Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 4:15 PM
Can you imagine what it would be like to live in Jacksonville, as a football fan with an allegiance to the Florida Gators and a hometown affection for Tim Tebow?
Can you imagine the frustration and exasperation those folks must be feeling this season as they watch their Jaguars continue to lose -- enough to be generally considered the NFL’s worst team -- with an offense that ranks last in the league in total yards, scoring, touchdowns and third-down conversions?
Can you imagine how difficult it would be to see your home team mired at the bottom of the AFC with a 1-8 record and know the decision makers in the front office still have no desire to bring Tebow back to the banks of the St. Johns River?
That’s the Jaguars’ dilemma.
They could have grabbed the former Gator quarterback in the 2010 NFL Draft and didn’t. They could have traded for the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner this past offseason, after the Denver Broncos signed Peyton Manning to replace him, but showed only lukewarm interest. They could have tried to make a deal to get Tebow from the New York Jets last month but made no offer.
And in each scenario, the Jaguars passed on Tebow despite knowing thousands of fans in North Florida believe he might be able to do for the Jaguars what he did for the Nease High School Panthers in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach, for the Gators in Gainesville and, during one miraculous stretch last season, for the Broncos.
Because they know.
They know what too many of their fans refuse to accept: Tebow doesn’t throw well enough to be a winning quarterback in a league where the rules favor the passing game.
That’s why the Broncos dumped him. That’s why the Jets have only used him as a gimmick. That’s why the Jaguars are sticking with second-year starter Blaine Gabbert, even though he has yet to do anything to convince anyone he was worth the 10th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
And unlike the Jets, who traded for Tebow as a publicity stunt to sell premium seats in their stadium and steal back-page headlines in the New York tabloids in the wake of the Giants’ second Super Bowl triumph in five years, the Jaguars are more concerned with building a winning football team than manufacturing a media frenzy.
Certainly, Tebow’s return to Jacksonville would sell tickets. Florida fans would show up to support him simply because he was there, even if only to hold a clipboard. He also would sell plenty of Jaguars jerseys.
But the Jaguars have too much work to do to become competitive -- they must surround Gabbert with enough playmakers to find out if he can be a franchise quarterback -- and Tebow’s presence would be nothing more than an unnecessary distraction.
As he is in New York.
It’s bad enough that many Jets fans are filling Gotham’s sports-talk radio airwaves with calls for Tebow to play. Worse, however, is the team’s refusal to discourage its backup quarterback from doing interviews after every game, even though it knows those sessions undermine embattled starter, Mark Sanchez.
The Jets are THAT desperate for attention.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, have enough problems. They don’t need a quarterback controversy. They don’t need EverBank Field filled with wrongheaded fans rooting for Gabbert to fail and chanting for Tebow to play.
And if Tebow were in Jacksonville that is exactly what would be happening.
The Jaguars currently rank 30th in rushing and 31st in passing, and many of their fans are convinced a Tebow-led offense couldn’t do worse.
But could it do better?
Gabbert might not be Jacksonville’s long-term answer at quarterback. It’s too soon to say. Too much of his supporting cast is composed of off-Broadway players. But the Jaguars starter is a far-more polished passer than the Jets backup.
Tebow, whose throwing mechanics are flawed, is a run-first quarterback who needs to operate out of a spread-option offense to be effective. And that is a risky proposition for any NFL team: What if he gets hurt?
There’s only one Tebow.
The thing is, Tebow also is a likable, charismatic young man whose rah-rah persona would be warmly embraced in Jacksonville, a college football suburb of Gainesville. He would be wildly popular, even beloved. He would become the face of the franchise ... for a while, anyway.
The Jaguars, who have been outscored by 109 points in five home games and are off to the worst start in franchise history, know all that. They know the upside. Yet they continue to show no interest in bringing Tebow home.
The Broncos didn’t want him, even after he -- along with a resurgent defense that kept games close into the fourth quarter, a soft schedule and some inexplicable late-game happenings -- helped them get to the playoffs last season. And based on what we have seen so far, the Jets don’t seem to have much on-field use for him this season.
But the Jaguars? His hometown team? With the worst offense in the league?
THEY don’t want him?
Hard to imagine.
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