediately following the pick:

Tweet: @richeisen Tebow a Bronco! And a first round pick! Congrats to him! Proving lots of people wrong, including me. Well done.

Tweet:
@slmandel Congrats, Mr Tebow. Kiper sounds like someone stuck a knife in his back. Anyone checked on McShay???

Tweet: @onlygators That's right, Tim Tebow will likely be wearing an Orange & Blue No. 15 jersey with the Denver #Broncos next year.

Tweet: @smartfootball Jeremy Schaap took a flyer on Tebow duty w/ hin likely not to be drafted and came up huge with a big interview

Tweet: @danshanoff
The final insult to Mel Kiper: Tebow off the board at 25. Clausen (Kiper's No. 4 prospect OVERALL) still on the board.

Tweet: @wsjcouch
Tebow -- 1st pick in 24th round to the Broncos. Wait...

Tweet: @claytravisBGID
Biggest asshole in league coaches greatest player. First Meyer, now McDaniels. Seriously though, I like the pick. Rooting for Tebow.

Tweet: @stefanfatsis
Four years too late! I could have used God as my holder.

Tweet: @osaadelson
"I just think I showed them I was willing to do whatever it took. Them believing in me ... I'll do whatever it takes."

Tweet: @thestarterwife
So with Tebow and Quinn, which one gets the Batman outfit and which one is Robin? Which is chocolate, which is peanut butter?Ying and yang?

Tweet: @darrenrovell1
Idea for Broncos? Reserve the # 1-800-GOTEBOW for ticket sales

Tweet: @michaelweinreb
This makes sense, because Denver is one mile closer to Heaven.

Tweet: @rachel__nichols
Lovin' the agent having the Broncos hat ready for Tim Tebow. Which hat do you think Jimmy Clausen's agent is holding?

Tweet: @edsbs
Tim Tebow just totally broke ESPN.

Tweet: @adam_schefter
Tim Tebow to Denver

Tweet: @dickiev
Broncos make super choice in taking Tebow in 1st round!

NFL Tebow: Draft In Progress

Could it be I just as guilty as Todd McShay or Mel Kiper of under-valuing Tim Tebow?

Because the latest word is that the Vikings don't intend to take a QB at No. 30 -- well, there goes my Tebow-to-Vikings theory.

And there is a lot of talk that a team in the 20s will take him, either with their natural pick or by trading up (or down).

That puts the Bills, Browns, Broncos, Patriots and Seahawks in play.

This is going to be an interesting few hours.

(I did get one thing right: There is no way Tebow slips through the 1st round.)

Tebow Draft Day: Renewed NFL Fandom

Let's start with a confession: I enjoy the NFL -- though not nearly as much as college football -- but I don't have a particular NFL team I root for. I mean: I have my fantasy team. But that isn't the same thing.

This is strange. Everyone should have a favorite NFL team -- it's the most popular sport in the country. It just feels... wrong. I envy the folks with a strong NFL allegiance -- feels like almost everyone has one.

I used to have a team...

The onset of puberty and fan identity happen at roughly the same time. Immersion into your favorite team – into sports more generally – helps to offset the awkwardness of a cracking voice or unsettling sight of hair in weird places; hormones dictate that girls get more interesting – but still socially awkward, you throw yourself into love of your team.

For me, that was the unstoppable 1985 Bears. Growing up in a die-hard Redskins town, I was a Bears fan. On its surface, that was because my dad was a Bears fan – there was an early and powerful father-son connection to be made there. But looking back, there was a deeper interest for me: Displaced fandom made me unique, gave me an identity as a fan. I could be a Skins fan like the rest of ‘em… or the only Bears fan in the school.

At this age, I was an outlier: The more typical path of the emotionally and physically awkward 13-year-old fan is to find a new community – commonality – with other fans around them. Fan identity is incubated in a safe environment – not so for me.


And so I was a Bears fan. I suffered through the Redskins' success (often at the Bears' expense) and reveled in the 1985 domination. When it came time to go to college, I was headed to Northwestern, just outside of Chicago. To be able to root for my favorite football team up close seemed like the best kind of bonus.

As it happened, it didn't quite turn out like I expected. I actually became less of a Bears fan once I got to Chicago -- in part in my immersion into a town of crazy Bears fans. It was like I lost the "unique" part of my fandom that was such a big component of my fan identity.

From there, things atrophied further. In 1997, I actually went to go work for the NFL, and if it wasn't seriously eroded by then, upon the conclusion of my one season with the league, the dissolution of my NFL fandom was complete.

Very briefly, I found a new spark of interest -- the emergence of Kurt Warner, which I think is the most interesting story in NFL history. Once I started writing the Daily Quickie, I obviously was immersed in NFL news, but that didn't do anything for my individual NFL team fandom. I was still lost.

In 2006, I tried an odd experiment: Given the assignment from Deadspin to write the Jacksonville Jaguars season preview, I adopted the Jaguars as my own. They seemed an interesting fit: There aren't many of them out there, and the north Florida location seemed like a pretty good fit with my then-5-year-old Florida Gators fandom.

I tried. I really did. (I also recognize if "real" Jaguars fans were offended by my bandwagon-hopping.) But it just didn't take. I couldn't watch them every Sunday -- hell, even fans in Jacksonville can't watch them on TV every Sunday -- and I just didn't have a passion to keep up with them. I certainly wished them success, but it felt forced -- even fake.

But around the same time -- fall of 2006 -- I recognized almost immediately that Tim Tebow was my favorite football player of all time. That only grew in 2007 -- as I'm sure it did for many people. It compounded in 2008, and -- obviously -- my interest in the subject intensified in 2009.

It was sometime after that first season with the Jaguars -- and first season with Tebow -- that I decided that, ultimately, I was going to end up rooting for whatever team Tim Tebow was drafted to.

If you thought it was odd that my fandom for Florida came when I met my wife -- who was a "real," born-and-raised Gators fan -- it might seem even more odd that I would pick an NFL team based on a specific player.

Maybe that's not the case. I know a lot of fans -- particularly Florida ones I see on message boards -- who care about their college team but don't have a particularly strong NFL allegiance, who root for their favorite college players on whatever NFL team they end up on.

Now, that's not the same as being a fan of that team -- whoever is on that team. It is actually the opposite: You are a fan of a team precisely because of who is on that team. This can cause complications.

For example: If Tebow is drafted by the Vikings, I will definitely root for the Vikings and want to watch the Vikings play -- as a function of being a Tebow fan. If things go awry and Tebow ends up on the Patriots in four years, I presume I would stop rooting for the Vikings and pick up rooting for the Pats.

This cannot possibly do anything but make Vikings fans cringe -- I'm not even sure they would want me. Then again, this is the fan base that went from loathing Brett Favre to cheering him in the span of a week; they hardly can claim a problem with someone else's bandwagon fandom.

And so in addition to the next phase of Tim Tebow's career beginning tonight, I look forward to the next phase of my own career as a sports fan -- I'm ready to pick up and root for the team that Tebow plays for, whether the fans of that team want me or not. I will buy the jersey. I will read the coverage. I will watch the games.

Does it matter that my interest is focused specifically on Tebow? I don't think a team's existing fan bases are in a position to be turning away new converts.

Obviously, fandom is not just fundamentally social but also intensely personal.

To that extent, the team's existing fans are hardly in a position to judge the level or intensity or focus of my fandom. (Although I'm sure there will be plenty of judging going on -- much of it not positive.)

But they should count me in.

My transformation -- or, I guess, evolution -- continues tonight. And I get the feeling that there are many folks out there who root for Tebow who will be joining me. He presents a cult of personality unlike any athlete in sports right now. I'm not sure any team's marketing department or existing fans understand that yet.

But they will.

NFL Tebow: Final Draft Prediction
Tim Tebow to Vikings No. 30 Overall

It's time for the final TimTeblog.com prediction of where Tim Tebow will be picked in the 2010 NFL Draft:

Tim Tebow: 1st Round, No. 30 overall, to the Minnesota Vikings.

It makes sense for a lot of reasons, most capably explained here by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Mike Rand: (Eventual) need, upside, time to develop, success with "reach" picks.

I love his third point, which I think has been almost entirely overlooked, while everyone worries about how many years it will take Tebow to develop into an NFL QB:

While Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy might sit the entire year without contributing anything, Tebow could very conceivably step in for 4-6 incredibly crucial snaps per game -- short-yardage situations, goal-line situations.

In other words: Situations where games are won and lost. All as a rookie.

There is also that cryptic quote from Tebow's agent Jimmy Sexton, who said he has a pretty good idea of where Tebow will be taken, implying it would be the first round. Well, given the uncertainty of trading -- particularly trading into the 1st round -- that would seemingly eliminate the Bills trading up to the mid-20s... and suggest a team with a "natural" pick: The Vikings.

Again, from earlier this morning: All signs point to Tebow being taken in the 1st round, and the most likely contender -- and best fit -- would be the Minnesota Vikings.

*****

Other scenarios:

Nominally realistic:
*Bills trade up into the mid-20s.

Only realistic if he drops into the 2nd round (which we don't think is realistic):
*Bills trade up to low-30s
*Patriots trade up to low-30s
*Broncos trade up to low-30s
*Seahawks trade up to low-30s
*Eagles at 37
*Browns at 38
*Raiders at 39

Unrealistic:
*Bills at 41 (any team beyond 39)
*Jaguars at all.

Tebow Fun on Twitter: #timtebowcant

Fun little day-of-draft game happening on Twitter, with people riffing on the hashtag #timtebowcant -- remembering all the things that people said Tebow couldn't do or wouldn't be able to accomplish. Pretty relevant, considering the volumes that said #timtebowcant be a 1st-round NFL draft pick. Good way to pass the time between now and tonight.

NFL Tebow: Draft Day, Finally

It's NFL Draft Day. Tebow Draft Day.

Today has been a long time coming? I think people started talking about Tebow's NFL potential during the Heisman season in 2007 -- I recall at least one pundit talking him up as a No. 1 overall pick.

After Tebow's junior year -- when he contemplated coming out -- the Kiper school ruled: "Whah! 3rd rounder! Whah!" Between that and the massive platform Tebow would have by returning to college as the biggest rock star in college sports history, it was a non-issue.

Even during Tebow's senior year, the doubters were chirping louder than the boosters (like NFL.com's Gil Brandt, who to his credit, has been saying Tebow is a 1st-rounder all along). The doubters had a field day at the Senior Bowl.

But the draft process is a long one, and impacted by more -- a lot more -- than a bearish draftnik's "grade." Potential matters. Momentum matters. In Tebow's case, what made the biggest difference was his improvement, on two levels.

First was his willingness to improve. It would support a team saying, "If we let our coaches work with him, will he take the direction?"

Second was the actual improvement. Even Tebow would agree that his mechanics needed work. And the whole "2.0" thing -- the personal camping with a bevy of experts -- paid off: His mechanics DID improve.

The point I make is this: If his mechanics could improve that much in 6-8 weeks, imagine how much his NFL-level QB skills will improve with 18-24 months (or even, like Aaron Rodgers, 24-36 months) of coaching and study and repetition and work and practice.

And it was that narrative that took hold -- that combined with his physical tools and, yes, his "intangibles" -- to catapult him from the McShay/Kiper now-ludicrous opening bid of "3rd round" to the conventional wisdom of "2nd round" to today's presumption: 1st round.

Consider that for a moment: On Draft Day -- the only day that matters in this whole process -- the default presumption is that Tebow will be a 1st-round pick, either to the Vikings at No. 30 or to a more desperate team like the Bills that will trade up into the 20s.

In fact, we are now in a place that I think Tebow would be comfortable with: Winning time, where winning is that exclusive label: "NFL 1st-round pick."

Let's be clear: If Tebow isn't a 1st-round pick, it will be a disappointment (although it will make the 2nd round extremely interesting).

But the expectation -- the expectation -- is 1st round.

Much much more throughout the day -- and night!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 NFL Tim Tebow Mock Draft

Given that Tim Tebow is the biggest storyline of the 2010 NFL Draft -- who will draft him? where will he go? is he a 1st-rounder? will someone trade up for him? -- it seems fitting to create a 2010 NFL Mock Draft composed entirely of... Tim Tebow.

1. St. Louis Rams: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
Umm...no. If the NFL Draft was about selecting the most popular or compelling player -- or, say, the best player in college football history -- Tebow is a lock at No. 1. But it's not. It's apparently about selecting some idealized version of "NFL quarterback," despite his flimsy shoulder.

2. Detroit Lions: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
If marketing mattered as much as winning, the Lions would seriously consider taking Tebow and finding a way to get him in the game -- or certainly on the front of the marketing collateral. As it stands, they have their franchise QB. Detroit fans would have loved Tebow, though.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.

If the Bucs didn't take the Tebow-esque Josh Freeman in the 1st round a year ago, Tampa would be right up there with the Bills and Jags as teams that might-just-might be convinced to take Tebow as a Top 10 pick. They still flashed a little regional interest back at Tebow's Pro Day. But not for this pick.

4. Washington Redskins: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
The Redskins were on the original short list of teams interested in Tebow -- one of the first to want to bring him in for a workout. Then they traded for Donovan McNabb, giving up their high-2nd-round pick (more likely to be used on Tebow than the No. 4 overall pick), and the D.C. dream ended.

5. Kansas City Chiefs: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
"Transitive property" at work here: Chiefs GM Scott Pioli comes from the Belichick Mafia. Belichick, of course, loves Urban Meyer and Tebow. KC has bigger needs here than duplicating a position they invested in so heavily a year ago -- but maybe a Tebow trade partner with the Pats in the early 2nd round?

6. Seattle Seahawks: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Another team on the short list of teams that originally expressed a lot of interest in Tebow. It makes a lot less sense since Pete Carroll traded Seattle's 2nd-round pick and cash for Charlie Whitehurst as the presumptive heir to Matt Hasselbeck. Vast needs for Seattle here beyond another QB.

7. Cleveland Browns: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
The Browns seem as interested in Tim Tebow as any team in the league -- right up there with the Bills. They need a QB to develop. They need a face of the franchise. Tebow offers both, but the No. 7 spot will simply be too much for Mike Holmgren. But that doesn't mean Cleveland won't get him.

8. Oakland Raiders: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Another team on the Tebow short list. Al Davis is a little crazy -- but not crazy enough to take Tebow with the No. 8 overall pick. (Keep reading down to my special 2nd-round preview, because I think that Oakland still offers the floor for Tebow's draft position.)

9. Buffalo Bills: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
At least a few mock drafters have put Tebow here; that's how interested the Bills supposedly are. I don't even rank this on my Tebow Draft Scenarios, but I do think that there is a better chance than for any other team that Buffalo exits the first round of the NFL Draft with Tebow in tow.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Gosh, remember when "Tebow to the Jags at No. 10" was it? Done deal. Case closed. The Jags would follow the marketing hype -- and, to be fair, the idea that in 3 years they will need a franchise QB to replace Garrard. But now? Basically zero buzz that the Jags will take him here.

11. Denver Broncos: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Lots of discussion when Denver brought Tebow in for a workout on Monday, but given that they just traded for Brady Quinn, it is entirely unlikely that the Broncos would use the No. 11 on Tebow. If they want him, they have two 2nd-rounders (43, 45), but will need to package them to move up.

12. Miami Dolphins: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Fins QB coach David Lee got a first-hand look at Tebow while coaching him during the Senior Bowl. Tebow shares an agent with Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano. And Tebow is a classic "Parcells QB." But there is no way that the Dolphins use this pick -- or any -- to take Tebow.

13. San Francisco 49ers: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
The last time the 49ers used a 1st-round pick to take a highly touted QB that was mentored by Urban Meyer, they got Alex Smith -- where was the draftniks' skepticism on THAT one? -- which might make both the team AND Team Tebow (which includes Meyer) disinclined to meet up here.

14. Seattle Seahawks: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
So let's assume that the Seahawks use their first 1st-round pick on an extreme need, like offensive line. Their fans are happy. Maybe they decide they want to reach here and take Tebow -- or maybe trade out, for extra picks, to a team hot to get him, like Buffalo?

15. New York Giants: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Bob Tebow predicted that Tim would go in the first 15 picks of the 1st round. Well, we are here. The Giants won't take him, but that doesn't mean that Tebow won't be selected by the time we get here -- if a team that wants him badly enough is able to trade up with New York... or earlier.

16. Tennessee Titans: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
When it comes to Tebow's 1st-round prospects, the name you hear come up a lot is Vince Young, who the Titans picked with the 3rd overall pick of the 2005 Draft and whose college style wasn't necessarily going to translate to the NFL. VY is the template for TT: Context is critical. (But taking Tebow here is not for Tennessee.)

17. San Francisco 49ers: Tim Tebow, QB Florida

This isn't unlike the Seahawks: Let's say the 49ers pass on Tebow on their first 1st-rounder. Maybe they take a flier on him here -- or, more likely, they are given the opportunity to trade down for extra draft picks, which they need more than Tebow. But the Bills might be willing to do it.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
A running joke has been the notion of pairing Tim Tebow and Ben Roethlisberger in some kind of "perfect strangers"-style buddy comedy reality series. This part is no joke: The Steelers have an image problem at QB and might very well trade Big Ben. But not for Tebow, even if he is the anti-Ben.

19. Atlanta Falcons: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Well, here is one team where you hear absolutely no discussion of interest in -- or fit for -- Tebow. Which makes them a solid candidate to field offers from teams that want to trade up before things get a lot more unpredictable in the 20s.

20. Houston Texans: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
NFL.com draft guru Gil Brandt has been as bullish on Tim Tebow's draft prospects as anyone in the draftnik industry, and as recently as last week, Brandt has been insisting that he sees Tebow going in the Top 20. If he isn't gone by now, Houston will be getting offers to trade out for picks.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Tim Tebow, QB Florida

Entirely unlikely to take Tebow, but certainly a willing taker if a team wants to try to trade multiple picks to get Tebow here. Beyond that, the Bengals are a great example of a team that let its franchise QB sit for an entire year, no pressure, to learn. And it worked out great. Template for Tebow?

22. New England Patriots: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
I have always felt in my gut that Bill Belichick would do anything reasonable to get Tebow -- I think Belichick is sincerely intrigued by the intellectual challenge of scheming ways to get Tebow to contribute. Here would be a surprise -- but you know Belichick would love to confound the draftniks.

23. Green Bay Packers: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Green Bay is a team that spent a late 1st-round pick on a QB with a lot of upside; gave him years -- three long years -- to sit and observe and develop; then unleashed him on the league -- quite successfully, actually. They won't take him, but the team that does could learn from Green Bay.

24. Philadelphia Eagles: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Plenty of circumstantial evidence that the Eagles wouldn't mind having Tebow on the roster, but with the new commitment to Kevin Kolb, QB isn't a need at No. 24. However: Trading out to a team that wants to give up multiple picks to move into this spot and take Tebow? Possible.

25. Baltimore Ravens: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Every team's beat writers have tried to find a Tebow hook -- it's worth the traffic to the Web site. And thus: The so-called "Purple Wildcat," which the Ravens could run when not letting Joe Flacco throw to the revamped corps of WRs. Still: Balto hasn't been on anyone's Tebow radar.

26. Arizona Cardinals: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
Well, it's not like the Cardinals don't have questions at QB: Kurt Warner is gone. Derek Anderson has been imported. Matt Leinart's struggles have continued to prove that draftniks' "grades" are far from conclusive. A very early mock draft (Don Banks, SI.com) had Tebow here. Distant memory.

27. Dallas Cowboys: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
"He'd never get on the field." That was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about Tim Tebow's prospects with the Cowboys. Even if he was inebriated when he said it and since back-tracked a bit, let's agree that he was being honest about his feelings. And as GM, that's what will stand. (Trade out?)

28. San Diego Chargers: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
They don't need a starting QB and Philip Rivers doesn't look like he's going anywhere for a long time. Plus, they have plenty of other holes to fill as they try to keep pace with the Jets and Colts in the AFC. Does that make them a contender to trade out for multiple lower-round picks?

29. New York Jets: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
I don't think anyone is suggesting that this wouldn't be a wild development -- Tebow on Broadway, playing for the voluble Rex Ryan. Of course, the Jets have a starter for the future (and now) in Mark Sanchez, plus a Wildcat guy in Brad Smith. Another contender to trade out, especially because....

30. Minnesota Vikings: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
If there is a scenario that would make teams like the Bills or Browns antsy to trade up into the 20s, it is the very reasonable prospect that the Vikings could take Tebow here, in a move that would instantly become the sensation of the draft -- if only for the concept of "Favre-Tebow" media overload.

31. Indianapolis Colts: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
If the Vikings pass and Tebow is still on the board, the Colts will get plenty of offers to trade out of this pick, allowing the Bills or Browns or anyone else to avoid the extreme uncertainty of the 18-hour hiatus between the 1st round and the 2nd round.

32. New Orleans Saints: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
The champs can afford to be bold and take Tebow -- it would be the draft equivalent of an onside kick in the 3rd quarter of the Super Bowl. But, more likely, they will be hit with plenty of offers from teams desperate to avoid a Day 2 bidding war for Tebow. If Tebow is still around, it's a seller's market.

Bonus 2nd-round coverage!
The new draft format creates a fascinating dynamic -- with 18 hours to sift through the prospects on the board, if Tebow is still available, plenty of teams will be jockeying to try to get him -- competing with teams trying to trade up for any "value" picks left.

That's why I think a team serious about Tebow will need to trade into the back of the 1st round to get him; there is simply too much competitive uncertainty if he drops into the 2nd round.

33. St. Louis Rams: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
34. Detroit Lions: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
35. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
36. Kansas City Chiefs: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.

I group these as a "Gang of Four." None need Tebow -- the Bucs made a courtesy call in Gainesville during Tebow's Pro Day in March. All need more talent, and they could get extra picks by trading out to a team that wants to jump the line and snag Tebow.

Look at the Bills, Browns, Raiders, Broncos and Patriots for trading up here. The Gang of Four will also have plenty of offers from teams looking for other value picks that are surprisingly left on the board overnight -- or they will keep their picks to snag that talent themselves.

(Keep an eye out for the Chiefs at 36 -- GM Scott Pioli has a working history with both Pats coach Bill Belichick and Broncos coach Josh McDaniels.)

37. Philadelphia Eagles: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
The moment that the Eagles traded Donovan McNabb, I added them to the short list in the Tebow Derby. If Tebow is still around here, they will seriously consider taking him -- but with the Browns, Raiders and Bills jockeying for him, there will be plenty of interest to trade out.

38. Cleveland Browns: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
If the Browns don't take a QB at No. 7 -- and there is no indication that they will -- and Tebow is still on the board here, I think Mike Holmgren takes him and trusts that he can develop him into a starting QB just as the rest of his rebuilding starts to click. No pressure to start/win immediately.

39. Oakland Raiders: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
Mel Kiper may list Tebow's "floor" as the Bills at No. 41, but I think that Al Davis can't help himself if Tebow is still available when Oakland picks here. I think this is the lowest he will go.

40. San Diego Chargers: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
If Tebow is still on the board -- and everyone knows that the Bills are going to take him next -- there will be a frenzy of deal-making to try to trade up and get him. In this scenario, watch the Patriots here.

41. Buffalo Bills: Tim Tebow, QB Florida.
Armchair psychological analysis of Al Davis aside, if Tebow is still on the board here -- and the Bills didn't take Jimmy Clausen with the No. 9 overall pick or elsewhere in the 1st round, there is no way Tebow drops further than this.

43. and 45. Denver Broncos: Tim Tebow, QB Florida
.
Again, given the signals of Denver's interest, if the Broncos really want Tebow, they will have to use one or both of these 2nd-round picks to get ahead of the Browns at 38 or the Raiders at 39 -- or the Bills, at whatever price they're willing to pay.

NFL Tebow: Latest Draft Scenarios

Yesterday, Peter King revealed where he thought Tebow would go: 30th overall to the Vikings. This morning, Mel Kiper said the same thing.


Consider that for a moment: Mel Kiper is projecting Tim Tebow as a 1st-round pick. We have come so far. (More precisely, Kiper said he could see Tebow going at No. 30.)

Here are my latest Tebow Draft Scenarios (through Wednesday morning), ranked in order of likelihood. I was bullish on the Vikings a week ago, and I'm even more so today:

(1) Vikings at No. 30 overall.
Great fit. Don't need to trade up/out to get him.

(2) Bills in the 20s.
Requires a tricky trade-up.

(3) Bills in high-30s.
Requires a trade-up. Still tricky.

(4a) Patriots at 36 (trade with Chiefs).
Pioli does a solid for Belichick.

(4b) Broncos at 36 (trade with Chiefs).
Pioli deals with Belichick Mafia member McDaniels.

(5) Browns at 38.
If he's there, Holmgren takes him. OK, but not great fit.

(6) Raiders at 39.
If he's there, Al Davis takes him. Terrible scenario.

Tebow will NOT make it to the Bills' natural spot at 41. I'm almost ready to say that Tebow doesn't even make it to the Raiders at 39 -- that the Browns will take him at 38 if he's there.

The wild-card is if Tebow slips through the 1st round, which will create a scrum of opportunity between No. 33 and No. 36 as teams try to trade up to get him (and those woeful teams at the top of the 2nd round try to trade out to stockpile more picks).

However, I don't think Tebow slips through the 1st round. I think a team that really wants him -- like the Bills -- won't want to get into that 2nd-round scrum and risk not getting him. And I'm imploring the media to please stop talking about the Jaguars; that ain't happening.

Add in a few more expert opinions that emerged overnight:

*Alligator Army (which astutely agrees that context matters significantly in Tebow's future success and endorses the Vikings-at-30 concept),

*And the Gainesville Sun, which ranks which team is likely to take Tebow from 1 to 32.

(The Sun starts out OK with the Bills at 1 and Vikings at 2, then goes off the rails with the Jaguars at 3 and Seahawks at 4, not mentioning the Browns until No. 8.)

Tebow Will Not Attend NFL Draft

Per the NFL Network, Tim Tebow has decided to return to Jacksonville to watch the NFL Draft with his family and not attend the Draft in New York City.

After talking with him last night, it reinforced -- and perhaps foreshadowed -- that he would want experiencing the biggest night of his life to be something he did surrounded by family.

Does it have anything to do with concern over the "optics" of slipping deep into the 1st round -- even into the 2nd round? Cynically, you could argue that, but I don't think so.

(If he was a Top 20 lock, yes: I think he would be in New York for the Draft. But he's not, so he gets the option of being in more comfortable surroundings.)

The NFL feels all-powerful, but this was one instance where the NFL needed Tim Tebow more than Tim Tebow needed the NFL.

Tebow will be THE story of the Draft, whether he is taken in the 1st round or 2nd round -- and whether he is in New York City or in Jacksonville on the couch.

He will still get plenty of airtime: I guarantee that both ESPN and the NFL Network will have cameras set up wherever Tebow is watching to get his reaction to being drafted.

By the way, credit OnlyGators.com for totally nailing this story way back at the end of March, when they interviewed Tebow, who said at the time:
That’s such a moment that will be exciting and special, so I don’t want to just celebrate that with people that I don’t really know and haven’t really been around just to be there in New York. I want to be around my close friends and my family. So if that’s something we can work out or not, I’ll probably be with my family. I think it’s also just figuring out what’s with my schedule and everything. But then also just being around my family and figuring out what would be fun and what would be the easiest, most relaxed, comfortable spot.
And that's what ended up happening.

UPDATE: More quotes from a FoxSports.com conversation with Tebow today:
It was exciting to think about walking up (on stage), shaking the commissioner’s hand and holding up my jersey (of the team that drafted him). That would have been the coolest thing. It made my decision that much harder. But I thought it was best to be home with my friends and family. It’s not just an award for me being drafted. It’s for all the people who invested in me during my life. I want to be able to celebrate with those people.
Again, totally in line with what he told OGGOA and what he told me last night.

When Tim Tebow Met TimTeblog

Let's get right to it:

*Last night, the good folks at EA set me up with a 1-on-1 interview with Tim Tebow. It lasted approximately 8 minutes.

*He was pleasant and gracious. He was exactly like you see him on TV. Entirely consistent.

*He had never heard of TimTeblog.com. (Much more on that later.)

*I asked him about the post-Alabama tears, I asked him a bit about his faith and I asked him about his family. (My pre-interview post yesterday was a bit of a tell about the questions I really did want to ask.)

I figured that if I could get in three questions covering Football, Faith and Family, that's as much as I could ask for from myself, given the time constraints.

(I had to spend the first 60 seconds stumbling through an explanation of what TimTeblog is -- needless to say, it is a lot easier to explain it to a fan or a talk-radio host than to the subject of the blog himself.)

*On the "Did-I-Sound/Act-Like-a-Jackass" scale, where "1" is "Frost/Nixon" and "10" is Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney on SNL, I'd put myself around a 5-ish. (Not horrible!)

I have a much longer piece about it that I'm still working on, because I want to relate the entire experience in greater detail. But, obviously, I had to provide an update.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When Dan Shanoff Met Tim Tebow

There is a scene in the classic movie "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie finally -- finally -- gets a chance to meet Santa Claus to ask about the Red Ryder BB gun, only to blank in Santa's presence.

Santa: "How about a nice...football?" (In Ralphie's own head: "Football? Football? What's a football? With unconscious will my voice squeaked out 'football'.A football? Oh no, what was I doing? Wake up, Stupid! Wake up!")

Ralphie nods his head, and Santa sends him down the slide. Halfway down, Ralphie realizes what is happening, stops short, clambers back up the slide and announces his interest in the gun. Santa replies: "You'll shoot your eye out kid!" Then taps his boot on Ralphie's forehead, sending Ralphie down the slide into oblivion with a whimpering "Nooooo....."

That's a very real scenario for me, because tonight, there is a pretty good chance that I am going to meet Tim Tebow. Finally meet Tim Tebow, I guess you could say. Or, the way many of you might characterize it: Awkwardly meet Tim Tebow.

There is a 100 percent chance that I will be standing in a room with him as a frenzy of media folks jockey to interview him at a launch party for EA's NCAA Football 11. The closest I have otherwise been to Tebow is about 20 rows up from the field at the Swamp at the Tennessee game last September.

So then the open question is whether or not I will actually talk to Tebow myself -- as part of the group or, perhaps, even a brief 1-on-1 interview. If so, the even bigger question is: What would I talk with him about?

In my Ralphie moment, the handlers will nudge me into a one-question interview with Tebow and I'll sputter "Football...." Tebow will answer pleasantly about making a difference or finishing strong or the effort he will bring to whatever NFL team he is lucky enough to be drafted to. And then he'll move along, and I'll realize the brilliant, thought-provoking question I should have asked:

"Wait, wait: How can one reconcile the "relationships-over-championships" attitude with the tears of disappointment on the sidelines of the Georgia Dome! What do you think is the most applicable secular interpretation of your religious beliefs? What's your favorite piece of Tebow mythos? What role did growing up a Gator fan play in your college career? AndhaveyoueverheardofTimTeblogdotcom?"

Let's be realistic here: I don't exactly have the typical media person's perspective on Tebow. Everyone else will attend tonight and ask him the standard questions about his college career, draft status, NFL prospects, faith, etc. And, more than likely, Tebow will reply with standard answers.

But what about the guy who has the blog focused entirely on Tim Tebow? The guy who has written nearly 800 posts about Tebow over the past 9 months? The guy who has dissected and analyzed practically everything Tebow has said or been said about him?

To be totally honest, the entire prospect of talking with Tebow freaks me out. Not just because of the obsessive coverage or the faux-journalistic distance I've maintained from Tebow (for example, not getting media credentials to cover him up close in G'ville or his trips to NYC).

And, no: Not because of the awkward moment when I mention -- if I even have the chutzpah to bring it up -- that he-has-probably-never-heard-of-it-but-I-have-a-Tebow-focused-blog-called-TimTeblog.com... only to have him say "Wow, hm. No, can't say I've heard of it." Probably followed by something chipper like "But sounds fun!" Either that, or a quick safe-word alerting the PR handlers to take me back to the media holding pen.

(Quick digression: The most common question I get when I talk with people about the blog is that they ask me if I think Tebow has seen or read it. With absolutely no false modesty, I tell them that I am 100 percent sure he has never even heard of it, let alone read it. I think he steers clear of coverage of himself, no matter what the form. If his family or the Florida sports information department has set up a Google Alert for "Tebow" -- and I'd be shocked if they didn't -- it would be hard for them to miss the blog. But really, bank on it: He's never seen it or heard of TimTeblog.com. And I'm not even sure how I could bring it up without sounding like a complete tool.)

But let me tell you what freaks me out the most: Coming up with a question beyond the banal. Getting a response beyond what I already know he will say. (Now, I recognize that any speaker as polished as Tebow will always glide back to the talking points, but I can at least make an effort.)

I have been racking my brain -- not to mention the archives of the blog -- trying to come up with the questions that might illuminate Tebow in some new way. Short of that, I am heading in trying to make sense of the larger theses that I have developed about Tebow over the past year about Tebow's football or his faith or his mythology.

I can envision a dream scenario: That my questions are good enough that Tebow would be willing to sit down with me for a half-hour at some point this summer when things are a little bit calmer, for a more extensive discussion. But I'm not holding out for that.

I can also envision a nightmare scenario for tonight: That my question will just be the same old thing. Not even that his answer will be one I've read or linked to a hundred times -- but that the experience won't live up to built-up expectations of the year of attention I have put into the Teblog project.

The reality is that there probably ISN'T a question -- or an answer -- that would validate my unusual dedication to the Tebow beat. And, ultimately, recognizing that is how I'm going to get over the babble in my head, get in the queue to talk with him, introduce myself and ask him a couple questions.

My wife -- the original Gators fan in our family and who has supported the Teblog effort so patiently (most of the time) -- has a pretty interesting theory: That it is very hard to talk with someone you know a LOT about when you don't actually know them. It's a false familiarity that should be recognizable to any sports fan -- or fan of anything, I guess. But I digress.

Some might (appropriately) say that the crucible for shamelessness about all this was defined back in mid-July when I launched a blog devoted entirely to covering Tim Tebow -- that whatever happens tonight is only a function of that.

Still doesn't change the fact that this feels like the culmination of the past year's work, and I'm still not sure how it fits. Maybe after tonight I will enjoy a revelation.

*****

For those of you who have read the blog over the past 9 months, you know that any question from me has to be a little more thought-provoking than your standard media interview cliche. What would YOU ask Tebow, if you really wanted to understand him better?

NFL Tebow: Mechanics Breakdown

via ESPN's excellent Sports Science, an incredible breakdown of Tim Tebow's new mechanics. (h/t: Only Gators)

NFL Tebow: King Puts Tebow On Vikings
at No. 30 in His Official SI Mock Draft

It's official: In his Sports Illustrated mock draft, Peter King has Tim Tebow going No. 30 overall to the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. "A hunch, nothing more," King noted. Let the recalibrating of conventional wisdom commence.


(For the record, I don't disagree with him. The only question is whether the Bills trade the farm to move ahead of the Vikings into the late 20s.)

By the way: SI ended up going with Sam Bradford on the cover, which I am surprised by. Tebow is, by far, the biggest storyline of the draft. And Tebow as cover would have sold more copies at the newsstand than Bradford, too.

NFL Tebow: Profiled in Minneapolis

In the Star-Tribune's pre-draft profile of Tim Tebow, I was hoping to get a little more analysis of why Tebow will (or won't) get taken by the Vikings with the No. 30 pick. Instead, the piece was more of the standard Tebow overview ("Teboverview?").

I went on Brian Kenny's ESPN Radio show last night to talk about Tebow, and Kenny asked me why Tebow is going to succeed as a quarterback in the NFL -- and credit to Kenny for allowing that "success" could merely mean that Tebow has a perfectly adequate career as an NFL QB.

I touched on something that the Star-Tribune finished their profile with, and I don't think it should be discounted or assumed away as simple talk -- Tebow's attitude about getting better:
I know that wherever I go, whoever drafts me, they will have a kid who is going to give everything to that organization, that franchise and someone that's going to leave everything on the field every day that I go to work. And that's what I'm going to focus on. My dream is to be a quarterback, and I'm going pursue that as much as I can.
No player in the NFL -- QB or otherwise -- will work harder at getting better and maximizing his talents than Tebow. He will put himself in the optimal position to succeed.

To the point that I was trying to make at the top: I still think that there is a very good chance that the Vikings take Tebow at No. 30 if he is available.

But I think there is a better chance than not that Tebow won't be available at 30 -- that the Bills will have traded up into the mid-20s to take Tebow before the Vikings can snag him.

Tebow Speaks: Union University

Yesterday, Tim Tebow gave a speech at Union University in Tennessee, where he hit on his three core themes to having a significant life:

*Be willing to "stand alone" for what you believe in and be different from everyone else.

*Stay humble (having a "servant's heart").

*Finish strong.

Tebow, obviously, has a particular faith-driven lens he looks through all of these things through, but I have long argued that all three ideas have wide secular application.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tebow EA NCAA Football 11 PS3 Cover


Tim Tebow is in NYC tomorrow for a series of promotional events for his sponsors, including EA.

I'm supposed to go to the event tomorrow night, but I have no idea whether that means I will get to interview Tebow myself or simply be part of a group that stands around him.

Either way, seems like some sort of milestone moment for this blog, doesn't it? (No, I do not plan to ask him if he has heard of TimTeblog.com. Although maybe I should!)

Anyway, here is a look at the PS3 cover of the EA game.

NFL Tebow: Peter King Watch
King Has Tebow Between 22 and 45

Peter King's official Sports Illustrated Mock Draft comes out tomorrow, but he hints at the Teblog projection that King will slot Tebow as a 1st-round pick by saying that he thinks that Tebow and Colt McCoy will both go between 22 and 45.

That is not far off from my latest Teblog Draft Scenarios that have Tebow going as high as the mid-20s to the Bills (through a trade-up) and no lower than No. 39 to the Raiders.

I presume King thinks that Tebow could go as high as 22 to the Patriots at their natural draft slot -- but won't go lower than No. 45 to the Broncos.

But as wild as it would be, I don't see the Pats using their 1st-rounder on Tebow. As for No. 45, Tebow will be long gone by the time the Broncos make their 2nd pick.)

Tebow: "Stand for Something"

"Whatever you do, stand for something."

-- Tim Tebow, during his speech at Lipscomb University on Saturday night.

If there can be something akin to a unifying life philosophy for Tebow, that would be it. (Note that it has no explicit religious value attached to it and can be applied equally in a secular way.)

We now return to regularly scheduled Tebow NFL Draft coverage...

NFL Tebow: Visiting Broncos Today?

I recognize that the Broncos bringing Tim Tebow in for a workout today -- three days before the 1st round of the NFL Draft -- indicates that Denver is very interested in him.

And yet: The reason I don't list the Broncos anywhere among my most likely Tebow draft scenarios is their draft positions -- No. 11 overall and Nos. 43 and 45 in the 2nd round.

Let's just assume that they won't take him at No. 11. Meanwhile, I think Tebow will be gone by 43.

Now, Denver could package the 43 and 45 to move up to the top of the 2nd round... perhaps even to the back of the 1st round? But why would they trade 2 quality players for 1, even if they love Tebow?

Doesn't seem to make sense for a re-building team, especially one that just traded for a QB of the future (Brady Quinn).

This is a ton of interest, but circumstantially it just doesn't seem to make sense.

Chris Mortenson thinks the Broncos will be "very very active" in the Draft -- maybe this means packaging those two 2nd-rounders (or maybe a combo of one of the 2nd-rounders plus some later-round picks) to move up to the back of the 1st or early 2nd to get Tebow. Or, alternatively, they trade out of No. 11 and back further in the 1st round, where they take Tebow.

Friday, April 16, 2010

NFL Tebow: McShay Still Bearish

Todd McShay offers his last word on Tim Tebow:

"I still would not draft him in the first two rounds. It’s a philosophical approach I have."

McShay has banked his young career on being bearish on Tebow's draft prospects. But he wants to have it both ways, because McShay says he personally grades Tebow as a 3rd-rounder, but also wouldn't be surprised to see him taken in the 2nd round.

My main gripe with McShay's analysis is that he frames his evaluation of Tebow on McShay's own personal "philosophical approach."

I'm not sure that's relevant to the discussion at hand. Shouldn't he be thinking about Tebow's draft prospects from the perspective of each team's particular set of needs and interests?

(For example: The Vikings don't need a QB to contribute in 2010, possibly even 2011. But they do need to start developing a QB for beyond that. If they like Tebow's potential as an eventual starter, why wouldn't he at least be in the realm of possibility for them to pick? Teams would never draft a QB based on his Year 1 potential, rather than his Year 3-10 potential. See below.)

At some point, McShay stopped dumping on Tebow because the blowback was undermining McShay's credibility. He remains bearish, and it has earned him a lot of attention.

This is a slippery slope for any sports pundit to offer up, but I'd be curious if McShay would be willing to be a year's salary against Tim Tebow going in the 1st round.

One point I've been trying to make over the past few weeks is that the drafnik's personal grade (or "philosophy") is irrelevant to the question of where a player is going to get picked.

Just because McShay wouldn't take Tebow in the 1st round doesn't mean that there isn't a team (or multiple teams) who wouldn't take Tebow in the 1st round.

There is another weird logical inconsistency in McShay's evaluation:

He contends that 1st-round picks should be able to contribute right away. Even QBs? So McShay would not have taken Steve McNair. Or Eli Manning. Or Phil Rivers. Or Carson Palmer. Or Aaron Rodgers. Or any number of QBs that -- by the very nature of their position -- can't contribute right away.

Now, if McShay said that he would never take a QB in the 1st round, I'd actually understand that "philosophy."

But if he is spending seemingly half his air time doubting Tebow, he is spending the other half of it lauding Sam Bradford as the top talent in the draft. Yet even Sam Bradford is ready to step in and perform at a playoff-QB level in the NFL now.

It's all just an odd inconsistency in McShay's logic, which makes me think that his bearish -- yet constantly hedging -- opinion of Tebow is at least as much about McShay marketing as analysis.

If this really is McShay's last public comments about Tebow until the draft, hopefully this is my last post about McShay until the draft, too....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

NFL Tebow: Sit Early, Star Later

ESPN.com's Chris Sprow has a fascinating must-read about the correlation between the time spent on the bench as a drafted NFL QB and future NFL success.

This obviously has significant implications for Tim Tebow -- for whom the plan all along was to let him absorb and develop under coaches for 1-2 years (or more) before making him a starter.

The pattern is hardly rare -- and hardly a scarlet letter for drafted QBs. Tebow would simply be following the path set by Aaron Rodgers (4-year wait) and Phil Rivers (3-year wait).

The data helps to frame Tebow's development time as not merely necessary -- but beneficial, both to the player and the team.

In fact, the idea that Tebow could help out as a rookie in situational moments (short-yardage, goal-line) is a huge bonus, relative to the value that someone like Rodgers added his first 3 years.

Don't be fooled by expectations that NFL QBs have to come in and start immediately -- they don't. And, in fact, it might be better if they don't.

NFL Tebow: King Slots Tebow in 1st?

We are now exactly one week until the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and all signs point to Tim Tebow going in the 1st round.

The leading indicator: Is Tebow being listed in the 1st round of the leading mock drafts? We already know Kiper has upgraded Tebow to a top-of-the-2nd (yet still too low!) 41st to the Bills.

See the update at the end of the post about Mike Mayock's projection.

Here is a prediction:

When the official Sports Illustrated NFL mock draft comes out, all signs point to Peter King having Tim Tebow in the 1st round.

That is for a couple reasons: (1) Things he is hearing from GMs; (2) his "gut"; and (3) it is entirely costless -- yet entirely provocative -- for him to put Tebow in the 1st.

It's not like Peter King is going to lose his job -- or credibility -- by putting Tebow in the 1st round of a mock draft.

Anyway: Based on the excitement in Gainesville last week, King could have Tebow going to the Vikings with the No. 30 pick.

If he wanted to make it more realistic, I think he would have to include a trade-up to make it work -- the most likely suitors remain cachet-less teams desperate for a "face," like the Bills or Browns, not playoff teams.

But when King does list Tebow as a 1st-rounder, he will effectively set the new market for Tebow's draft stock as a 1st-rounder. And the rest of the draftniks will follow along.

Again: See Mayock update below.

(It's worth noting that several mocks already have Tebow as a 1st-rounder: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has him going 9th to the Bills, which I think is highly unlikely. The USA Today panel of mockers includes a few votes for the Vikings at 30 and one for the Pats at 22.)

But the majority of mocks still have Tebow as a 2nd-round pick, largely seeming to take their cue from Kiper's 41st, which I see as a floor. For example, Sporting News has Tebow going No. 39 to the Raiders.

(It is now laughable for any NFL writer or draft analyst to mention "3rd round" or use phrasing like "could go as high as the 2nd round." They are three months behind. With all due respect to Charlie Casserly, he sounds inane saying he wouldn't take Tebow in the first three rounds -- which is irrelevant to projecting where he WILL be taken -- and that he hasn't talked with teams without a QB need who would take him early -- gee, no kidding! How about the teams that DO need a QB, precisely the ones that will take him in the 1st round or early 2nd.)

Use my latest Tebow draft projections as a guide:

Some mocks will have the Browns take him with the 6th pick of the 2nd round. You may see a few having him go 5th in the round to the Eagles. The more interesting draftniks will include a trade-out by one of the four teams picking at the top of the 2nd who clearly don't need Tebow.

But when King takes "Tebow-as-1st-rounder" to the mainstream, you will see mock draft revisions that put him into the back of the 1st round.

I see Tebow to the Vikings at No. 30 to be a realistic possibility -- more realistic, however, is the scenario that the Bills trade up into the 20s to get Tebow. (And, if they can't -- and if the Vikings pass on Tebow at 30 -- Buffalo trading up to 31 or 32 to avoid the overnight scrum that will define the top of the 2nd round.)

Obviously, I have become very bullish on the Bills taking Tebow (or, at least, trying to get Tebow).

Tim Tebow as a 1st-round NFL Draft pick is nearly here -- at least in the mock-draft world.

Reality comes a week from tonight.

UPDATE: I should credit NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock -- bullish on Tebow from the beginning -- for pegging Tebow to the Vikings at No. 30 and doing it yesterday. I may have to re-jigger my own Tebow draft scenario ranking to reflect this new conventional wisdom....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gruden on Tebow: It's the Work Ethic

More Tebow-related reactions from Jon Gruden, after the coach worked with the player for his ESPN special tomorrow night:
"What I'm really impressed with is the way he sits on the edge of his chair and his work ethic and relentlessness to become great is really second to nobody."
Beyond the physical tools, Tebow will succeed in the NFL -- as a starting QB and, conceivably, a Pro Bowl QB -- because he will work harder than anyone in the league to do well.

That's why it is so important he ends up in the right context: With a coach (or coaches) who can develop him; with a good starting QB ahead of him he can learn from; and with talented players around him so that he isn't Steve Young on the Tampa Bay Bucs.

More here from Fowler.

NFL Tebow: Meets With Broncos Today

Tim Tebow is meeting with the Broncos today. On a couple of levels, this isn't a fit.

Given that Denver just traded for Brady Quinn, to go with incumbent starter Kyle Orton, this doesn't seem like a need for the Broncos.

However: As a Belichick protege, Josh McDaniels may have similar interest to Tebow as Belichick has -- his ability to create "plus-one" mismatches as a opportunistic running QB.

McDaniels is also a QB coach by trade and training, and he might see himself as the perfect guy to develop Tebow. That said: McDaniels already has a project in Brady Quinn.

But let's look at the practicalities of their draft options:

The Broncos have the No. 11 overall pick -- too early to take Tebow, given their QB situation -- and the Nos. 43 (from Miami) and 45 picks of the 2nd round -- either would be too late to get Tebow in the 2nd round.

Denver could, conceivably, package one or both of those picks to move up into the 33-36 range where a team might be willing to trade down. Two problems: (1) That's giving up a lot, and (2) Tebow will likely be gone by the end of the 1st round.

By internal and external circumstances, the Broncos seem unlikely to draft Tebow. I don't even list them on my latest Tebow Draft Projections ranking.

(However, by trading Brandon Marshall, they do have jersey No. 15 available -- easy joke.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jerry Jones on Tebow: "He'd Never Get On the Field"

"He'd never get on the field."

-- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
, on why he wouldn't draft Tim Tebow.

via Deadspin

****

Here is the exchange:

Question: What, you, you wouldn't take Tebow in the third round?

Jerry Jones: Why? He'd never get on the field. I can't get him out there.

[Laughter]

Jerry Jones: I can't get him out there.

"I can't get him out there."

So, not that the Cowboys were ever on the Tebow Short-List, but let's safely assume there isn't going to be some from-left-field call by Jerry Jones to draft Tebow.

(Unless, of course, this video is all some big ploy to get people to THINK he doesn't want Tebow, but he does all along. Sure....)

Will Tim Tebow Attend NFL Draft in NYC?

So the big topic today is whether or not Tim Tebow will attend the NFL Draft next week in New York City. We already know he will be in NYC on Tuesday for the EA event.

But will he stay for Thursday (or -- and perhaps this is the issue -- Friday) night? No one knows for sure.

The pro for attending is simple: He is the most popular player in the draft and will be THE story, regardless of where he is drafted. If "platform" matters, this is a huge one.

The con for attending involves a bit of projection: Something about not wanting to look foolish sitting there while team after team passes on him. (Tebow has never said this.)

I think this "con" is overblown -- if anything, it means more attention for Tebow:

The storyline only gets more compelling as the picks go by... up to and including an overnight stay into the 2nd round.

Given Tebow's ultimate prominence, I see little downside to attending.

(My dream scenario is that he attends and, during the wait, wanders over to the anchor desk and helps Berman, Kiper and Jaworski break down picks -- like they would turn that down!)

Tim Tebow vs. Jon Gruden

We all know that Jon Gruden is a HUGE fan of Tim Tebow's. It was Gruden who called Tebow "concrete cyanide." Here is some good video from Gruden's workout with Tebow.

Allow me to float my Tebow-Gruden theory: If a team with a tenuous coaching situation -- say the Jaguars -- drafts Tebow, I think they immediately become players for Gruden in 2011.

NFL Tebow: Latest Draft Scenarios

Based on reading the various tea leaves, here is the first/only ranking of Tebow draft scenarios, from most likely:

(1) Bills trade up to 20-30 (1st Round)
(1b) Bills trade up to 31-32 (1st Round)
(2) Browns at No. 38 overall
(3) Bills trade up from No. 41 to 33-36
(4) Vikings at No. 30 (1st Round)
(5) Raiders at No. 39 overall
(6) Patriots trade up to 33-36
(7) Jaguars trade up to 33-36

I do not think that Tebow will last longer than the Raiders at No. 39, thus no (realistic) scenario where the Bills take him at No. 41. Please note the scenario I don't list (yet): Bills at No.9.

The reason I think the Bills are going to have to move up from No. 41 into the 1st round if they really want to get Tebow is best supported by this recent quote from Bill Belichick, on the dramatic new competitive dynamics of the 2nd round:
I kind of think the second round will now be like the first round. Take those [top] 32 players out of there, whoever they are, now you're starting all over again for that second round. And I can see it being approached more as that first round. In the past, you kind of rolled into that round. Now, to actually stop and have the whole night to sit there and think about it and talk to other teams and develop a new strategy. Everybody does that on the second day; now we have three days. It's a different dynamic.
The Bills -- or any team that really wants Tebow -- can't risk what will undoubtedly be a bidding frenzy around 2nd-round picks. The only choice is to trade up to the back of the 1st round.

(Similarly, I don't think that the Broncos' trade for the 43rd pick -- to go with their own 45th pick -- will be enough to trade into the 1st round to get Tebow, nor will they want to.)