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Monday, September 22, 2008

Tebow: NFL Wonder or Next UF Blunder?

The 6'3 240 pound Heisman-winning NFL prospect will have to make a decision soon on a senior year at Florida or an early entrance to the NFL. Barring a fluke, Tebow will surely be a top 5 pick in next year's draft and will be earmarked 'franchise quarterback'. So, is Tim Tebow the next great NFL quarterback prospect or just the latest in a long line of overachieving Florida quarterbacks that never pan out in the NFL? Fans and skeptics are already lining up to debate.

Tebow certainly puts up impressive stats in a tough conference, although it seems unlikely he'll top last year's Heisman performance. This season Tebow threw for a meager 137 yards against Hawaii, a team that traveled 5,000 miles to play them, 256 yards passing against a young Miami team and s paltry 96 yards against a very average Tennessee team. He has 118 yards rushing for the 3-0 Gators. Certainly not outlandish numbers. By comparison, Jake Locker of the 0-3 Washington Huskies threw for 103 yards against Oregon, 204 against undefeated BYU and 154 against undefeated Oklahoma. Locker has 163 yards rushing. So, with superior stats against superior competition, should Locker be a Heisman candidate and top 5 pick, too?

For Tebow to have a chance he needs to develop the ability to drop back and stay in the pocket, looking to pass. He thrives in the 'broken play' type of offense where he can air it out or run at will. Against today's athletic NFL linebackers he simply will not be able to outrun them and the punishment they inflict is what gives offensive coaches nightmares.

The franchise qb cannot be a runner first in the NFL. Just ask Vince Young, an athlete superior to Tebow who's still struggling to master the NFL passing game. Running quarterbacks can thrive in college but have a short NFL lifespan in the NFL. Michael Vick may be the only exception, but we'll never know. Maybe Tebow's best option will be to switch positions in the NFL, a reciever or tight end. He'd have to bulk up for the latter but he's athletic enough to make it in intriguing option.

Why is life in the NFL so fleeting for UF quarterbacks? Grossman, Leak, Wuerffel, Matthews; it's a who's who of gaudy college stats, but little NFL success. Are they just surrounded by better, faster playmakers in college? Are Florida coaches sacrificing the development of pass-first quarterbacks for the short term success of the broken play scramble? Has parity in the NFL revealed them to be simply average players? I mean, we've all seen Grossman play

The jury is still out on Tebow's NFL prospects. He seems to be a great candidate, but we've seen that before. We know he'll go early, we know he'll be a top pick. What remains to be seen is whether he is another one-trick pony from the Swamp or a Florida QB that finally breaks out of the pack to thrive in the NFL.

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