Senior Writer

Tebow's debut hardly legendary, even in his hometown


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Two yards and a cloud of media dust.

That's how I would sum up Tim Tebow's NFL debut Sunday here for the Denver Broncos. The much-hyped, over-blown, return of Tebow to his hometown and the unveiling of the golden boy to the NFL ended with him rushing for 2 yards on two carries. But it still made him the postgame star attraction with the media, who seemed to be stepping over themselves just to get close to him.

The Broncos lost 24-17 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but that was secondary here to many because Tebow made his debut in front of a legion of fans who adore him. If I didn't know better, he walked across the St. Johns River to get to the game.

More on Broncos-Jaguars video

There were several hundred or so fans wearing No. 15 Broncos jerseys, but not nearly the numbers that some expected.

"I saw a few of them, so that made me feel good," Tebow said.

For the past six months, there has been a vocal minority in this city that has ripped the Jaguars for not drafting Tebow, dubbing him the savior to keep the franchise in Jacksonville for the long term.

They said Tebow would end the blackouts, curtail talk of a potential move, lead the Jaguars to the Super Bowl, cut the federal deficit, fix unemployment, cure cancer, end the mortgage mess and, most importantly, put Jacksonville on the map.

The reality is the Jaguars never had any intention of drafting him. Word is they had a sixth-round grade on the hometown hero. But for months, all the players and coaches and front-office types have heard is Tebow this and Tebow that.

Now that it's over, here's what we know: He can take a snap from center and ram into the middle of the line of scrimmage, but he isn't running over linebackers like he did in college.

His line from Sunday: Three plays, two carries, 2 yards. On the play he didn't carry, he lined up at receiver.

Oh, boy.

"It's cool that the first opportunity for me to play in a real game was here in Jacksonville," Tebow said. "It was a lot of fun."

I hate gimmicks, and that's what Tebow is for now. Better yet, maybe he's like a toy that boy-coach Josh McDaniels just can't keep under wraps, playing with it even when he knows he shouldn't.

That's because McDaniels' use of The Gimmick (Tebow) on two of the Broncos' first three offensive possessions was some dumb over-coaching. Then again, McDaniels picked him in the first round, so he has to do something to justify Tebow's selection.

The Jaguars have issues in the secondary, issues that showed up all day long and will all season long, and the Broncos opened the game looking like they would shred that unit all day long. So what does McDaniels do after two plays, one a pass play for 28 yards to open the game, moved the ball to the Jaguars' 41, he put Tebow into the game.

Tebow took a direct snap, gained a yard, and helped kill the momentum. The drive stalled three plays later when a holding penalty wiped out a first-down run and then Orton was sacked.

In the second quarter, Orton opened a drive that started deep in his own end by hitting passes of 11 yards and 23 yards to move to a first down at his own 40. In comes The Gimmick.

Tebow smashed into the line for a yard again. The drive ended later when Correll Buckhalter fumbled. Grades
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The Broncos moved the ball pretty well but clearly couldn't finish their efforts. It appeared the excessive heat got to them through three quarters and they didn't rebound well after a thunderstorm delay which cooled the temperature by 15 degrees.
Jacksonville Jaguars
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For the first time in a couple of years the defensive line played like they meant it. Offensively, help came from a pair of unlikely sources, TE Marcedes Lewis and WR Kassim Osgood. Nobody will confuse the Jags with being a playoff team, but they are getting better.
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Tim Tebow, drive killer? That's might be too harsh, but what's the point of putting him in the game for those situations?

The irony of his two runs is that Jaguars rookie defensive tackle Tyson Alualu was involved in both tackles. Alualu was the team's first-round pick, the player who has taken a lot of Tebow-bashing because some thought the Jaguars should have taken the Florida quarterback.

It's not like the Jaguars weren't ready for it.

"We were very prepared for what that package would look like," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "And you obviously saw the result."

Did it mess up their rhythm?

"You could argue that," Kampman said.

I will. It did.

When I asked McDaniels if he regretted the decision to put Tebow into the game, he said he didn't. But what is he going to say?

So I asked Orton if being a quarterback who is asked to line up wide disrupts what he is trying to do.

"You could put me in the stands for a play and I could come back and be fine with the rhythm," Orton said.

Considering how far wide he was lined up, he almost was in the stands. Get used to it, Kyle.

Tebow isn't close to being ready to play quarterback in the NFL. He's raw, he doesn't see the field and he is a three-year project at best. Orton is capable of being a solid starter for McDaniels. He made some nice throws, but in the end with a chance to tie the game he couldn't connect with Brandon Lloyd in the end zone of a fourth-down play and then was picked off in the final minute to give the Jaguars the victory.

As for Tebow, he wasn't even close to being the best Jacksonville player on the Denver roster. Jabar Gaffney, who played his high-school football here, caught a touchdown pass. Brian Dawkins, a Jacksonville native who might be on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, started at safety and had three tackles. Heck, backup defensive end Marcus Thomas, another Jacksonville kid, had two tackles.

"Tim wasn't the only one playing at home," Gaffney said. "I guess people forget that me, Marcus Thomas and Brian Dawkins are from Jacksonville."

That's because this day was about the guy wearing No. 15 for the Broncos. The man some called the greatest college football player of all time made his NFL debut Sunday in his hometown, so, of course, those guys would play in the background. Even a 33-minute lightning storm that delayed the game couldn't put a damper on the festive Tebow-ites.

Then again, maybe Tebow made it go away. Maybe he just looked up and asked the skies to clear. And they did.

"We knew it was going to get a lot of hype," said Jaguars corner Rashean Mathis, another hometown product. "It is what is. It's over with it and I'm sure a lot of people here are glad that's it's over with."

It's over here, but it's not in Denver. As long as McDaniels insists on inserting The Gimmick into games during drives, it will be a season-long issue.

Once again: What's the point?

The Jacksonville Jaguars should get a letter from the league today. They played with 12 guys on some plays against the Denver Broncos, and didn't get penalized.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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