There was no use prolonging the agony. Whether it’s football or real life, sometimes it’s better to just pull the plug on a failed experiment rather than hope things will turn around in time.
Maybe if this was 2012 — after Bill Belichick cracked the Tim Tebow code and pretty much ended his quarterback career, flummoxing him by dropping eight defenders in coverage in the Denver Broncos’ 45-10 AFC divisional playoff loss to the New England Patriots — and Jacksonville’s most revered/criticized football player had made the conversion to tight end at age 25, it might have worked.
But in 2021, six years removed from an NFL camp and after giving pro baseball a shot with the New York Mets, it was clear Tebow could not defy Father Time or fool himself any longer.
Urban Meyer and the Jaguars could see once the pads went on in training camp, Tebow, though a respectable pass-catcher, was overmatched as a blocker and route-runner. His release Tuesday on the first wave of cuts was as much an act of mercy as a plain realization that every athletic journey has a finish line. Meyer certainly couldn’t afford losing some locker-room credibility by keeping him around.
When making a previously unscheduled appearance to speak with the media Tuesday after practice, Meyer made no effort to sugarcoat why the team parted ways with the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and his most indispensable player at Florida.
”We knew that it was an uphill battle for Tim,” Meyer said. ”Elite warrior, elite competitor, but he’s also 34 years old. Players loved him, locker room loved him, but it was the right thing.”
While Tebow naysayers will have their predictable I-told-you-sos, and even gloat over the Jaguars cutting him after 14 practices, this was nothing more than a long-shot that failed to cash in.
Longtime NFL tight end Kyle Brady, who played eight seasons with the Jaguars (1999-2006), nailed it perfectly after Tebow signed on May 20 about the tough odds he faced to make the 53-man roster.
Here’s what Brady told me: “Other guys have years of muscle memory. It’s like he’s going in there as a beginning belt and sparring with black belts. They’re masters of hand skills and balance and making contact with someone.
“Athleticism is huge. Playing quarterback, you’re not working on those skills. When you’re a beginner [at a new position], no matter what the arena is, that doesn’t usually end well.”
Tebow got excessively roasted for a love-tap block on defensive end Curtis Weaver — a play that went viral on social media — in Saturday’s 23-13 to the Cleveland Browns, which may have been some kind of last straw with the Jaguars’ coaching staff.
They had to know this experiment wasn’t going to pass the smell test before Tebow even suited up for that Browns’ game, but seeing that play served as a reminder that cutting Tebow might also have been about the safety of his teammates.
The Jaguars can’t afford to get players hurt bec ause Tebow doesn’t block properly. The practice tapes revealed what became evident to observers as training camp progressed: he was actually a better 30-something, Triple-A outfielder (.222 average, 18 home runs, 109 RBIs in 306 games) than an NFL tight end.
But let’s not act like there’s some kind of shame in that. How many athletes would dare even try making it in pro baseball after a decade-long absence? Or attempted to reinvent themselves at a totally new position, despite how passionately he once felt about playing quarterback, following a six-year football exile?
The fact is, a polarizing Tebow has endured plenty of slings and arrows for his strong Christian beliefs. He also fully understood by his unusual pursuit of an MLB career, then a second act as an NFL player, that he might subject himself to public criticism and accusations of being a spotlight chaser.
Still, Tebow didn’t care. Why? Because he knew he couldn’t ask so many people who look up to him – all those special-needs kids, the downtrodden and others he has tried to lift up in moments of despair — to take risks and dream big if he was reluctant to do the same thing himself.
What harm was done by Tebow flopping as an NFL tight end with the Jaguars? It’s not like he took up the spot of someone else that was going to make the roster. He didn’t become the distraction so many national pundits thought he’d be (Tebow wisely stayed quiet by not giving any interviews), largely because the shadow of Trevor Lawrence and Meyer was too big anyway.
Sure, the former Nease High star only got this chance to re-enter the league because he was the teacher’s pet and had proven himself to Meyer long ago as a leader and team player. Yeah, well how many people in the real working world have jobs or got interviews for plum positions because they knew somebody in an influential position? It happens all the time.
Any criticism of Tebow or the Jaguars for this failed experiment is just useless noise. Besides, he can still go back to his more lucrative job as an SEC Network college football analyst and resume his business of making the world a better place through various forms of philanthropy and helping people less fortunate than himself.
There’s no need for the most ardent Tebow fans to feel bad over the likely end of his athletic career. His legacy will be about so much more than football anyway.
Even if Tim Tebow had made it with his hometown team, nothing he might have done on the field would have likely been much more than a footnote in his richly abundant life.
So what if his time with the Jaguars evaporated in the blink of an eye and produced no highlights. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth a shot.
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