After stepping up to the next level with a welcome-to-the-NFL gift — the selection of Trevor Lawrence as the No. 1 pick in last week’s NFL draft — new Jaguars coach Urban Meyer suddenly has a seemingly not-so-easy decision to ponder.
Tebow, 33, who recently chucked his baseball aspirations, wants to make an NFL comeback — and, after all these years, switch positions and become a tight end. He contacted the Jaguars last week and had a tryout. As far as we know, he hasn’t tried out for any other team. Just the Jaguars.
For 31 other NFL teams, it probably doesn’t go much further than a courtesy cup of coffee.
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Yet for Meyer, it doesn’t seem so simple. How do you say no to the former quarterback who helped you won two national championships at the University of Florida, the beloved figure who won the Heisman Trophy under your watch?
“It’s very simple: If we believe that Tim Tebow can help us win a game, then we’d look into it,” Meyer told USA TODAY Sports on Monday. “And we’re not there yet. If it happens, that’s our decision behind it.”
Meyer comes across as such a composed man, whose creative and wildly successful coaching talent is wrapped in ice-cold efficiency. But in this Tebow case, he’s already facing his first NFL test for putting sentimentality aside. Yes, it’s a cold business.
Sure, the Jaguars need a tight end. Of all of the boxes that Meyer and new GM Trent Baalke checked during the draft with their bushel of nine picks, they are still a bit lacking in the tight end department. Meyer will indeed reunite with Luke Farrell, the fifth-rounder who played for him for two years at Ohio State. Farrell, though, isn’t the next coming of Shannon Sharpe. He’s a blocking specialist (yes, there’s a need for that, too) with limited ability to work the seams down the field.
So, if there is a tight end on the street who can run routes, catch passes and block on the edges, Jacksonville might have a spot. It’s just that Tebow, for all of his size, athleticism and charm, has not proven to be that tight end. What, can anybody just sign up and play tight end in the NFL after a five-year layoff from football?
Why would the Jaguars invest the time in such a project when there are more worthy candidates who have played the position — like in college, maybe in the NFL, in the CFL within the past few years?
“Obviously, when you start talking about a position he’s never played, or hasn’t played in a while, that’s pretty tough,” Meyer said. “So, we’re reviewing everything.”
Meyer said he briefly discussed Tebow with staff members on Monday and that they will meet this week to presumably hash out the prospects. When Tebow worked out last week, Meyer essentially had a hands-off role; the workout was conducted by tight ends coach Tyler Bowen. Meyer, consumed by NFL draft preparations, stopped by and didn’t stay for the whole workout.
Interestingly, Meyer, who talked to Tebow in setting up the workout, maintains that he is only going so far in making the call on whether to sign Tebow, who happens to own a home on the same block as the one the Meyers purchased.
“I’m leaving that up to our staff,” Meyer said. “They’re the experts. Obviously, I know him as a person and as a competitor. I know all that. But the expertise to play that position, I have my own opinion. At the right time, I’ll share it. But I want to let the guys that actually work with him to give their opinion.”
In one sense, there may seem to be little harm in signing Tebow, putting him in the offseason program and seeing how things play out in training camp.
But this is Tebow that we’re talking about. Imagine the circus.
While the momentum mounts and positivity buzzes about the presence of Lawrence, whom Meyer said “stole the show here for 24-48 hours” after arriving Friday on Jags owner Shad Khan’s private jet for an introductory visit, Tebow would be quite the distraction. For what, a backup tight end?
Maybe the Jaguars could use a Tebow boost for ticket sales. I’d doubt it, with Lawrence and Meyer himself providing the marquee value for a franchise challenged to take a new spot on the NFL relevancy map. Meyer said it. It’s about winning. That would be the ultimate billboard statement, and I have a hard time believing that reveling in the past glory that Mayer had with Tebow will be the ticket to beating the Titans and Patriots.
Ah, the Patriots. Bill Belichick, creative and crafty, once had Tebow in for a whirl. It did not last. That was after Tebow had his shots as a quarterback with the Broncos (high point, playoff win), Jets and Eagles. There was the tantalizing prospect of maybe developing some sort of hybrid role for Tebow, maybe like something we saw the Saints create with Taysom Hill. Yet that was never really an option for the Patriots, especially the part about taking the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands in a critical situation.
The same thinking goes here. It can’t be about gadgets. Not when you are building a franchise around Lawrence.
Then again, Meyer, who knows better than probably anyone about Tebow’s magic, mania and impact, may be just the guy to try it.
And just the guy to take it hit if signing Tebow blows up in his face.