As with any NFL news -- be it free agency, the draft, various bounties, or anything else, the focus will eventually come around to one thing: How does Tim Tebow factor into this? And so it has become with Peyton Manning's journey through an NFL in which he doesn't have a team for the first time since early 1998. Manning spent a good deal of Friday and Saturday in the company of the Denver Broncos, who reportedly impressed the future Hall of Famer with their plans for the present and future. Manning then flew to Arizona, where he's currently hanging out with the Cardinals, who would very much like to forget last year's Kevin Kolb mistake.
That said, if Manning decides that the Broncos are his future team, what on earth happens to Tim Tebow? Nicole Darin, a sports anchor at WTSP-TV in Tampa, Fla., recently reported that Tebow was so "rattled" by Manning's visit with John Elway and the rest of the Broncos' brass, he decided not to speak with the media during any of the public appearances he's making in Florida over the weekend to benefit wounded veterans. Per Pro Football Talk, Darin took down her original tweet saying as much when Tebowmaniacs descended upon her by way of the interwebs.
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According to PFT's Mike Florio, Tebow has every right to be rattled. Florio wrote that according to a source with knowledge of the situation, the Broncos would most likely not keep Tebow and have him learn the finer points of the position from Manning -- more likely, Tebow would be traded. Or, at least the attempt would be made -- you have to imagine that the rest of the NFL watched the Broncos' 2011 season with rapt interest and wondered if whatever Tebow brings to the table is worth the fanaticism and fury of a fan base so bent on their Tebow love.
One organization that has already put its cards on the table is the Jacksonville Jaguars, and new team owner Shahid Khan. When he bought the Jaguars from Wayne Weaver in January 2012, one of the first things Khan brought up was his take on Tebow, the longtime Florida hero. Khan was in discussions to purchase the St. Louis Rams when Tebow was drafted in 2010, and he had conversations with Weaver about the ex-Florida Gator.
"You know something? I think I can tell you this. I had a long chat with Wayne that year. Obviously the Rams drafted Sam Bradford, and I was talking to Wayne then on what they ought to do. I should have an offline conversation with you, OK? I'm going to absolutely talk your ear off. Some of the stuff might not be politically correct, but I share your sentiment.
"I think, when is the next time Jacksonville is going to have an athlete like Tim Tebow? Coming from being raised in Illinois, I couldn't see Red Grange playing for anybody other than the Bears or Dick Butkus playing for anybody other than the Bears. I don't want to get into 20/20 hindsight, and God help us, the draft record has not been the best with the Jaguars."
The draft record aside, you'd have to imagine that if one NFL owner would see the benefits and push any possible disadvantages aside, it would be Khan. He's taken over a franchise that has been fighting for market share since it first played a down in 1995, and more often than not, it's been a losing battle.
Blaine Gabbert, selected in the 2011 draft, had a fairly disastrous rookie campaign, partially because the Jags have been a run-first team by necessity in recent years (which is to say, their receivers are primarily horrible). Gabbert came from a spread offense at Missouri in which four- and five-receiver sets were the norm, and to ask him to go from that to two-back play action and seven-step drops was a major schematic switch. Tebow, on the other hand, is a run-first quarterback who is still putting his passing concepts together. It would be a very interesting fit.
Manning still has some time before making his decision, but all reports indicate that he wants to make the call on his next team sooner than later, and it's to his next team's advantage that he do so before free agency starts on Tuesday. If that landing spot is indeed Denver, the Broncos will have to be very careful how they handle Tebow's possible departure -- if that is indeed the way it goes.
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