In a conversation this week, I had a couple of Jaguars fans tell me they thought that Head Coach Urban Meyer was “calculating.”
“That’s a good word,” I told them.
It really does seem to be part of Meyer’s personality, and one of things that, to me, is unappealing.
But that calculating trait can’t be overstated on the plus side when it comes to potentially signing Tim Tebow this week. Meyer said yesterday after the rookie camp practice that the staff would meet today to decided what to do with Tim. Which for the Jaguars, Meyer, Jacksonville and Tim, signing him to a contract would be a good thing.
All of the animus toward Tebow, Meyer and the Jaguars comes from the outside. It should make those of us who live here, and especially those who have covered the NFL laugh out loud.
How often was Bill Parcell’s lauded by the media for bringing ‘his guys’ along to whatever team he was coaching at that point. Dave Meggett, Keith Byars and even Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe were among those added to Parcell’s rosters in his four-team, nineteen-year NFL coaching career. They got his message across in the locker room.
Putting Tim on the team isn’t about what he can contribute starting September 12th, it’s about what he can contribute between now and the opener on September 12th.
It’s been hilarious to hear all of the angst and the so-called ‘experts’ weighing in on Tim’s chances and his potential ability as a tight end. Anybody who’s been around Tebow knows he’ll give it his all and see what happens. He’s had a baseball career, he’s been in broadcasting and he still wants to be a football player. In Jacksonville, in the NFL.
He might make the team, and he might not. But bringing him in is a calculated, correct move.
He and Meyer are tight. I’ve been in enough situations with both of them to see the two of them together after practice, walking down the hall after a big victory, standing behind the wall together waiting to enter a press conference to see it.
It’s not your typical player-coach situation. Tim is committed to Meyer and will do what he’s asked. He’s not taking a roster spot from anybody. His chances to make the team are about the same as any other ninetieth player on any NFL training camp roster. He is in the right situation for this team at this time with this coach.
We all also know that the perception of Tebow outside of the people who know him is very different than who he actually is. His commitment to evangelizing his faith can be a turn-off to some but he’s about as straightforward a person that you’ll ever meet.
I was at the Super Bowl a couple of years ago with Peter King, the well-known NFL writer, when he turned to me and said, “I just spent an hour with Tim Tebow.”
“How’d that go,” I asked.
“Is that real,” Peter said, walking down the hallway, knowing I’ve covered Tim and gotten to know him well over the last twenty years.
“You mean who he is?” I replied.
“Yeah, he’s the most earnest and honest person I’ve ever talked with. Is that an act?” he asked, clearly astonished.
“No, that’s who he is,” I said with a chuckle. “It’s not an act, he’s as transparent as it gets. He talks it, but he also walks it. Nothing hidden there.”
“Amazing,” King said as his voice trailed off.
And don’t think Meyer hasn’t thought about the amount of media glare that can be deflected off his new quarterback by putting Tebow on the roster. If Tim’s not there it’s Trevor Time, all the time.
With Tim there, he’ll take some of the media heat just by being. And the amount of media that will be around the Jaguars this summer will be nothing new for Tebow. That’s been his life since leaving high school. Trevor has dealt with a lot of that already, but if he needs any advice on that front, he should look no further than his own locker room to the guy wearing the number one less than his.
Occasionally you’ll hear a coach talk about his own team in terms of the “top” or the “bottom” of the roster. Players are ranked within their own team according to their contributions, usually on the field.
If the Jaguars have ninety players on their roster when training camp opens, it might be fair to say that Trevor Lawrence is at the top of the roster, and perhaps Tim Tebow, about to turn thirty-four years old and five years removed from the league, is at the bottom.
If Tim is the ninetieth player on the roster, what’s expected of somebody who fills that spot? There have been fourth or fifth-string tight ends who have been the ninetieth player on the roster before. They’ll get reps, play scout team and get a chance to show what they can do. Sometimes they make it. Keenan McCardell might have been the ninetieth player on the Washington roster when they drafted him in the twelfth round in 1991 out of UNLV. McCardell went on to become a starter, a Pro Bowl player and won a Super Bowl ring in his seventeen-year career.
Tebow will do all of the things that the ninetieth player on the roster is supposed to do, hustle, fill-in, get a few reps and show what he can do.
But he’ll check a lot of boxes that no other 90th player on any team will. Tebow is on the Jaguars because of his previous relationship with Head Coach Urban Meyer. That’s not new nor is it news. Happens all the time. Especially in the NFL.
Meyer is the coach in Jacksonville and Tim is from here. It’s the only confluence of events that could put Tebow back in the NFL nearing his 34th birthday. Don’t expect Tim to have those locker room exhortations you’ve seen matriculating around the internet from his college days. He’s had success, he’s had failures, he’s gotten married, and he knows the kind of environment that exists in an NFL locker room.
He’ll go about his business, but most importantly, he knows what Urban Meyer expects from the players on his football team. He’s lived it and just by being there and doing, the other players trying to make this team will take their cues on how to get it done.
Does Meyer like it when you show up a half-hour early or does he think that’s patronizing? Does he want two extra reps or four? Tebow has all of the answers to those questions just by being part of the grind.
There were a full group of rookies at their first minicamp as Jaguars yesterday. I’m sure all of them were fast, motivated and trying to shine. But nobody can tell you much about most of them.
They can tell you how Trevor Lawrence walked onto the field, how he put his helmet on, how he took it off, how he drank water and oh yes, they can tell you how he threw the football from the quarterback position.
The answer to that is very well.
Here’s another place I agree with Urban Meyer: You can watch all the tape you want but there’s nothing like standing near a quarterback to see and hear how the ball comes out of his hand.
There’s a singing sound that comes off the ball when somebody can really “spin it” in the modern-day vernacular. You don’t hear that very often and very rarely have we heard that at Jaguars practice.
“It was really good”, my colleague and friend Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com said with a laugh. “He was limited in his throws (Thirty to forty according to Meyer) but when the ball comes out of his hand, it’s crisp.”
“He’s as good as advertised, on target and on the money,” my trusted colleague here at the Times Union, John Reid said after practice.
Then John gave the assessment of seeing thousands of footballs thrown in practice that only comes from an experienced reporter’s career.
“It comes out spinning and it’s accurate,” John said. “The ball is there when the receiver makes his cut. He doesn’t have to wait on it and it hits him right in the numbers.”
“Oh yeah,” DiRocco agreed. “It’s very different than the quarterback stuff we’ve seen here in the last couple of years. Spinning, crisp, rollouts, drop-backs, didn’t matter.”
In other words, that thing ‘sings’ coming out of his hand. And there was one more thing both Mike and John wanted to relate:
“He looks the part,” Mike said alluding to the whole package of quarterback and first pick overall. “We’ve seen something different before, this was something totally different.”
“He’s got that persona,” John added. “He went from one drill to the next with no problem. He’s the tallest guy out there, he looks big time. He has the intangibles. He’s cool and composed, like he’s done this before. He has the presence of a leader.”