TORONTO - For a guy who might not even be a first-round pick, Tim Tebow sure is getting a lot of attention.
More ink is being spilled on Tebow than the projected top 10 picks combined for Thursday’s NFL Draft.
Tebow, of course, is the former Florida Gator quarterback who became the first player ever to both rush and pass for at least 20 touchdowns in a season and to win the Heisman in his sophomore season.
But he’s much more than that.
He’s the lefty with the suspect arm, but bull-in-a-china-shop running style who played in a system far different than any NFL club employs.
He’s the outspoken champion of the pro-life, home-schooling and Christian ministries and who gives hundreds of hours of his time to the community each year. Tebow, who a prominent U.S. marketing company recently determined is more able to push brands than stars such as Brett Favre, Tom Brady or Tony Romo.
Where Tebow lands is anybody’s guess ... and a lot of people have been guessing.
Executives in Jacksonville — which could use the hometown product to sell tickets — New England, Philadelphia, Minnesota and elsewhere have all talked up Tebow.
As has former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, who last season with a straight face said he would take Tebow even over likely No. 1 pick Sam Bradford and other top signal-callers Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy.
“The big thing is he makes the people around him better. And he’s won,” Dungy said.
“I think he’s going to be a great player in the NFL.”
Ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, like Dungy a Super Bowl winner, famously said: “Tim Tebow is 250 pounds, and he’s the strongest human being that’s ever played the position.”
Indeed, Tebow looks like he belongs more with the guys who try to take the heads off of quarterbacks, not the ones who have to keep their heads in the huddle.
But for every Tebow backer, you’re likely to find two who don’t think he’ll be an NFL star.
Like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said Tebow “would never get on the field” and Miami Dolphins QB Chad Henne who said: “My judgment is that he’s not an NFL quarterback. I’ll leave it at that.”
Here’s a closer look at the cases for and against Tebow:
Why he’ll succeed:
— He’s got the size, football smarts and athleticism of an all-pro player. Though a different type of runner (not as fast, more powerful) compared to other hybrid quarterbacks such as Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick and Vince Young, he can be equally dominant on the ground.
— He is a proven leader and winner who teammates trust — two key traits many NFL quarterbacks lack.
— Tebow has been working on his throwing motion and the result has impressed NFL scouts.
— Tebow answered many of his critics with a spectacular performance at the Sugar Bowl. Tebow completed 31-of-35 passes that day and set BCS records with 533 yards of total offence and 482 yards passing. Only six Florida players have ever completed as many passes as Tebow did in that 51-24 win.
Not so fast:
— No matter how much he tinkers with it, his arm and throwing motion are simply not NFL calibre. If they were, he’d be a top 5 pick because he has got everything else. Arm strength, while not great, isn’t the main problem, it is his lack of accuracy and unfamiliarity with the drop-back game that draw questions.
— The list of great NCAA quarterbacks who belly-flopped in the big leagues is legion. A hundred touchdowns and a Heisman mean little now. Niners QB Alex Smith, who played under Florida coach Urban Meyer at Utah and has been compared to Tebow, has not been a pro standout.
— He was playing for a football factory and a brilliant coach, factors which conspired to make him far better than he would have looked elsewhere. Tebow played on stacked teams and against inferior opponents he could physically take advantage of.
— He took all his snaps in a spread offence, out of the shotgun, not from under centre. The learning curve will be steep. He likes to hang onto the ball for a long time and that will have to change in the NFL ... quickly. As well, he fumbled a lot of snaps in pre-draft training as he tried to adapt to pro-style offences.