If you are a Gator fan, you tuned into the NFL Network on Sunday night, maybe for the first time in your life. To us college football fans, the NFL is a cherry in the ice cream sundae of our football lives. Bourbon Meyer feels a little conflicted about THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. It is football of course. Spreads and fantasy are good ways to lose our money. Ultimately it is a way to follow the careers of former Gators. And that, of course, is sometimes a bad thing. There are a lot of great former Gators who’ve played in the league. But please stop asking about the ones that didn’t pan out – we have no idea why Rex Grossman sucks.
The last time Gator fans we’re glued in unison to an NFL game? Grossman in the Super Bowl? Steve Spurrier’s debut with Washington? Emmitt Smith breaking the NFL rushing record? Danny Wuerrfel’s first game with the Saints?
None of those could compare with the excitement last night when Tim Tebow made his professional debut in Cincinnati. I haven’t seen the ratings for the NFL Network from last night’s game, but Tebow’s debut was definitely must see TV in Gainesville and across the Gator Nation. Combined with the two egomaniacal receivers on the Bengals, we’re guessing the ratings were pretty good across the country.
Tebow’s performance was… tough to describe really. It was a preseason game. It was the first preseason game. It was late in the first preseason game. Most of the players on both teams at that point will never see an NFL regular season. So Tebow’s teammates and opponents were not high quality. That lead to some spotty pass protection, spotty route running and spotty hands (my God Matt Willis, how do you not catch that ball).
Tebow had some nice throws and of course the TD run at the end was vintage Baby Rhino. He had some bad throws, didn’t spot a strongside blitz which almost resulted in a fumble and a defensive TD and his mechanics at times were not those he touted as reworked and NFL-ready. But Josh McDaniels and the Broncos organization aren’t evaluating their #1 pick on last night. Again, it was preseason football.
All told, it was nice to see Tebow in action again. It was nice to see him get in the end zone. It was nice that he didn’t turn the ball over, thanks to instant replay. But we’re not changing our expectations of what Timmy can and will do in the NFL. He’ll be brought along slowly, probably have a package of plays for some games and will spend the season watching and learning.
The strange thing for Gator fans about last night was the wait. We knew Tebow wouldn’t see the field until the third quarter. So you had two options – DVR the game and fast forward to the third quarter or watch from the beginning and focus on a host of former Gators playing for the Broncos and Bengals.
The Broncos have three Gators on their roster besides Tebow. Jabar Gaffney opened the game with a great seam route and catch. With the departure of Brandon Marshall, Gaffney is battling for a starting gig and could be looking at his finest professional season. Jarvis Moss was inactive after breaking his hand last week. He has been a huge disappointment for the Broncos, but if healthy, could start at outside linebacker. Marcus Thomas saw the field and assisted on one play but he has also been a disappointment in three years with Denver. Sadly, Thomas probably threw his career away once he started toking the Gainesville Green.
The Bengals have a couple of former Gators, too. Andre Caldwell didn’t have a catch and his primary competition for the fourth receiver role, former Longhorn Jordan Shipley, had a nice night. Carlos Dunlap’s professional debut was not quite as hyped as Tebow’s. And he lived down to those expectations by not making a play. For his sake, we hope he finds professional success after his Gainesville misdeeds, unlike Thomas.
So there you have it, 700 words about a non-descript preseason football game. The power of Tim Tebow continues to amaze.