It’s Tim Tebow time again in the NFL. The former star college quarterback signed a one-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being away from football for the last six years. The team is expected to use him as a backup tight end. When he last played in the league, Tebow had a brief successful run with the Denver Broncos and a significantly lesser one with the New York Jets. However, he attracted a large, passionate fan base and drew critics for his open displays of religious faith both on and off the field.
Since that time, he played Minor League Baseball with the New York Mets’ affiliate teams. Many NFL personnel groupings now think that a 33-year-old quarterback, who has never played the tight end position professionally, is not the best option for a Jaguars team that is coming off a season where they had the worst record in the league, at 1-15.
Many sports media personalities think reuniting Tebow with his old college head coach, Urban Meyer, is nothing but a publicity stunt to bring attention to the Jaguars’ organization. You would think the team wouldn’t need this since they just drafted their future franchise quarterback, in Trevor Lawrence, with the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite this, Jacksonville is eager to draw more fans to games this year than some other NFL teams would be. Two years ago in 2019, the team had the highest decline in average attendance, with just under 60,000 fans per game, in a stadium built to seat 67,000 people. Those numbers ranked them 27th out of 32 teams in the league. Last season, the Jaguars had the second-highest attendance in the league but, because of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, each team had much fewer fans at games than usual, with 13 teams having no fan attendance at all.
Looking at Tebow, the Jaguars are getting a well-known player who is from the Jacksonville area (which is a diehard Tebow fan base). Tebow played at Jacksonville’s Trinity Christian Academy and Nease High School in Ponte Vedra. At the University of Florida in Gainesville, he won the 2007 Heisman Trophy award, and he helped the Florida Gators win two BCS National Championships in 2006 and 2008. That alone helped him become an instant fan-favorite from local fans and others around the country.
Now, many wonder if Tebow can really play tight end and help the Jaguars at that position. The tight ends on the team’s current roster are basically a bunch of no-names — Chris Manhertz (12 career catches), James O’Shaughnessy (88 career catches in six seasons), and rookie Luke Farrell (Jacksonville’s fifth-round pick in this year’s draft). Typically, teams will carry three tight ends on their roster, and then there’s another open spot for one on the practice squad as well. If Tebow’s signing really is a publicity stunt, we have to look at how much the Jaguars are giving up by being involved in it. The team should not cut a better player, or put him on the practice squad, just because Tebow draws fan interest. However, the Jaguars don’t have great options at tight end, so giving Tebow a chance to prove he can play is worth a shot. The team has nothing to lose if it doesn’t work out, and they could then just cut him and move on.
Most successful NFL franchises don’t mess around with bringing in players just to make headlines and gain more fans. Instead, they tend to have the best 47 players (or 48 depending on how many lineman they dress) in uniform on game day ready to play. With Tebow coming back, it might cost a rookie, or an undrafted free agent, the opportunity to improve considerably in a year or two. The Jaguars must decide if Tebow is a short-term or long-term option for their team moving forward. That being said, it’s really hard to see him as a long-term option at tight end for Jacksonville. He could be used mostly as a weapon for gadget offensive plays, as well as on special teams.
Regardless, all head coaches like to bring in players whom they’ve coached before either through the draft, free agency, or trades. That way, the incoming players already know their coach’s expectations, systems, game plans, and philosophies. Meyer trusts Tebow and thinks highly of him. He looks at him as a team leader both emotionally and mentally. The former quarterback will be a good influence in the locker room, despite not being the most physically gifted athlete on the field.
Either way, whether Tebow’s NFL comeback to the Jacksonville Jaguars works out or not, sports radio will have a lot to talk about this upcoming NFL season. Many people who don’t normally follow the league will be watching to see if he can make it as a tight end.