Tim Tebow: Jacksonville's Most Valuable Jaguar in 2010?

Jack HarverCorrespondent IIJanuary 20, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators reacts after a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There's definitely a place for Tim Tebow with the Jacksonville Jaguars next season.

Voices within the organization are unanimous on that point. Team owner Wayne Weaver has described Tebow, the most decorated quarterback in Florida Gators' history, as "an iconic figure [whose] star power is incredible."

Even incumbent Jaguars' quarterback David Garrard acknowledged the appeal of bringing Tebow to Jacksonville in conversation with ESPN's Jim Rome.

Florida governor Charlie Crist told the Jacksonville Times-Union in December that, in talking with the Jaguars' ownership, he has suggested that the team would do well to acquire Tebow.

"I think it would be great," Crist said.

Indeed, the upside of having Tebow in Jacksonville seems limitless.

Over the past four years, as the Jaguars have struggled to sell tickets to their games in Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Tebow's Gators have filled all of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium's 88,548 seats with ease.

For perspective, consider that Jacksonville set a record low for attendance with 42,079 on Dec. 8, when the Jaguars hosted division rival Houston in a battle of teams who were in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

One week earlier, on November 28, a record-high crowd of over 90,000 spectators packed "The Swamp" past its capacity to witness Tebow's last home game as a Gator.

Simply put, Tebow sells tickets.

Apart from the business of football, Tebow's intangibles as a hard-working, high-character individual shouldn't be ignored.

Marco Rubio, Crist's opponent for Florida's U.S. Senate nomination, has praised Tebow as "a pure leader and an inspiring role model."

Crist, similarly, described Tebow as "a great Floridian [who's] much more a great human being than he is a quarterback."

Off the football field, Tebow has received acclaim for his volunteer missionary work in the Philippines and his impact on legislative efforts to grant homeschooled athletes equal access to high school athletics.

Far from the typical college football senior who exits the amateur scene with dollar signs in his eyes, Tebow is a well-rounded and dynamic leader seeking to inspire and impact the lives of others.

Clearly, Jacksonville could use such an individual. The Jaguars' only question is: Where?

With concerns that lagging revenues could force Weaver to sell the team, most likely to a group intending to relocate to Los Angeles, an argument can be made for having Tebow specialize in ticket sales, where his fame and winning personality would surely result in throngs of fans flocking to the gates of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.

In the bigger picture, though, relegating Tebow to improving the team's financial bottom line seems a waste of his ability to contribute to the Jaguars' community outreach programs.

Weaver's Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation commits millions of dollars in resources to serving "economically and socially disadvantaged youth and families" in Jacksonville, with programs ranging from blood and food drives to a partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

Tebow's previous experience with volunteer work and community outreach would allow him to contribute to those efforts from day one.

Former NFL head coach Jon Gruden, now an analyst for ESPN's Monday Night Football, has argued that Tebow should enter the 2010 NFL Draft in April and seek to further his football career as a professional quarterback.

"He's like [New York Giants' running back] Brandon Jacobs playing quarterback," Gruden told the Tampa Tribune. "He's the strongest human being that's ever played the position."

Should the Jaguars fancy Tebow in that capacity, they'll have a fair shot at selecting him with a pick in the top half of the draft's first round.

As a quarterback, though, Tebow's upside is decidedly smaller.

Cursed with a side-arm throwing motion, an unfortunate tendency to underthrow or overthrow receivers, and an utter lack of experience in a pro-style offense, molding the 2007 ESPYs "Best Male College Athlete" into a professional signal-caller would be a project requiring time and patience beyond the cash-strapped Jaguars' means.

Come April, then, Jacksonville should resist Gruden's advice. Behind center, Tebow might well continue in the tradition of Heisman winners such as Andre Ware, Charlie Ward, Eric Crouch, and Troy Smith who parlayed college success into on-field careers in professional football.

As a member of the Jaguars' ticket operations, corporate sponsorship, or communications and media teams, though, he could redefine the role of a "great human being" off the field.