Coaching Staff Deserves Blame, Tebow Shouldn't Have Been Put In Jeopardy

John NeumanCorrespondent ISeptember 27, 2009

LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators is tended to by head coach Urban Meyer (R) and staff after Tebow was sacked by Taylor Wyndham #94 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the third quarter of the game at Commonwealth Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

First off, I want to say that I am a huge Urban Meyer fan, and I have always been a huge supporter of everything that he does from the way that he carries himself, his competitive spirit, and the way he represents the University of Florida.  I was a fan of him getting hired before 2005 and I knew he would take UF to the promise land when some called his first contract ‘The Urban Meyer Project’, after the firing of Ron Zook, but I would not have been a fan any longer had Tim Tebow suffered a season, or even worse, a career ending injury on the hit he took from Kentucky’s Taylor Windham late in the third quarter on a mild evening under the lights at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.

Last night was one of Meyer’s low points as the head football coach of the Florida Gators.

First off, everyone knew many of the players on the team were extremely sick with the weeklong flu that had been going around Gainesville.  Some players were so ill that they had to fly a private charter over to Lexington at the last minute – including Tim Tebow.

When Tebow was suited up and walked into Commonwealth Stadium, just by looking at his face, he appeared to not look right and it was obvious he was very ill.

Some of the notable players who were also ill were Joe Haden, Major Wright, Riley Cooper, Jeffrey Demps, and the Pouncey twins, Michael & Maurkice, who were hurling on the field prior to the start of the game.

With that in mind, the two options you would think the coaching staff would be faced with would be whether or not to sit Tebow completely, and start John Brantley, or, play Tebow until the game was out of reach then sit him down.  The team did neither.

Instead, the coaching staff decided to risk the entire season and made the selfish decision to put the best quarterback in the history of college football in harm’s way for a game that was all but over.

The Gators came out storming and put 31 points on the board in the first quarter.  The Kentucky fans were in complete disappointment and shock, and the Gator’s fight song and a section of UF fans and locals rooting on ‘the boys from old Florida’ was all that could be heard.  The game was over.

This was a game that Brantley could have completely managed and easily won with the talent of the defense and the running attack.

Instead, the team called multiple rushing plays with Tim Tebow, where he took hit after hit after hit.  Tebow rushed the ball 16 times – as many carries as some running backs get the entire game.  Tebow wasn’t just in harm’s way, he was lowering his shoulder and taking and dealing punishment.  How quickly the coaching staff already forgot the dangerous collision the previous week with Tennessee safety Eric Berry.  Except this time he was sick.

The game was out of reach in the second quarter.  As I was watching, I was thinking not if, but when is John Brantley going to enter this game.  And then Tebow came back out.  And the coaching staff continued to abuse him and call running plays.  Why not just hand off to Demps, Rainey, or Moody?

The law of averages caught up.  Except this time it was a passing situation.  Tebow dropped back and before he could even gather himself Kentucky defensive end Taylor Windham came on the blindside on an outside blitz and led with his helmet and buried him on the upper chest and his momentum carried him backwards where his neck contorted in an ugly manner and slammed into the back of offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert’s leg.  Superman was down and out.

I sat on the edge of my couch, like everyone else, wondering if he was going to be able to recover.  He’s Tim Tebow, he can’t get hurt, right?  Apparently the coaching staff thought the same thing when they made the reckless decision to keep him in the game.  ESPN went to a commercial and the whole time every college football fan’s heart was beating fast wondering if he was going to be okay.  Football aside, it was his life and future that was at stake – he wasn’t moving.

Then, when ESPN returned, he was assisted off the field and we saw some movement in the hands.  Everyone gasped.  He was eventually carted off after throwing up multiple times in a bag in one of the saddest scenes we’ve ever witnessed in college football.  Television showed the ambulance leaving the stadium with the heart and soul of the Florida Gators.

I fully understand it’s football, and it’s supposed to be a man’s game.  But this was a situation that was entirely avoidable.  It wasn’t like the Gators were playing Alabama, LSU, or even Tennessee.  They were playing one of the worst teams in the SEC, the Kentucky Wildcats, who are better known for what they do on the basketball court, not the football field.  In fact, Kentucky had not beat Florida in football since 1986.

Urban Meyer is one of the greatest coaches in college football today alongside Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, and Les Miles.  But he wasn’t great last night.