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Someone get Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on the phone. Patch him through to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Then have Rendell give Crist a tutorial on why politicians should keep their yaps shut when it comes to formulating an NFL draft plan.
I'd give anything for this to happen, especially after Crist came out Monday and said he had actually talked to Jacksonville Jaguars ownership about drafting Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. You'd think elected officials had something better to do. Or at the very least, that they would have learned their lesson from Rendell, who as then-mayor of Philadelphia famously incited a near insurrection while lobbying the Philadelphia Eagles to draft Ricky Williams(notes) in 1999. The team took Rendell's sage advice into account and selected Donovan McNabb(notes) instead. Thanks anyway, Ed.
Not surprisingly, Crist's opinion on Tebow dovetails very nicely with that of his constituency. But why was anyone asking Crist's opinion in the first place? Has he been breaking down film in the governor's mansion with Jags coach Jack Del Rio? Are he and Tony Dungy exchanging draft strategies on MySpace? Or is Crist merely talking out of his rear end, hoping that one wildly popular player can save one of the NFL franchises that his state seems destined to lose? Whatever it is, Crist has definitely convinced me of one thing: Tim Tebow needs to get the hell out of the state of Florida.
That's right. As soon as the season is over, Tebow needs to pack a parachute, get over the Georgia state line, and make like D.B. Cooper. It will be better for his NFL career, which cannot possibly stand the weight of expectations of northern Floridians. The guy was a high school legend and he nursed the University of Florida from its post-Steve Spurrier hangover. Now the governor hopes he can save the local NFL franchise, too. Seriously? I don't think Moses and the Israelites shared such an obsessed and needy relationship as the one between Tebow and the state of Florida.
I can tell you what will happen if Tebow stays in Florida. Fans will expect immediate greatness. They won't stay patient and wait for what is likely to be a protracted period of development if Tebow does indeed play quarterback at the next level. And when Tebow struggles – and he will struggle – they'll point a finger at the franchise and wonder who is damaging the kid's shot at NFL greatness.
Go back and look at Doug Flutie's first stint with the New England Patriots. I have friends in Boston who developed a fanatical infatuation with Flutie during his days at Boston College. And they will go to their grave with bitterness in their heart about Flutie's failure with the Patriots from 1987-89. To them, then-coach Raymond Berry didn't know how to use Flutie's talents correctly, and the Patriots ruined what could have been a Hall of Fame career. In truth, Flutie's physical makeup just never translated well to the NFL game. He would never have lived up to his Boston College fame, and playing under wildly inappropriate expectations with the Patriots did Flutie no good at an embryonic stage in his career.
Tebow is going to be in a similar situation if he lands in Jacksonville. If the process was done correctly, he'd sit and develop for a number of years behind current starter David Garrard(notes). A reality that would be ironic in itself, since many talent evaluators would consider Tebow to be an NFL success if he even reached the point of playing as well as Garrard. But the catch-22 is that Tebow's existence on the Jaguars roster would only undermine the process. If Jacksonville got the spike in ticket sales that it would expect, those same fans would in turn expect to see Tebow playing football. Not in 2012, when his passing skills would be polished, but as soon as the Jaguars struggled in 2010, if not immediately. And that would be bad for Tebow, Garrard, Del Rio and the entire franchise.
The reality is Tebow needs to get outside of the worshipping bubble that has cradled him for so long, much like Vince Young(notes) needed to get out of the state of Texas when he left college. Tebow's got a long and trying period of development ahead – undoubtedly the most difficult of his football career. And there are already enough expectations that come along with being a highly drafted quarterback. Tebow could use a few years playing the part of a sheep, rather than step into the NFL and be expected to lead an entire state flocking behind him.
Here are some of this week's other inconvenient truths …
Weis joining the Bears makes little sense
To be more accurate, Charlie Weis joining the Chicago Bears as offensive coordinator makes sense for only one man: Charlie Weis. I had to chuckle a bit when I first started hearing Weis, fired last week by Notre Dame, would be interested in the coordinator post currently manned by Ron Turner. Um, yeah – no kidding. Such a job would be a win-win situation for Weis, and nothing but trouble for the Bears.
Here's why: Weis wants to be a head coach in the NFL. Don't kid yourself with this coordinator stuff. Despite his ultimate flameout at Notre Dame, his grand plan is to preside over a pro team – and sooner rather than later. He knows if he goes back to the Patriots, he is plugged back into the system that once again stifles his ability to command a spotlight. Even if he went back into the Patriots' machine and had a great deal of success, critics would question whether it was a function of Tom Brady(notes), and whether Weis was simply a product of talent and scheme. And those are the kinds of questions that tend to strand coaches in coordinator positions. Weis risks getting locked back into New England for a minimum of three or four years, and two league sources close to Weis say that's not on his agenda.
Also keep in mind that Patriots assistants are to be seen and not heard. Weis may have been a high-profile head coach over the last few years, but that won't matter in New England. He'll vanish publicly within the walls of that organization, just like everyone else. And he'll once again be put into the position where he can't escape to another head coaching job in the NFL without Bill Belichick playing some kind of role in the decision. Aside from Eric Mangini's jailbreak from the Patriots, which got him excommunicated from the clan, that's the code New England coordinators are expected to follow. So if Weis can avoid putting his head coaching future back into Belichick's hands, he will.
That brings us back to the Bears. The Chicago media can talk about the benefits of Weis' son being able to graduate from high school in South Bend and his wife remaining entrenched in her charitable endeavors in the area. But Weis is no dummy. He knows that Bears coach Lovie Smith is on shaky ground in 2010. And if Smith gets the axe, there is a very good chance Weis could be in line for that job if he shows some progress with quarterback Jay Cutler(notes) and the offense. If it sounds Machiavellian, well, welcome to the ambitious world of NFL coaching.
And I can't believe that Smith would stand for Weis being hired, anyway. He's too smart to be the guy who walks a threat to his own job security into the front door. You can bet if Weis does land the coordinator job in Chicago, it will ruffle some feathers behind closed doors. At the very least, it would be a signal that Smith had lost a major battle internally, putting him closer to the firing line.
The termination of revenue sharing is a staggering development
It was remarkable how little fanfare the potential termination of NFL revenue sharing received last week. It could be argued that in financial and competitive terms, the revenue-sharing program ranked second to only the salary cap in its ability to impact the league. Yes, it might be that important. Now we all understand why Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was blasted with a six-figure fine in September when he suggested this was coming.
While fans might look at the $100 million a year program and think that's an insignificant amount, it's a big deal for struggling small market franchises and teams with archaic stadiums. These are the teams that feast on the revenue pie. For those who don't understand, in simplified terms, the revenue-sharing program takes money from teams with massive amounts of stadium revenue, and shares it with the teams that had little. Essentially, the top half of the NFL in revenue sharing subsidizes the bottom half on a sliding scale, with "needier" (I use that loosely) teams getting more of the revenue-sharing pie.
It has undoubtedly chafed the rear ends of guys like Jones, who took a massive amount of risk building his new billion-dollar stadium, and who doesn't want to share the profits from that risk with teams that can't get their own stadium and revenue issues sorted out. Teams like the Minnesota Vikings, who according to a recent report from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, could lose as much as $15-$20 million annually with the termination of the agreement.
So why is it a problem for fans? Well, for financially rich, big market teams, it isn't. If your love is for the Cowboys, Patriots or Washington Redskins, you're in great shape. But for the teams whose facilities are falling apart (the Vikings, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, etc.), or teams that are struggling to support themselves in their markets (the Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, etc), it could mean multiple problems.
The most obvious of those problems is location. Termination of this agreement is going to tacitly encourage financially struggling teams to pick up and move. For example, it makes the Vikings less likely to stick around in Minnesota and hope their stadium issues can be worked out. From the competitive standpoint, it makes some of the smaller revenue teams less likely to spend money in free agency. And with the salary cap likely vanishing, it threatens to create more of an imbalance on the field than ever before. Big market, big stadium teams could theoretically dominate under these conditions.
Of course, all of this is just theory. But years from now, we could look back at this as one of the tipping points – one of the major dominoes falling at a critical time – that changed how the NFL is run. Think back to the Eddie Debartolo era of 49ers. This promotes that kind of kingdom. With the salary cap on its way out and the revenue sharing dead, the league is on its way to becoming one with four or five franchises dominating the talent and revenue pool, and everyone else struggling to keep pace in any way they can. In a season where the league is already lacking in parity, that's bad news for about 20 franchises.
- Charlie Weis
- Tim Tebow
- Doug Flutie