Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Tebow’s Quest

I’m not surprised at all of the interest in Tim Tebow at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. Tebow has made a splash with the media since he was in high school and it continued in college. Winning the Heisman as a sophomore only extended his notoriety across the country. So when he announced he’d make the trip to “LA” the national media, the local media and every draft nick east of the Mississippi headed to Mobile.

“His footwork is bad, his motion is too long, and he can’t take a snap from under center. Plus he doesn’t have the arm strength.”

Next thing you know Tebow will have made a deal with the devil to get into the NFL. He’s by far the most scrutinized player in the history of the Senior Bowl. He’s a polarizing figure, with some adoring him and others looking for any crack in the “façade.” The fact is, he is what he is. He’s deeply spiritual, supremely confident and competitive and has won at whatever he’s tried.

When he fumbled six of the first twelve snaps at Monday’s practice, it was big news. Never mind that those snaps were the first he’d taken in nearly a month and they were from five different centers. And the other quarterbacks had the same difficulty.

I know ESPN runs the sports world these days. And if you have a voice on ESPN, it’s given plenty of run and plenty of weight. But as Tim said himself, it’s not about impressing 32 teams; it’s about impressing one.

When he talked with coaches, general managers and scouts this week, they all came away impressed. The “intangibles” he has when it comes to playing quarterback are off the charts. Leadership, confidence, commitment, all what every team is looking for. When they dissect his actual quarterbacking skills, Tebow comes up short of perfect.

Not many snaps from center in college and consequently not much experience in dropping back. A slightly long delivery where he drops the ball down to his hip while throwing is part of everybody’s focus. Can that be fixed? Byron Leftwich never did change that part of his game and he’s on the bench in Tampa after being a first round pick for the Jaguars.

The anticipation of what’s going to happen downfield is another part of the game that is different than what Tebow experienced in college. Can he change the things that aren’t up to par right now? Who knows? Tebow is a supremely coachable athlete and will do what he can to get it right.

Not that he’s guaranteed to be a success, but he’ll try as hard as anybody.

So do you draft him?

Only if you think he can play in the NFL. You only draft him in the first round if you think he’s a starter. You don’t draft him because he’s a great guy or because you think he can sell tickets. You draft him if you think he can start for your team.

So where does that leave the Jaguars?

Drafting in the tenth spot is a dicey situation anyway, especially this year. The top five or six guys you could call “can’t miss” players, but after that, you’d just as soon have the 20th pick than the tenth in order to save some money. You’d get better value.

I do know Gene Smith is high on Tebow in every regard, so much so that he said, “I wish my daughters were a little older.” But that doesn’t mean he’s a lock to be drafted by the Jaguars. I think if they have a chance to move down in the first round and a defensive lineman who they covet is already gone, taking Tebow might be a possibility.

Without a second round pick (they traded it last year for Derek Cox) it’s a little dicey but somewhere along the line they’re going to have to decide, “Do we pick him or not?”

And that’s when it’ll get interesting.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Wayne and Jack’s Gamble

“Accountability” was the theme Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver brought to the press conference this week. He rarely sits down in front of the media and cameras and answer questions “en masse” but Weaver thought it was important to do so after all of the speculation regarding his Head Coach Jack Del Rio.

Don’t get me wrong, Wayne never hides, but he doesn’t like to get in front of the camera and he likes to stay in the background. That’s one of the reason the fraternity of NFL owners picked him to head up the Jacksonville franchise. He fits their mold. But he’s always good in that situation and this week he was better than ever.

Weaver is a solid guy, self-made and very earnest when it comes to getting things right. I spent a lot of time with him during the run-up to getting a team (we went for a run in Chicago together the morning of the announcement) and he’s always been very straightforward. So when he talked about being “self-critical” and being accountable, I’m sure people sat up and listened. I know I did.

Weaver had taken more than a week to go through his organization to see what could be fixed. “The last seven years have been average,” he said. “And average is not acceptable.”

I tried to extrapolate that out to the conversation he had with Del Rio that morning (“all morning” according to Weaver) and came up with Wayne asking Jack to look around, be introspective and see what he personally could do better to get the team back on the way toward a championship. “I believe Jack is the right man to take us to the elite level,” Wayne said. “Fans will just have to trust my judgment when it comes to this decision.”

So I asked Wayne if he was talking about “accountability” that perhaps he could get Jack out there to talk to us. “Jack has a full schedule today,” was Wayne’s response. I pressed him a bit but it was obvious Del Rio was going to make himself available when he was ready. (Apparently he did talk to the Jaguars news partner, Channel 47 that evening, but with all due respect, their audience doesn’t encompass a big part of the Jacksonville community.)

So Del Rio wasn’t going to be around, the story still was Wayne’s vote of confidence in Jack and Weaver’s denial that money played any part in it. I was very surprised when Weaver said the USC job “never came up,” and pressed that issue saying that it had been reported that the process had gotten so far as Southern Cal sending Jack a contract. “I can assure you, he’s not going to Southern Cal,” was Weavers terse response. (It was funny that the Trojans moved directly to Lane Kiffin right after Wayne said Jack wasn’t available.)

So I went to the “Team Teal” event on Tuesday night at the stadium wondering what was next. Weaver was there, Carl Cannon, the head of the new Touchdown Jacksonville, Jaguars GM Gene Smith, local businessman Ed Burr and Mayor John Peyton. As the evening developed (a lot of fans stayed in the Bud Zone because it was a chilly night) I started to think that the whole thing might be a setup. Wayne was going to stop in the middle of his speech and re-introduce Jack as the man who was going to “take us to the elite level.”

But that didn’t happen.

Del Rio was nowhere to be found and if that wasn’t a big mistake it at best was a missed opportunity.

Del Rio’s popularity might be at an all time low here in town and he had a chance to come out and show his commitment, thank the fans and give a rallying cry for the upcoming season.

But that didn’t happen either.

I still can’t find the reasoning for Jack not showing up. I know the Jaguars communications staff was really pushing for Jack to do some kind of presser or at least make an appearance. But he refused. It’d be nice to give Jack the benefit of the doubt here, but without any information from him, besides some stonewalling and vanilla gloss-over, he shouldn’t get much of a pass here.




Bite your lip and put on a happy face for five minutes.


Make time.

Didn’t think it was important?

Arrogant and misinformed.

Sometimes you’ve just got to trust the people around you to help you make decisions that are important. Jack didn’t do that.

And it cost him.


Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Del Rio’s Future (For Now!)

It’s always quick when coaching changes take place. Pete Carroll said the offer from the Seattle Seahawks “came out of nowhere.” I’m sure Jim Mora Jr. thought the same thing when he was fired a week after the season concluded.

Carroll didn’t have much success in the NFL the last time around, but times change and perhaps he’ll figure out what he needs to do to run a professional operation this time around. (Remember, Seattle, the team that just fired their head coach, beat the Jaguars like a drum, 41-0 this year).

So as soon as the word got out that Carroll was interested in Seattle, speculation ran rampant regarding his replacement At Southern Cal. Somebody at ESPN put Mike Riley’s name up as a possible replacement and all of the sudden, Riley became the front-runner. No reason, except at Oregon State he beat USC this year and he’d worked in Southern California and for USC in the past. So the list started to grow and college administrators started to get anxious.

Riley signed an extension and said he wasn’t going anywhere. Steve Sarkasian, the former Offensive Coordinator at Southern Cal said they hadn’t called. Jeff Fisher and Chris Peterson said they weren’t ‘interested. So as the speculation moved down the list, Jack Del Rio’s name bubbled somewhere near the top. Part of the reason Jack’s name remains on the list is because he hasn’t taken it off by denying any interest. And he’s supposed to meet with Wayne Weaver on this week (Tuesday.)

Weaver isn’t going to get rid of Del Rio but he won’t keep him from taking the USC job either. I’m sure Wayne thinks his team is starting to take shape and there are several coaches who, along with Gene Smith, can make them a winner pretty soon. This isn’t like the LSU dalliance Jack had a few years ago. He has no leverage. He’s not getting a raise over the $5 million a year he’s making and at around .500, he’s not in demand anywhere. Wayne is probably going to get his money’s worth from Jack and if Del Rio is going to be interested in the Southern Cal job, Weaver will move on without a second thought.

While Southern Cal is one of the schools that doesn’t have to panic and put somebody in place right away to keep the recruiting season going, they don’t want to drag their feet either. Del Rio might be a good fit in Southern California having played there and has ties to the region and the school, but he’s not what stokes the fires of big boosters. His personality is very cool as opposed to Pete Carroll. He’s not a big glad hander. He’s a football coach and the pro game is suited for him.

All of this speculation won’t last long.
The whole process should be over in a day or two.

One thing that has come out of this though: Jack’s not real popular among the Jaguars fan base. Although I’ve been saying it for a while, his personality hasn’t grabbed anybody’s attention or sold any tickets. He’ll be tolerated if he wins, but nobody’s rushing down to the stadium to see Jack coach.

Perhaps the shame of it is that it’s so easy for any coach to be a superstar in this town.
They just have to be a part of this town as well.