|Urban Meyer enjoyed his greatest success at Florida when Tim Tebow ran the offense. (Getty Images)|
Urban Meyer has joined the legion of Tim Tebow critics.
"I think the criticism is correct," said Ohio State's new coach and Tebow's old coach. "I think he does have a little bit of a slow release. He drops the ball [down] a little bit."
That's where any Meyer criticism ends. Yes, Tebow has a sluggish delivery. Yes, we can all agree the ball droops to his side daring defenders to knock it out. And Doug Flutie was small and Sonny Jurgensen had a gut. What else ya got? Because 7-1 and leading the AFC West isn't bad. Like a lot of us, Meyer is caught up in Tebow 2.0, the NFL version. The comebacks, the delicious defying of NFL convention.
It seemed like a good time to call the Buckeyes' coach and ask about the player who is largely responsible for Meyer having one of the best jobs in the country.
"I disagree with the [thinking that] he can't play," in the NFL, Meyer said this week. "When I hear people say, 'He can't be a true NFL quarterback,' I kind of agree with that. But at the end of the day, go win a game. There are a lot of traditional quarterbacks in the NFL that are really not very good."
Meyer hit upon the nugget that should be thrown into the face every so-called expert: Tebow is getting results in a league that features Curtis Painter, Blaine Gabbert and Rex Grossman as starters. So what's so wrong with a guy who seems like he's running the Single Wing half the time? Inspiration and innovation have to count for something.
"I'm really tired of hearing about the NFL," Meyer said, "when people start talking about the NFL it's like it's something other than football. The real football guys that I know, who coach in the NFL, the Bill Belichicks of the world ... they don't treat the NFL like it's some business. At the end of the day there are 11 guys in the huddle that have to defeat 11 guys in the other huddle. How you do it, what [way] you do it, there's no secret, there's no gurus."
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Tebow is facing his latest test -- playing the Patriots this week -- while Meyer is settling into his job at a top 10 program. While Florida's Heisman-winning quarterback has basically hauled Meyer's spread option zone to the cookie-cutter NFL, Meyer is busy trying to imprint six years of Gators' success on the Buckeyes. Earlier this week he got commitments from Glen Ellyn, Ill., defensive tackle Tommy Schutt and Canton, Ohio, d-end Se'Von Pittman. He flipped both from Big Ten schools.
Maybe we need a little of the college rah-rah. A Chicago Bears receiver was arrested this week on federal drug charges. The worst thing Tebow has done has become a lightning rod in a sport that needed a goose in the backside.
"Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, those guys are hard to find," Meyer said. "That's why you better look around at what you have, especially the toughness and character and undeniable will of a human being.
"Isn't it fun to watch?"
Yes, it is because we've seen it before and a lot of us never thought we'd see it again. While at Florida, Tebow basically reinvented the modern jump pass. His inspirational words are immortalized on YouTube and hung on a wall at The Swamp.
Florida and Meyer were altered after Tebow left following the 2009 season. Meyer resigned after the season, returned a day later, then took a leave of absence. Following an 8-5 downturn in 2010, Meyer resigned again. He was back less than a year later after Tattoogate and Jim Tressel created a vacancy.
Full disclosure: Meyer has barely seen Tebow play this season. Last week, he was heading into a restaurant to interview an assistant coaching candidate. Meyer picked up the Bear-Broncos game on his iPhone.
"It said, 'Lining up for a 59-yard field goal to tie the game,' Meyer said. "I'm like, 'Look at this.' Me and the guy I was interviewing just sat there watched it on my iPhone. When they hit it we were like, 'Oh my God.' Then they come back to win the game. It's magical."
In a college world where schools and coaches have shamed themselves this year, magical is good. That it is coming in the corporate, buttoned-down NFL is a holiday miracle. Half the fun is watching arrogant analysts get converted week to week. Not often mentioned: Tebow has been singularly responsible for programming the four-letter and propping up the NFL Network lately.
What would the world do these days without Tebowing in HD?
"I saw that he would help turn around a franchise," Meyer said. "I don't think anybody could see what he's doing now, winning all those close games ... Losing sucks. Now all the sudden there is a little bit of hope in the lockerroom. That is the essence of everything we do."
Coach and player talk twice a week. Maybe Meyer doesn't have to watch Broncos' games. Meyer saw it first hand at Florida where Tebow was the centerpiece of his six years with the Gators. Those accomplishments are not lost on the man who rode them all the way to Columbus last month.
"The whole foundation of your team just changes with a guy like that," Meyer said. "He's so unique. I'm not in their lockerroom but basically I am and I can see what's going on."
Perhaps there is more magic ahead with the Buckeyes, or perhaps it will never be that good again for Meyer. Either way, Tebow 2.0 has been fun to watch.
Because we never thought we'd seen it again.