Having watched Tim Tebow’s presence simultaneously rattle, annoy and flummox the 2012 Jets, who had no real use for him, one might think that Monday’s news from NFL Network—that the Jaguars plan on signing the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner—could cause a little bit of acid reflux.
But the truth about Tebow’s third act, this time as a 33-year-old first-time tight end (this, after three years in the Mets’ minor league baseball system) is that it oddly makes perfect sense now. Despite all the clamoring from those who suggest that Tebow is some kind of gilded sports tourist or delusional retiree who can’t admit his glory days are behind him, there is absolutely no downside to the Jaguars’ signing him and letting him bound about during voluntary workouts. It may even be a tremendous advantage.
We’re not envisioning anything close to what Rex Ryan did back on that fateful afternoon when he decided to take a roster already steeped in chemistry issues and ego-management problems and add a global megastar still radiating from an improbable playoff victory in Denver. Whatever that fever dream was—think: the movie version of Taysom Hill—this is something as far away as the minor league baseball fields Tebow was toiling on during the past few years.
What is fair to say? Tebow will arrive at camp and immediately suck up all the extraneous media attention. He will be the story for a little while, despite the fact that the franchise just selected one of the most transcendent quarterback prospects of the last four decades. Someone who, even for a millisecond, can make Trevor Lawrence feel like he’s not melting under a microscope, is going to be worth whatever veteran minimum salary gets tossed his way.
Behind closed doors, Tebow can also provide a sounding board for Lawrence off the field. While all quarterbacks have experience with stardom, the pair share a kind of mutual flirtation with something beyond football. A kind of creepy, uberstardom that causes players to brush with even odder and more aggressive corners of the fan spectrum.
And if—a major if—Tebow somehow finds a way to exist on this roster, he is going to be relatively cheap labor. And he’s a player who has already proved his ability to function as part of a special teams unit. In our wildest dreams, in a first-and-goal scenario, he can ably take a shotgun snap and smash himself across the goal line (or throw a jump pass!), in lieu of putting the franchise quarterback at risk. The last one, we’ll admit, is dancing with the limits of reality at this point.
It's hard to understand the outrage over giving him a now-suddenly sacred 90-man roster spot. Coaches have wielded these things as irresponsibly as politicians filling ambassadorships for years. Friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends in this incestuous fraternity often find themselves with a pair of team-issued workout shorts and an odd-numbered spot on the numerical roster.
At its worst, this situation is no different: a guy who owes much of his career to another guy using some paltry means at his disposal to help the dude land on his feet somewhere. At best, Tebow can provide some modicum of return on Urban Meyer’s investment.
The difference between Tebow now and Tebow back when he was a member of the Jets is that he is harmless. It is a blend of stardom, experience and learned wisdom that you can actually bottle and use, not the kind that will accidentally spill out of its unlabeled beaker and melt the entire operation to smoke.
• Orr: Final Draft Grades: Analyzing Every Team's Picks
• Brandt: Rodgers and Packers Still in Fight for Control
• Breer: Ron Rivera's Expectations for Year 2 in Washington
• Report: Jags Expected to Sign Tim Tebow to One-Year Deal