The Tebow Contingency

By: J. Scott Smith

On Monday, September 16, 2013 a group of Jacksonville Jaguars fans held a rally at 3:16pm to urge the team to sign free agent quarterback Tim Tebow. I can understand Jaguars fans being frustrated with the situation in Jacksonville because they have a real shot of joining the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs (0-14) and 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16) as the only teams to complete a winless season.  While I’m not a Tebow fan, if I’m Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, I’m signing Tim Tebow today and starting him at home against the Indianapolis Colts Week 4.  The reasons are simple: the Jaguars can’t get any worse and they will become immediately relevant.  Forbes named Tebow its most influential athlete in 2013 when he primarily played special teams.  Think of his impact if he returns to starting quarterback.

You think Blaine Gabbert is taking you to Promise Land?

I don’t hate Tim Tebow, but I hate Tebow fans and ESPN’s endless coverage when he played in Denver and New York.  Last season, Tebow made Mike and Mike intolerable to listen to as Greeny would spend entire segments talking about two inconsequential quarterbacks in Tebow and Mark Sanchez.  Tebow is the ultimate guilt by association character.  In general, he appears to be a nice, self-effacing, and hard-working player.  New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick stated in an interview by Boston Herald, “He’s great to work with, outstanding. Smart, works hard; football is important to him.”  The problem is Tebow just can’t play quarterback. Additionally, his religious views have made him a polarizing public figure.  Here are his 2013 preseason stats with the Patriots:

Preseason

Passing

Rushing

WK

Game
Date

Opp

Result

Comp

Att

Pct

Yds

Avg

TD

Int

Sck

Rate

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

1

08/09

@PHI

W 31-22

4

12

33.3

55

4.6

0

0

3

49.0

4

31

7.8

0

2

08/16

TB

W 25-21

1

7

14.3

-1

-0.1

0

1

0

0.0

6

30

5.0

0

3

08/22

@DET

L 9-40

0.0

4

08/29

NYG

W 28-20

6

11

54.5

91

8.3

2

1

4

83.7

6

30

5.0

0

TOTAL

11

30

36.7

145

4.8

2

2

7

47.2

16

91

5.7

0

His career stats aren’t inspiring either:

SEASON

TEAM

GP

CMP

ATT

CMP%

YDS

AVG

TD

LNG

INT

FUM

QBR

RAT

2010

DEN

9

41

82

50.0

654

7.98

5

50

3

0

58.3

82.1

2011

DEN

14

126

271

46.5

1,729

6.38

12

56

6

7

29.2

72.9

2012

NYJ

12

6

8

75.0

39

4.88

0

23

0

0

14.9

84.9

Career

35

173

361

47.9

2,422

6.71

17

56

9

7

33.4

75.3

I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a sign Tebow article?”  Yes, Tebow isn’t good, but match him up against Jaguars starter Blaine Gabbert:

SEASON

TEAM

GP

CMP

ATT

CMP%

YDS

AVG

TD

LNG

INT

FUM

QBR

RAT

2011

JAC

15

210

413

50.8

2,214

5.36

12

74

11

5

19.1

65.4

2012

JAC

10

162

278

58.3

1,662

5.98

9

80

6

4

39.7

77.4

2013

JAC

1

16

35

45.7

121

3.46

0

18

2

0

1.2

30.8

Career

26

388

726

53.4

3,997

5.51

21

80

19

9

24.1

68.3

 Or maybe backup Chad Henne:

SEASON

TEAM

GP

CMP

ATT

CMP%

YDS

AVG

TD

LNG

INT

FUM

QBR

RAT

2008

MIA

3

7

12

58.3

67

5.58

0

19

0

0

87.9

74.0

2009

MIA

14

274

451

60.8

2,878

6.38

12

67

14

2

50.7

75.2

2010

MIA

15

301

490

61.4

3,301

6.74

15

57

19

1

44.9

75.4

2011

MIA

4

64

112

57.1

868

7.75

4

41

4

0

64.7

79.0

2012

JAC

10

166

308

53.9

2,084

6.77

11

81

11

1

26.1

72.2

2013

JAC

2

28

44

63.6

277

6.30

1

30

0

0

36.7

88.9

Career

48

840

1,417

59.3

9,475

6.69

43

81

48

4

44.0

75.4

Compared to Gabbert, Henne looks like a pro-bowler, but neither quarterback is going to take your team to the playoffs.  The question is, why not sign Tebow?  I think the reason is the Jaguars don’t want to become a dog and pony show.  I’m sure Jaguars GM David Caldwell took the job to make the team a perennially playoff contender, not to become the ringmaster for the NFL’s new circus act.  But if I’m owner Shahid Khan, I want the circus!  Forget what makes football sense (as if anything the Jaguars are doing now does) and go with what makes business sense.  If GM Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley don’t like the move, they’ll either learn to like it or find new jobs!  In fact, why not go all in: Khan should sign Tebow and then draft Johnny Manziel for the greatest quarterback controversy in NFL history.  Now that’s instant franchise relevance!  

The Los Angeles Problem

Problem might be the wrong word here depending on Khan’s intentions, but the NFL wants to move a team to Los Angeles (or London) and Jacksonville is on the short-list of possible teams moving.  After buying the team in 2011, Khan reassured Jaguars fans that he was committed to Jacksonville. 

“I just want to share it with you, I’m totally committed to Jacksonville.  I’ll be spending most of my time really relating to the fans and developing the relationships. The rebirth, really, of the franchise in Jacksonville where we will win on and off the field.”

If Khan still wants to keep the team in Jacksonville, he’ll have to generate a larger and more excited fan base.  The Jaguars have not had a game blacked out since 2009, but that’s because the franchise has a history of buying unsold tickets at 34 cents on the dollar to avoid a television blackout.  Yet, the Jaguars cannot sustain a fan base in Jacksonville and will be moved if they cannot improve their brand.  Signing Tebow would undoubtedly be accompanied by a return to ESPN’s Tebow bonanza, which might provide just enough national attention to press the league to move the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the St. Louis Rams rather than the Jaguars. 

On the other hand, if Khan does wants to move the team to Los Angeles, signing Tebow could provide the type of national attention that Khan could hypothetically say to the NFL: “Look at the product we have. You’d be a fool not to want this in LA.”  There’s an extraordinary amount of money to be made in Los Angeles as demonstrated by the Dodgers being sold for over $2 billion just a year ago.  I would actually question his business acumen if he did not want to move the team to Los Angeles.   Te-Bowllywood doesn’t sound quite as appealing as Mannywood, but add “super” in front of it and you might have something to sell.  For Khan, it’s a win-win scenario.  Want to keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville? Show the league the community will support you.  Want to move the Jaguars to Los Angeles? Show the NFL you’ve got a product worth moving.  It’s just a matter of controlling the narrative.  So go ahead Mr. Khan, sign Tim Tebow, I could use a break from all the Johnny Manziel coverage.    

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J. Scott Smith is a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri. He is a co-editor of Repairing the Athlete’s Image: Studies in Sports Image Restoration.