Tebowmania in Jacksonville won’t be short-lived with Urban Meyer calling the shots

Tim Tebow isn’t going anywhere, America. Get used to it.

He’s back, in yet another unique career twist. And thanks to Urban Meyer we are going to get to watch this bizarre experiment unfold not just for a matter of weeks, my NFL loving friends, but for the duration of 2021. That, undoubtedly, is where this is heading.

Unless he gets hurt, or decides to retire (again), Tebow Mania (or Tebow Fatigue) is on for the 2021 season. It’s real, it’s happening (again). And while it may be largely illegitimate, and while this latest attempt to indulge his football fantasies reeks of an obvious cash grab, don’t be fooled. This isn’t just about selling Tebow jerseys in the doldrums of May; it isn’t just about keeping the Jaguars in the news and trying to increase their brand during a down time in the football cycle; this isn’t just a short-term ploy. Meyer, like Tebow, his prized pupil, in his third or fourth reinvention himself, isn’t bringing Tebow in to be the 90th man on the roster for a few mere months just to whack his footballing prodigal son amid the annual purge of veterans around the NFL every September.

That’s just not how I see this thing ending. No matter how ugly it looks to the outside world as he now tries to master the tight end position in the most competitive football league on the planet having not played a regular-season game since 2012.

Meyer is doing this because Tebow is going to have some sort of ongoing function for this football team, based solely on their past together and due to Meyer’s college-tinged view of what his NFL coaching rebirth should look like. He’s not doing it because Tebow was in any way the best possible choice to buttress his roster and provide competition at a challenging position, both mentally and physically, which Tebow has never before played at any competitive level. He’s not doing it because he worked out a legion of top street free agents and Tebow was absolutely, positively, the guy for the job. Has nothing to do with any of that.

Meyer is doing it because he believes in Timmy and he believes this helps him sell his message in the locker room. Tebow is back in the NFL because his coach believes in the leadership a guy nearly 10 years removed from playing in the NFL can somehow provide. It’s bigger than football to Meyer. Yet at the same time the idea — as remote as it seems to many inside and outside that organization — that this coach can manage to turn a player who meant so much to him, so long ago, into some sort of asset that helps him win football games now, has real appeal to the coach, too. Such folly has fueled the ego of so many a coach. The reality that most of these vanity projects flop, dreadfully, let alone one as extreme as this, matters none to Meyer at this point. And, if at the same time you believe you can teach America some larger lesson about never giving up, then all the better (of course, the way many in the locker room are reading this transaction has a whole lot more to do with privilege and access and favor and fourth chances, and whom such opportunity is afforded to, and whom it is not).

Meyer can’t be bothered with any of that now, of course. He believes that Tebow embodies all that is right about how you live your life. He believes that can rub off on others. He truly believes that the ultimate try hard guy can help make the perpetually floundering Jaguars the Ultimate Try Hard Team. And, damnit there is no substitute for effort and belief and determination!! (Of course, effort plus talent is what is truly required at this level, but let’s not let that get in the way of a good parable).

You don’t just want Tebow embodying all of that during OTAs in the lazy days of May; it must be imparted through the fatigued practices of late November and the inevitable playoff push through December and beyond. That, invariably, is how Meyer is thinking.

No way is this coach bringing this “tight end” to Jacksonville just to be a human blocking dummy. Not possible. This coach is not bringing Tebow in merely to provide one more camp body to try to have enough guys to somehow get through the grind of a training camp under the sweltering Florida sun. If you think this is really the 90th man on the roster, you are missing the entire point. You don’t delay the announcement of the signing of the 90th man until you have enough jerseys and swag ready to meet what you anticipate to be insatiable demand for such items from the legion of Florida Gators fans around Jacksonville (and anywhere you can purchase online), just to crush everyone’s dreams (and kill the gravy train) come Labor Day.

“There is one guy in the NFL who would even think about doing this,” said one NFL personnel executive. “And he did it. Because he can.”

“It’s crazy,” another team exec said, “but if you know anything about the relationship between Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow, it’s really not surprising.”

Let’s be real clear here — this franchise is entirely in Meyer’s hands now. He quickly amassed Belichickian levels of control of this organization, owner Shad Khan gave him whatever he wanted when he hired him, and no one is going to tell him he can’t keep Tebow around as long as he likes. And, if it’s very good for the bottom line of what is perennially one of the lowest-revenue teams in the entire league, and it plays well with the folks out at Jags UK (London’s team just added a new footballer, mate!), well, all the better!

If not for the pandemic, you very likely would have seen Tebow in a Mets jersey for September call-ups last year, as ridiculous as that would have seemed to many. There was no baseball upside for that deal; yet plenty of financial. He got that close to living out the impossible; I am to believe Meyer will now preclude him from fulfilling something perhaps even more implausible (on its merits)? Don’t think so.

I heard from numerous sources that several of Meyer’s Ohio State players wanted nothing to do with signing to play for him as undrafted free agents. They’d had enough of him and his program and how it would work in the pros. In Tebow, Meyer has the perfect spokesman; a global figure of sorts who will vouch for whatever the coach does and any and all methods employed. He’s the perfect vessel in that regard, worth noting as well.

What if it is a total disaster, you ask? This is, after all, a soon-to-be 34-year old former minor league baseball journeyman, former failed NFL starting and backup quarterback and you have to go all the way back to 2007, and his Heisman year under Meyer at Florida, to find him at the top of his game. What if he is dropping everything thrown his way and doesn’t grasp the route concepts?

So throw it to him less. Make him a fullback. Design more stuff that suits what he can do (however limited that might be). Us football laymen can’t comprehend the impact he is undoubtedly making on the scout team, anyway and how he’s helping this staff adopt to the NFL in myriad ways. Again, it can always go beyond football and beyond the X’s and O’s and even beyond productivity and ability; if it was just about that he’d never be signed like this in the first place.

If there is room for Tebow among the 90 men on the roster now, especially for a rebuilding team with a suspect roster, you can be damn sure that there can still be room for him on a 53-man roster a few months from now. As with many things Jaguars-related since this coaching hire was announced, a fair amount of skepticism is warranted. Eyes are rolling around the league at Jacksonville, again.

Maybe Meyer and Tebow will prove the nonbelievers wrong. But if you think this is a fair fight to make the team, well, shame on you. And if it backfires in the locker room and ends up being far more trouble than it’s worth, and is a little too close to Chip Kelly territory for the NFL, well, Meyer wouldn’t be the only college lifer to struggle to make this jump.

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