JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was always a long shot.
Tim Tebow hadn’t played football since the preseason in 2015. In between that time and signing with the Jaguars earlier this year, Tebow played minor league baseball, worked as a TV analyst, focused on his thriving foundation and zeroed in on a very noble cause to end human trafficking.
A return to football was a ridiculously long shot, one that he certainly didn’t have to attempt, and one that ended on Tuesday morning when the Jaguars waived the iconic former Florida Gators and Nease High School quarterback.
Urban Meyer and Tebow brought out the best in one another in college at Florida. Meyer won two national championships with the Gators, the first with Tebow as a backup to Chris Leak in 2006, the next with Tebow as a starter in 2008. Tebow attempted to make a position switch in the NFL, going from quarterback to tight end under Meyer.
Maybe, just maybe, it could work, right?
Jacksonville’s tight end talent is the worst in the league, and Tebow’s connection to Meyer meant something.
With those two things working in his favor, Tebow still couldn’t make the cut from 90 to 85.
And that’s not a knock on Tebow. It was a long shot. It didn’t work out.
“We knew that was an uphill battle for Tim,” Meyer said on Tuesday. “Players loved him, locker room loved him, but it was the right thing.”
Tebow’s Jaguars debut, one that fans had begged for since the Broncos put him on the trade market in 2012, came nine years too late.
But it did make for an exciting few months in a town full of passionate Tebow fans, of which there is no shortage of. Tebow grew up here. Played high school football here. Became a college football legend not far from here in Gainesville. And he’s done more off the field than he ever did on it, which is a testament to his philanthropic spirit away from sports.
It just wasn’t meant to be.
Tebow was trying to learn a new position in roughly four and a half months. In last Saturday’s preseason opener against the Browns, it was clear that Tebow had miles to go just to not be a major liability. Meyer said his struggles on special teams were a big reason why Tebow was one of the first five players to be cut from a 90-man roster that needs to get down to 53 by Aug. 31.
When News4Jags spoke to former NFL tight end Kyle Brady not long after Tebow’s signing, he expressed doubts that there would be enough time for him to learn the position.
Brady said that wiggles and cuts and blocks should be muscle memory for NFL tight ends at this point in their career. Tebow was trying to learn that on the fly.
He just turned 34. He hadn’t played the sport in six years. He had never played the tight end position. On the field, Tebow looked like a football player. He looks like a man who hasn’t missed a day in the gym.
But when it came down to the nuances of playing tight end … the blocking, the catching, the reflexes … it was a switch that Tebow just couldn’t make. It was a far greater challenge than Tebow’s transition to baseball, which he hadn’t played since the spring of his junior season at Nease in 2005.
Tebow had an open tryout in 2016 and wound up signing with the Mets in September of that year. He spent 11 years away from baseball before getting back in. And you can make the case that four years in the Mets farm system wasn’t the disaster that many people had expected.
But comparing affiliate level baseball (Tebow played Class A to Triple-A) to the NFL isn’t comparable. Minor league ball is filled with players who never reach the highest level. The NFL is the best of the best.
However much of a long shot it was, it was a few fun months for fans in Jacksonville. The franchise got a franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence and fans got to see Tebow in a Jaguars jersey.
It was fun while it lasted.
And Tebow’s athletic journey that began in full view in the fall of 2003 as a sophomore quarterback at Nease likely ended for good on Tuesday morning. There’s plenty still ahead for Tebow.
It just won’t come in a Jaguars jersey on Sundays.
“I would guess it is [the end], you know, we didn’t get that deep with it, obviously he’s his own man,” Meyer said. “Really elite warrior and elite competitor, but he’s also 34 years old. … [He handled it] great. Great. We talked last night we talked again this morning, as I did with the other [cut] guys.”