Can Tim Tebow Avoid JaMarcus Russell's Fate?

Greg RiotAnalyst IMay 19, 2010

ENGLEWOOD, CO - APRIL 23:  Tim Tebow is introduced by the Denver Broncos at a press conference at the Broncos Headquarters in Dove Valley on April 23, 2010 in Englewood, Colorado. The Broncos picked Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The mounting expectations heaped on Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow were expected.

Experts and analysts waffled back and forth on whether or not the left-handed quarterback could actually stand under center, and deliver the goods, at the NFL level.

Tebow's in the perfect situation to develop his skill sets as an NFL passer, even though the NFL betting world thinks otherwise. Tim damn well better perform if he wants to avoid the same fate handed to JaMarcus Russell.

While the NFL Combine was still underway, and we were all finalizing our opinions about the former Florida Gator and Heisman trophy winner, I jokingly called Tebow “the white JaMarcus Russell."

He’s two inches and 20 pounds smaller than Oakland’s former first overall, and armed with the classy character a mother would love. But the similarities between the two quarterbacks are striking

Tebow was destined, in many regards, either to be a tight end or a fullback in the NFL. He was big enough, and certainly athletic enough, to play either position.

He proved his knack for running the ball like a bulldozer while at Florida. And everyone at the NFL level questioned his throwing motion, his decision making, and his recognition of defenses.

Sound familiar? It should.

Russell has the same problems. Look where Jamarcus is now.

Like Tebow, Russell had never-before-seen athletic ability. At 6'6" and 260 pounds, he had the physical tools to be a special kind of quarterback. We used the term “special” back in 2007.

Now it just refers to Russell’s spot on the short bus.

Russell is now floating helplessly in NFL free agency. No team seems to want him.

There are substantial talks of moving him to tight end. But we don’t know if he has the speed, endurance, or hands to play that position.

Even more shocking is the idea of moving him to the offensive line. I’m no genius, but I’m almost positive that a guy who has rarely taken a hit in his football career is going to lace up the pads and go to war with the real big boys in the trenches. Especially if he has $39 million (or what’s left of it) in the bank.

I’d beat the mortgage against Russell playing any position other than quarterback.

The biggest differences between Russell and Tebow is that they have completely different character traits. You couldn’t contrast two divergent situations.

I’m not one to lump credence on whether Tebow’s left handed or not. While Russell was left to dwindle away in the black hole of Oakland, Tebow has landed perhaps the best quarterbacking mentor in the game.

Josh McDaniels is credited as the guy who developed Tom Brady. He also made Kyle Orton a little easier to digest for the Broncos fans.

So, what can he do with his newest quarterback? Only time will tell, and I’m willing to give Tebow the benefit of the doubt.

Tebow will be given a year to ensure his new passing motion becomes second nature. Passing a football in the NFL is not like learning CPR. You can’t have it down in three.

I’ve said it time and again. Once Tebow has a defensive end bearing down his throat, he’ll be very quick to revert back to his old habits. Tebow has to prove otherwise, and McDaniels won’t give him an inch.

Unlike Russell, he’s in a prime situation to learn how to be an NFL quarterback.

Aside from that, character is a huge issue. At the very least, Tebow is a well-spoken, articulate, intelligent, and honest guy.

He’s been labeled as a character guy, and he only landed in the first round with Denver because of his interview skills. I don’t think those words have ever been used to describe Russell.

I also don’t think that Tebow’s immense character will be enough to save his job in the long run. He can talk his way into the first round, but talking his way out of losing his NFL job is another matter. With numbers, stats, and video tape displaying two handfuls of flaws, the mistakes will certainly outweigh anything he can say at a negotiating table.

Still, Russell’s career story is only three years old. There’s time for him to start anew at whichever position he is assigned.

There aren’t many quarterback in the draft that can learn from Russell’s unique story. But if anyone can, it’s Tim Tebow.

He is three years away from becoming an unwanted free agent. Of all the lessons Tebow learns this year, that should be the biggest.