Friday, January 09, 2009

Will Tim Tebow Turn Pro Or Stay In College?
Better Question: SHOULD He Turn Pro?

Should Tim Tebow stay at Florida or enter the NFL Draft?

I have laid this out before: Tebow can't do much more as a college player. National title? Check (twice, including once as a starter). Heisman? Check (one win, one 3rd-place finish).

Further, given what you read about what NFL scouts say about him, I'm not sure his draft stock improves with another year of college "seasoning." His NFL flaws will remain his flaws. (UPDATE: Not necessarily true. Florida's new QB coach is Scott Loeffler, who was the QB coach at Michigan and for the Lions -- OK, don't snicker; he knows what the NFL needs in a QB.)

And then there's the money: Sure, he won't make first-round money -- this year or even perhaps in 2010 -- but the endorsement dollars should be among the highest in the NFL. And if Tebow wants to support his father's ministry with his pro earnings, why put it off a year?

That said, there is an appeal to staying:

*If, in fact, he is not seriously considered a long-term NFL starter, why not just stay in college, where he is not only prolific, but beloved -- the poster guy for the sport.

*The endorsement dollars will still be there in a year, and the ministry can probably wait for it; they have waited this long.

*Finally, for all of his accolades and accomplishments, if Tebow returned, he would have the chance to cap an unprecedented career:

Another title? Another Heisman? How about an unbeaten season, which has never happened in Florida history?

How about status as the greatest college football player of all time? How about leading a team that would compete for status as the greatest college football team of all time? (USC '05 alert)!

The idea is hardly unprecedented -- it's not even unique for Florida. When the basketball team won their first title, Joakim Noah and Al Horford would have both been Lottery picks. Corey Brewer would have been a first-round pick.

But they all came back, for the chance to accomplish something special: Back-to-back titles, and status as -- arguably -- the greatest starting five of the modern college hoops era and -- inarguably -- status as one of the greatest teams/dynasties of the modern college hoops era. All that, plus a hell of a lot of goodwill for putting the game and each other ahead of pro dollars.

I'm sure it is tempting for Tebow to stay.

In college football, he is a god (no: not a "lower-cased god," like that creepy "Zombie Jackie Robinson" in the Gatorade "What Is G?" ads). In the NFL, he is a sideshow.

Opportunities for true, Mount Zeus immortality in sport are rare. There are probably only a dozen or so athletes ALL-TIME who qualify -- none in college football. Tebow could be It.

You could argue that he is already almost there -- one of the "all-time greats" in his sport -- even if his career ended now.

There are two telling tales from recent years:

*Vince Young: VY left early, after a transcendent season and championship-game performance, and that hasn't dimmed his place in college football's Pantheon any.

(More similarities: In addition to reaping tons of endorsement dollars that Tebow is likely to similarly create -- more, actually -- VY has run into problems in the NFL on the field, similar to what Tebow might face.)

*Matt Leinart: Leinart stayed all 4 years -- for much of the same reasons Tebow would stay: He loved college life. His USC team had the potential to be one of the best -- if not THE best -- ever. Win another Heisman. And it all ultimately collapsed around him, unfulfilled. I would argue that Leinart's star as a college football super-great dimmed, perhaps just slightly, by staying.

It is a complex decision.

I think that Tebow has nothing left to prove in college -- success came so early, so comprehensively and so exhaustively that his senior year seems superfluous.

And yet I think Tebow IS college football; how could he be one of "those" players who abandons it early? Particularly -- especially -- if there is no great demand for him in the NFL.

I will be torn either way he decides. I will be thrilled if he comes back -- it is almost overkill. (Almost.) I will support him as an all-time college football great if he leaves.

I can only imagine how difficult it is for him. His particularly unique disposition -- and I would say his disposition, of anything, is what puts him over the top as an all-time great -- is uniquely suited for a decision like this. He possesses an uncanny sense of clarity.

And yet in analyzing it here, there are simply no easy or obvious answers.

My prediction: I think he will come back to Florida for his senior year. And it will be mayhem.

-- D.S.

UPDATE: Allen Barra has a must-read in the Village Voice, and he details an NFL analogue for Tebow that I have mentioned here in the past: Donovan McNabb.


Drunken Loo said...

Could we get some HBS analysis on how Tebow is gonna be the endorsement king of the NFL?

Unknown said...

Let's not forget who probably stands in Tebow's way of a back-to-back title. The same team that shut down the glory prematurely bestowed on Leinart.

Please come back Tim, down here in Austin Mack and Co. like to win against the best around.

Cant freaking wait.

David Rohe said...

Completely agree with Joel, and on a personal note, I just need that guy off of FSU's schedule. So quit giving him reasons to stay!