Insider: Jacksonville Needs Tebowmania
With Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos, the future of Tim Tebow in the Mile High City is for all practical purposes, finished. One of the teams rumored to have interest in Tebow is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Although a high ranking team official told JagNation.com that the team had “zero interest” in trading for the former Gator legend, there now appears to be internal discussions about acquiring the former Broncos first-round pick. We are going to examine why it would be a good thing for the franchise to bring Tebow “home.”
The reasons why the Jaguars could benefit from acquiring Tim Tebow revolve around the franchise giving up no more than a fifth-round draft pick, as well as restructuring Tebow’s contract to reflect that of a backup quarterback or tight end, where he’s most likely to see the highest percentage of snaps.
So without any further ado, here is why Jacksonville is the right spot for Tebow.
Most people will bring up the fact that Tebow “just wins games,” but we know a lot of that was based on soft scheduling and some fortunate breaks (even with all that he’s gone 9-7 as a starter, not 12-4). There’s also the “fact” that Tebow would solve any and all problems with ticket sales, but there’s no real proof of that either so let’s chalk that up to speculation and we’ll address that a little later.
The intangibles are always brought up with Tebow, but let’s look at the tangibles. Tangibly, Tebow is a dynamic running quarterback. He’s not going to run away from cornerbacks or safeties, but he can run most over and he’s a legitimate red zone weapon. Jacksonville has had their problems getting to the red zone and when they have they were pretty mediocre in 2011. According to teamrankings.com, the Jaguars finished 21st in the NFL in red zone scoring as they punched the ball in the end zone just 48.6 percent of the time. That number was down nearly 15 percent from 2010 when they scored touchdowns on more than 63 percent of their trips.
Tim Tebow isn’t likely going to revolutionize football, but his presence opens up another chapter of the playbook in the red zone with his ability to make short yardage, especially when the field is spread. Tebow’s arm might not be reliable, but he is capable of delivering passes inside the 10-yard line.
Another reason to consider Tebow is the fact the Jaguars don’t have a world-beater at quarterback, or anything even close. Blaine Gabbert was the worst rookie starting quarterback a season ago and new backup Chad Henne was run out of Miami after just 31 starts. Although Gabbert’s NFL fate is far from decided, there really is nothing you can see on tape that would show an objective onlooker that this is the guy to lead the Jaguars to the postseason, much less a deep playoff run.
Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri is behind Blaine Gabbert even if he’s in the vast minority.
“How about we support @BlaineGabbert he is and will be the #Jags QB this season and beyond,” Nwaneri said on his Twitter.
“Maybe ppl dont realize that @BlaineGabbert was a rookie put in the worst of situations last year. QB was not the underlying problem WR was.”
Although Nwaneri is speaking the truth, nobody really cares why things went wrong the more important part is that the team struggled mightily to not only score points, but get consistent drives. Tim Tebow hasn’t shown much as a passer but he does play his best football late in games and he has an “it factor.”
“There is something to him that transcends past numbers,” a league source said of Tebow. “He is the ultimate competitor and ultimate leader and when he’s on the field guys believe in him.”
If you have a team that struggles to score points as the Jaguars do, it’s difficult to imagine the harm in bringing in a football player who has accounted for 29 touchdowns in 14 regular season starts. Tim Tebow adds a dimension which is very difficult for defenses to prepare for. Even if you have a standard issue NFL offense with Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne, a Tebow “change-up” could be very effective.
Under general manager Gene Smith, the Jaguars have preached character in their personnel dealings. It’s difficult to imagine that a player of Tebow’s sterling character would harm a locker room.
It’s been well documented that the Jaguars have had their trouble selling tickets. The other Florida franchises have as well and Jacksonville hasn’t had a game blacked out in a few years. That certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for improvement. Although Tebow supporters and many national media types claim that having Tebow on the team would instantly sell 10,000 or more empty seats, there’s really no proof of that. What we can safely assume is that the team would sell more tickets than they currently do by adding the Jacksonville native. Tebow’s jersey was also one of the highest selling products in the league last season. If a team like the Jaguars can give up a fifth-round pick (or possibly even less) and pay the former Heisman Trophy winner a salary of around $1 million, they would easily make up that money and more in the most conservative projections of ticket increases and merchandising.
We don’t buy into the “he just wins games” argument, as that’s been overblown by his staunch supporters. A 9-7 record over his first 16 starts certainly isn’t bad, but it’s far from legendary. Much of his victories had a great deal of “luck” involved and tremendous plays by his teammates.
Now would the Jaguars be able to pull off the same improbable victories with Tebow? It’s tough to tell, but we do know that there hasn’t been a lot of winning in Jacksonville without him.
In summation, having Tim Tebow as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes sense schematically, spiritually and financially. We’re not talking about giving up a high draft choice and we’re not talking about a sizable financial investment that would tie up valuable salary cap dollars. If anyone is worried about wrecking the locker room, what’s the worst thing that can happen, the team goes 5-11? Again?
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie