We’re coming up on the 10-year anniversary of Tebowmania: Broncos Edition, and to commemorate that momentous occasion, the Jacksonville Jaguars plan to sign the quarterback-turned-minor-leaguer as a tight end. Never mind that it’s been nine years since his last regular-season game action (seven years since his last preseason game snaps).
Urban Meyer hasn’t officially made up his mind, but he’s strongly suggested that he plans to give his old Florida star another chance, and this time, about a decade too late, Tebow has finally come around to the idea of switching positions. “I said, ‘Guys, you don’t understand, now,’” Meyer told Cris Collinsworth. “‘This guy is, he’s the most competitive maniac you’re ever gonna talk to. And let’s give it a shot.’”
If you rolled your eyes at that, you just might work for any other NFL team outside of Jacksonville.
“I don’t understand the infatuation,” said one AFC personnel executive for another team.
“He is one hit away from getting his shit knocked out of him,” said one veteran scout, who said he gave Tebow the lowest possible grade for a QB when he scouted him. “But you have to admire his persistence.”
Defector reached out to six sources in various roles with teams around the league and all agreed that no other team would consider signing Tebow. “After 10 years? Hell no,” the AFC exec said. Most sources don’t think Tebow will actually make Jacksonville’s 53-man roster, but two sources said they do expect Tebow to make the team, but only to function as a source of comfort for Meyer. “Only because Urban probably wants him around, not because of talent,” said one NFC executive.
First-time NFL head coaches predictably fill up their roster and staff with players and coaches they have worked with before. It’s comfortable, it’s familiar. Especially for the hard-ass coaches, those loyal Culture Guys are necessary to showing the rest of the roster just how hard you want them to Do Your Job. Meyer has never coached in the NFL. He doesn’t have an NFL culture to collect and reassemble in a new city, so it’s really not surprising that he’s going back to 2009 to establish his vibe.
“It’s not all that different from coaches bringing in guys that are familiar with their system and the standard they want to set,” said one offensive coordinator. “See [Brian] Flores in Miami the first year, with the New England additions, both coaches and players. But it makes more news when it’s a 33-year-old switching positions that hasn’t played in years. Looks silly, but I understand the motivation behind it.”
Surrounding yourself with familiar faces usually doesn’t work as well as coaches think it does. Matt Patricia did this for three straight years in Detroit, and wound up with a roster of past-their-prime ex-Patriots, who weren’t good on the field, and also failed in their most important duty: convincing the locker room to like Patricia.
“We can’t help ourselves as coaches sometimes,” the offensive coordinator said. “There’s comfort in familiarity. But I would bet it rarely leads to more success if it was studied. I think success comes from adding the best talent and character you can, regardless of familiarity.”
“No one is going to listen to Tim Tebow at this point,” the AFC exec said. “If [Urban] wanted him as a leader, he should’ve hired him as a coach or player development assistant.”
It’s not that hard to see that this move would have nothing to do with Tebow’s potential as a tight end. The lone snap he ever played at the position came when he was on the Jets in 2012, and Meyer was only even in attendance for one of Tebow’s three workouts in Jacksonville. Meyer told Collinsworth: “He asked to see if he could work out with a couple of our coaches. I wasn’t even there. And they came back to me and said, ‘Wow, this guy’s in incredible shape.’ Then I went another time and watched them try him out. And they said, ‘Go work on these things.’ He comes back later. They try him out again, I’m not there.”
Sure, head coaches have a lot of responsibilities, but if this was actually about Tebow’s ability to throw some blocks, you’d think Meyer would find the time to show up in person to make sure Tebow can actually, you know, throw some blocks.
Meyer said that he has to make a decision on Tebow soon, and that his coaches told him they were impressed with Tebow’s, “ball skills” and athleticism, and that he looked like he was 18 years old, not 33. But ESPN reporter Jeff Darlington said this week on Get Up that “there’s a serious disagreement within the building about the idea of Urban Meyer signing Tim Tebow.”
“There are coaches on that staff who don’t wanna see it happen. There are also, in the same breath, those who are saying, ‘It’s not that big of a deal. He’s probably not gonna be on the roster Week 1.’ To which you would say, ‘Then why do it at all?’”
The Tebow and Urban reunion feels like it’s half Culture Guy move and half PR stunt to get fans invested in the rebuilding Jaguars. Most NFL sources Defector interviewed for this story agreed that nobody else is in the league is taking this potential signing seriously (and it’s possible the Jaguars aren’t either).
“He won’t likely be an every-down player,” the offensive coordinator said. “So he’ll have to play on special teams to be active on gameday. I don’t know if he’s fast enough, he’s 34 in August and he was never the fastest or smoothest athlete anyway. If anyone would have found a role for him, likely would have been Belichick in 2013. And he couldn’t stick there.”
Tebow only played QB that summer in New England, and he would hold firm in his stance to remain a QB, despite possessing the most bizarre throwing motion in the league. His slow and painful-looking javelin-style windup did not result in many accurate passes. When Tebow pivoted to baseball, Mark Dominik, who was the Bucs GM from ‘09-’13, tweeted that he had begged Tebow’s agent to sign him as an H-back, to no avail. The Patriots cut Tebow at the end of camp and he was out of the NFL for two years, until he joined the Eagles for training camp in 2015 and was cut again after four preseason games.
One offensive coach for another team agreed that Tebow won’t make the 53-man roster in Jacksonville, but said he doesn’t understand the outrage generated by this news. “No one has ever cared about the fifth or sixth tight end on a 90-man roster before,” the coach said. “If he wasn’t so polarizing, no one would bring up the fifth or sixth tight end that is losing a spot. If people took the time to watch the last TEs on rosters they would start to see taking a chance on someone like Tebow isn’t that big of stretch.”
As for what’s in all this for Tebow, it’s becoming pretty clear that the man never misses an opportunity to edge into the spotlight. If he can get himself on camera chatting with—excuse me, mentoring—future franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence during a preseason game, which will surely elicit a discussion about Tebow’s leadership qualities, then he’ll have accomplished his latest mission.