DENVER — “Why not Tebow?”
That’s what the giant sign flapping behind a plane high above EverBrank Field read during the Jacksonville Jaguars’ home game against Indianapolis Colts two Sundays ago.
If you hadn’t heard about that, it’s not shocking. Only 59,695 fans showed up to the stadium that day. That’s the second lowest attendance total for an NFL game this season — just besting this season’s lowest mark of 59,416, which was also set by the Jaguars.
By comparison, the Broncos are expecting a sellout crowd of around 77,000 to file in to Sports Authority Field this coming Sunday when they take on the Jaguars. But it’s not just a difference of 17,000 fans that we’re talking about here.
You see, when a team doesn’t sell out their stadium, the NFL blacks out the game’s broadcast on millions of regional TV sets. The threat of losing that many eyeballs is an empty one for a team like the Broncos, who are currently in their 44th straight year of selling out their home stadium.
Not so much in Jacksonville, where they’re celebrating a far-more-dubious streak: Four years without a broadcast blackout. In 2009, the Jaguars became the first — and still only — team to have one of their home games blacked out on local TV due to lack of attendance.
Why are fans bailing on the Jaguars?
It could have something to do with their 1-17 record in their last 18 games. It could also be due to the fact that they’re being predicted to lose their upcoming tilt against the Broncos by 28 points, making them the biggest single-game underdogs in NFL history.
In other words, the Jaguars are terrible — both on the field and off of it.
How much worse could they be if they added Tim Tebow?
At the very least, it seems Tebow, a Jacksonville native, could provide the Jaguars with a shot in the arm in the attendance department. At the same time, there is still an abundance of doubt about how much of a shot he could could give them to win games with his actual arm.
But here’s the question: Are the Jaguars’ current quarterbacks a better option?
As if it weren’t bad enough that the team’s preferred starter, Blaine Gabbert, has the lowest passer rating in the NFL, he also owns a personality that’s as compelling as a sock drawer. And with his double chin and penchant for staring at his feet during interviews, Gabbert’s less-talented backup Chad Henne isn’t exactly making any of the women of Jacksonville drool.
Over the past two seasons, neither quarterback has been good, and they’ve been even less marketable. Tim Tebow, meanwhile, owned the eighth-best selling jersey in the NFL last year — and he never started a game at quarterback.
Love him or hate him, there are three things you can’t deny about Tebow:
- The whole country has an opinion about him
- Jacksonville loves him
- He has an 8-6 record as a starting quarterback, and he won more playoff games in one season than the Jaguars have in the last five.
For a team that can’t sell tickets or win games, what’s not to like?
Apparently enough for Jaguars’ general manager David Caldwell to say “I can’t imagine a scenario where he’d be a Jacksonville Jaguar” earlier this year.
In spite of Tebow’s accomplishments, it’s not hard to imagine why Caldwell felt this way.
Three successful NFL franchises, the New England Patriots, the New York Jets and the Broncos, all came to the conclusion that Tebow wasn’t worthy of a roster spot, let alone a job as a starting quarterback. When he was cut by the Patriots this year, no other team signed him, suggesting the rest of the 29 teams in the NFL feel the same way.
So why should Jacksonville feel any different about Tebow? It’s a valid question. But maybe it isn’t the right one the Jaguars should be asking themselves right now.
Instead of asking if Tebow could make their franchise more successful, maybe the Jaguars should be asking themselves if he could make them any worse — because when you examine the Jaguars roster, it doesn’t look that different from the one the Broncos built around Tebow during his confoundingly-successful run in 2011.
At wide receiver, the Jaguars have a Demaryius Thomas-type in the sizable and fleet-footed Justin Blackmon. They also have an Eric Decker-type in sure-handed possession receiver Cecil Shorts. Both receivers appear to be young and athletic enough to chase down a few of Tebow’s infamous wobbly spirals.
At running back, the Jaguars have a Willis McGahee-type in the hard-nosed veteran Maurice Jones-Drew. Yes, Jones-Drew is having a down year. But so was McGahee until the Broncos inserted Tebow, whose rushing ability has a tendency to free up space that most experienced running backs are capable of utilizing.
And for as many bad positions as the Jaguars’ NFL-worst offense has put them in, the Jaguars defense actually isn’t that bad. Statistically, Jacksonville’s defense is better than three teams with winning records — including the Broncos — and just two spots worse than the Chicago Bears, who owned one of the NFL’s top five defenses a season ago.
All of that said, before the Broncos brought their band of misfits together under Tebow, their plan was seen as a long shot at best. And making a second bet on a long-shot isn’t exactly the most prudent of strategies.
But for the biggest underdogs in NFL history, why not take a shot on someone who has experience defying those kinds of odds?
Why not Tebow, indeed.