“Sometimes gets too confident in his running skills, forgetting to eye his secondary receivers in order to run with the ball when his primary target is not available.”
“Although he is improving, [quarterback] has a long way to go as a passer at the next level. His mechanics are inconsistent … ”
Those assessments were pretty standard thinking among pre-NFL draft prognosticators in their descriptions of Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Vince Young, each of whom happen to be African-Americans and who went on to be pretty good NFL QBs.
Now we have another young “black” QB, prime for the upcoming draft, who’s being brushed with the same labels: Runs before throws. Forgets secondary receivers. Bad mechanics.
His name is Tim Tebow.
Like his “brothers” – or former Nebraska QB Scott Frost, who primarily played safety after being drafted by the Jets in 1998 – Tebow doesn’t fit the mold the NFL trots out each year to describe its ideal QB. He is as much of a threat to run as pass, which can sometimes make a guy a one-hit goner (See: Miami QB Pat White). And often during his four years at Florida, he used his massive legs when, yes, there might have been a secondary or check-down option.
And even I know he throws funny – almost like the ball is too small for his massive hands or maybe he doesn’t want to hurt someone by throwing it too hard. So he kind of sidearms the thing, which means an NFL lineman on his knees might bat it down.
I’ll grant you all those truths, but none of them would sway me into trying to make the guy, say, a linebacker.
Tebow will find a way to be an above-average NFL QB. Not saying he’ll be a perennial all-pro. But he won’t be Alex Smith. Or, ahem, JaMarcus Russell.
He’ll work, listen and grow his way through the scouting combine and pre-draft workout sessions, and he’ll come to training camp like he did as a Gator freshman, prepared to sit behind an incumbent until called upon.
Tebow has gifts. Some tangible, very tangible to any defender who tried to tackle him. He also played on two national championship teams, won a Heisman (and was such a lock-on finalist the Downtown Athletic Club might accidentally invite him back next year) and as a starter perhaps played in more pressure games than any player in the history of college football.
But mostly, his assets are intangible: An ability to inspire and lead. To win.
For those there is no mold, which is why every NFL exec is wringing his hands over whether to go with the mold and risk passing on one of the most productive QBs of the next generation, or put their job on the line by tabbing him in either the first or second round.
Of course the mold has cracks, and it has worked against some black QBs.
“Well you can just see it. Just a flick of the wrist he can throw the ball 55-60 yards downfield, no effort … he can make a throw only a great athlete can make.”
One NFL coach said that about Akili Smith, an Oregon QB who was subsequently taken with the No. 3 pick in the 1999 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. In four years he started only 17 games, and is now preparing to earn his masters in theology and become a pastor.
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