NFL Nation: Tim Tebow

TEMPE, Ariz. -- First it was Kurt Warner, then it was Tim Tebow.

Whose name will be tossed around next, whether seriously or not, to become the Arizona Cardinals' starting quarterback?

Tebow
An article by the satirical website DailyLeak.org claimed over the weekend that the Cardinals signed Tebow in the wake of Drew Stanton's injury Thursday night in St. Louis. As of Tuesday night, the Cardinals had not announced Tebow's signing.

On Monday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians named Ryan Lindley the starter and Logan Thomas his backup. Arizona even signed rookie quarterback Jeff Mathews to the practice squad.

Even though the Tebow claim was false, it didn't stop plenty of people from believing it.

The article was shared almost 36,000 times on Facebook as of Tuesday night and had 25 comments, some of which were supporting the invented roster move.

"After the game in St. Louis the Cardinals coaching staff began seeking out other options," the article read. "The obvious choice for them became former Heisman winner, Tim Tebow. A standout in college football at the University of Florida, he struggled with passing accuracy at the NFL level."

It even included a fake quote from Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.

"We've been talking for a few days now, kind of since the St. Louis game," the quote read. "I'm just excited to bring him [Tebow] in, really focus on football right now and maybe implement a Wildcat package before next week's game [against the Seahawks]."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When John Fox was forced to miss a month of the Denver Broncos' 2013 season following surgery to replace a valve in his heart, people in all levels of the organization spoke of missing the energy Fox brings to work every day.

The team's head coach consistently makes it a point to touch base with everyone in the organization -- in the hallway, the cafeteria or even just a stroll across the parking lot. Fox has often said he believes a successful team "has a lot of people who have a part in that and feel like they have a part in that. We need everybody to get where we want to go, and that's everybody."

Fox has said that plenty of his approach in his current job was learned from the man who hired him for his first job in the NFL -- Chuck Noll.

[+] EnlargeJohn Fox
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsJohn Fox got his first coaching job in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers under coach Chuck Noll.
Noll, a Hall of Famer with four Super Bowl wins as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, died at his Pittsburgh-area home Friday night. He was 82.

In 1989, Noll hired an up-and-coming University of Pittsburgh defensive coordinator to be the Steelers' secondary coach -- a guy named John Fox. Fox has been in the NFL since, having led two teams into a Super Bowl -- the 2003 Carolina Panthers and the Broncos this past season.

"I had to get directions to Three Rivers Stadium," Fox said Monday after the Broncos' practice. " . . . I've got to admit I was nervous."

"I know what he meant to the city of Pittsburgh and I know what he meant to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and what he meant to the Fox family as well," Fox added. "That was my first opportunity in pro football and can't think of a better guy to start my career with. The guy was constantly trying to acquire knowledge no matter what realm it was. He was a tremendous teacher and ... he'd coach anybody at any time."

Fox often recalls Noll's approach with people. If Noll met a person and asked about their job, he would learn all he could about that job on the chance he would meet the person again.

"Didn't matter what the job was," Fox said. "If it was a welder, a wine collector or accountant, he was always trying to find out more."

Beyond all of the details of football, Fox said, he also learned from Noll the value of being the calm within the storm, the necessity to teach, and the desire to continue to work the basics no matter how accomplished the players on the field might be.

In Fox's first season with the Steelers, the team lost its opener, at home, 51-0 to the Cleveland Browns, followed by a 41-10 loss at Cincinnati in Week 2. The Steelers fumbled six times in the loss to the Browns, losing five of them; the Bengals rolled up 520 yards of offense.

Fox said he often thinks about how Noll conducted himself in those two weeks with the team -- uncompromising in his expectations, but without panic or misplaced emotional distress. The Steelers went on to finish 9-7 and advanced to the playoffs, where they earned an opening-round win at Houston over the Oilers.

Fox applied that lesson when the Broncos opened the 2011 season -- his first with the team -- 1-4 before they put Tim Tebow in at quarterback. They re-tooled the offense in the bye week and dropped the read-option into the NFL's lap. They finished 8-8 and got an overtime win over the Steelers in the playoffs.

"That first year in the league we got whipped 50-something to nothing twice in a row and ended up fighting back and getting into the playoffs," Fox said. "His even-keeled approach, his technique orientation and his teaching ability ... Those are the kinds of things you always use and you always will."
Surprised that Terrelle Pryor has been let go by the Oakland Raiders? You shouldn’t be. Not if you were reading the Silver and Black tea leaves.

At least the Raiders were able to get something in return by working out a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. Otherwise, Oakland faced the prospect of merely cutting Pryor loose with no return on Al Davis’ final draft pick.

Or, as one league source wondered Monday afternoon, “Would you want him?”

[+] EnlargeOakland's Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Tony AvelarThe Raiders replaced quarterback Terrelle Pryor with Matt McGloin once teams began to figure out Pryor.
The Raiders will receive a seventh-round pick from Seattle and now have seven picks again -- Nos. 5, 36, 67, 107, 219, 235 and 247 -- in the upcoming NFL draft.

Now, this is not meant as a slam on Pryor. Not at all. You cannot question his work ethic. His decision-making on the field? Sure. His blonde locks of late that tweaked the Raiders, even if he was merely following through on a lost bet? Absolutely.

But it has been painfully obvious since last summer that the Raiders, for lack of a better term, have not liked Pryor as a quarterback. At least, not as their quarterback.

Not even after he started nine of 11 games and finished with 1,798 passing yards in completing 57.4 percent of his passes. He had seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions while setting a franchise rushing record for a quarterback with 576 yards. His total QB rating of 30.5 was third-lowest in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks last season.

Sure, Pryor won the starting gig last preseason over Matt Flynn, but with Flynn’s arm hurting and Oakland’s offensive line leaking like a sieve at the time, the more mobile Pryor simply gave the Raiders their best chance at success.

And he was more than exciting, his NFL record-for-a-quarterback 93-yard touchdown run in Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers serving as his apex for the Raiders.

But when opponents began figuring him out -- he likes to roll out to his right -- his success quickly diminished. A sprained knee and what many in the organization saw as a pouting act following a loss at the New York Giants sent Pryor to the bench in favor of an undrafted rookie whose skillset -- a more polished, pure dropback passer -- better fit the type of offense the Raiders wanted to run.

Matt McGloin is not the answer, either. That’s why the Raiders traded for a veteran, Matt Schaub, to run their offense.

It was just another sign that Pryor was on the Raiders’ backburner -- if they were keeping him warm at all. He is liked in the organization well enough, but he would frustrate many with his improvisational ways and how he would often take to social media and the traditional media to get his message across as a pseudo QB of the People.

He works hard. He’s giving away a coffee machine and, well, he works hard.

From Day 1, I compared Pryor to Tim Tebow, rather than the likes of Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson.

You have to wonder, though, if Pryor will have a similar NFL fate to Tebow's.

Now, though, he’ll ostensibly learn at the knee of Wilson. And, oh yes, the Raiders play at Seattle this coming season.

Another Tebow mess? Not with Vick

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
11:55
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On the two-year anniversary of the worst personnel move in franchise history -- the Tim Tebow trade -- the New York Jets made another high-profile quarterback acquisition: Michael Vick.

They apparently don't believe in bad omens for March 21.

This time, it was a sound football decision, not a publicity stunt. Unlike Tebow, Vick is a functional passer with the ability, albeit somewhat diminished, to help the team. Yes, it's a quarterback controversy waiting to happen -- Vick versus Geno Smith -- but it won't be a distraction as long as Vick continues to be the player and person he was last season for the Philadelphia Eagles.

And as long as the Jets, who mismanaged the Tebow situation at every turn, don't repeat the same mistakes they made in 2012.

Vick was a model teammate last season when he got hurt and lost his job to Nick Foles. Instead of moaning, Vick supported Foles in every way, winning the respect of cynics around the league.

The Jets are putting Vick in a tough spot because they expect him to compete with Smith for the starting job, but they want him to serve as a mentor to the second-year quarterback. It's a delicate balance, and it takes a selfless person to pull it off.

Other teams might have been hesitant to take the risk, but the Jets feel comfortable with Vick because of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, his former coordinator with the Eagles. "Inside knowledge," general manager John Idzik called it.

On Friday night, shortly after signing his one-year, $5 million contract, Vick said all the right things, vowing to support Smith and help the team win. If he maintains that attitude, especially if he's on the bench, it'll be a win for everybody. If he turns into a diva, it'll get messy and the old circus will return.

"I don't have one ounce of hate in my blood," said Vick, explaining he had too much respect for Foles and the Eagles to make a stink last season when he was kept on the bench.

Once upon a time, Vick was the most polarizing athlete in sports. There was the dogfighting scandal and the subsequent prison sentence, 21 months in a federal pen. He was bad news, but the Eagles took a chance after commissioner Roger Goodell reinstated him.

It's funny how times change. When Vick became a free agent in June 2009, the Jets wanted no part of him, quickly and decisively indicating they had absolutely zero interest. Five years later, they believe he's fit to help groom their potential quarterback of the future.

"I'm a Jet and I appreciate all the Jets fans that appreciate me and accept me for who I am and what I've become, not for what I've done," said Vick, who has rehabilitated his life, career and image. "I think right now my past is irrelevant. We're talking about football, not the things that transpired off the field."

In the Jets' perfect scenario, Vick wouldn't have to play. He'd be Smith's eyes and ears, teaching him and pushing him to become a better quarterback. He'd be a $5 million Yoda. But as we all know, plans rarely works perfectly, especially for the Jets.

If Vick doesn't win the job in training camp, he'll probably get a chance at some point, either by injury or ineffectiveness. If Vick becomes the Week 1 starter, let's be honest, he probably won't last the season, considering his durability issues. Chances are, the Jets will need both quarterbacks.

The Vick-Smith relationship will be vital. Vick said they have a "great friendship" even though it's only a year old. They got to know each other before last year's draft, Vick offering advice to the former West Virginia star.

Vick sounds as though he's already invested in Smith. It's the right attitude.

"[I want to] help him to become the quarterback that we all want him to become," he said.

The Jets will have to do their part, meaning they need to avoid the missteps from two years ago.

They can start by not having a mega news conference to introduce Vick. (Who can forget that Tebow extravaganza?) They shouldn't have clandestine practices to work on top-secret formations, inviting the media as a tease. They shouldn't let live TV into their training-camp practices.

And owner Woody Johnson might want to avoid saying, "You can never have enough Vick."

If the Jets manage this properly, and if Vick accepts his role, this could actually work, March 21 jinx be damned.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- The Super Bowl is a long way from the crossroads that led to it.

A long way from the moment when Adam Gase felt doubt creeping in, the moment when he had started to feel he could be many things in his life but a football coach was not one of them.

“I remember sitting in an Applebee's, interviewing for an insurance salesman job," said Gase, the Broncos' offensive coordinator. “And him basically telling me I would have to move back to Mount Pleasant [in Michigan] and me thinking that was what I was going to do."

Yes, the guy who will be on the headset to Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII, the guy who called plays for the highest-scoring offense in NFL history, the guy Manning has called “a superstar" in conversations with some around the team was sitting in a restaurant just minutes from his parents' house, about to call for the check on his coaching career.

[+] EnlargeAdam Gase
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliDenver offensive coordinator Adam Gase almost gave up coaching in his early 20s to sell insurance.
It was just after the LSU Tigers had won the 2001 SEC championship, and Gase, as an “eight grand a year" graduate assistant with student loans staring him in the face to go with the fact he “may or may not have been kicked out of grad school," was contemplating a future that was quickly becoming cloaked in uncertainty.

“It was just kind of that stage," Gase said. “… [LSU] was trying to find a role for me; that's not an easy thing to do at that level. I was back home to see my parents, and there was a part of me that was saying I might not go back [to LSU]."

At least until three friends -- Scott Angove, Nate Lambertson and Jeff Sablack -- who were, as Gase puts it, “beside themselves," got him to reconsider the notion of walking away. So Gase went back to LSU in 2002 and started stepping up the rungs from there. He went to the Detroit Lions, the San Francisco 49ers and the Broncos in the years and nameplates that followed.

He was a scouting assistant, an offensive assistant, a quality control coach, quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach. And then, when Mike McCoy left the Broncos to become the San Diego Chargers coach, Gase, at 34, was named the Broncos' offensive coordinator.

A short, a long and a winding road, all at the same time.

“He's bright -- very, very bright," Broncos coach John Fox said. “We knew his work. We knew how he handled himself. To me, when Mike left, it was a clear choice."

“I know there was a point when I thought it might not work," Gase said. "… I don't really think about sitting there in that interview anymore, but I'm glad I kept going."

Gase is not the product of a playing career that evolved into coaching once the on-field work was done. He is a product of from-the-ground-up work, of rolled-up sleeves to learn a profession. A process that started when he met current Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Gase was in high school, and Pees was at Michigan State.

Pees visited Gase's high school, handed him a business card and said when he arrived at Michigan State the following fall, as a student, he should come to the school's football offices.

“When I was in high school, I enjoyed the sport a lot; I was just terrible at it," Gase said. "… And I think [Pees] was thinking more like equipment manager and that. What ended up happening was Dean said here's my card and come see me when you get on campus.

“… And I showed up, gave the secretary the card. She goes OK, and I sat in [Pees'] office for like an hour and he gave me a self-scout [personnel evaluation] from when he was with the Cleveland Browns. I had just gotten a computer for my graduation, and he said, 'You know how to use a computer?' And I was like, 'I've got a computer' and I hadn't touched it yet. I kind of figured out how to put that together and set it up in my dorm room. I went through a lot of ink cartridges."

That's where it started, the get-it-done side it took to help McCoy dismantle the Broncos' playbook in roughly a week in 2011 and reconfigure it as a read-option attack with Tim Tebow at quarterback. The same guy who helped to then dismantle that when Manning arrived in 2012 and retooled it again when he was promoted to be the team's primary playcaller.

His go-for-it aggressiveness is rooted in Mike Martz's "Greatest Show on Turf" offense that powered the Rams to two Super Bowl appearances. Gase calls Martz “a mentor, a guy who taught me so much." The attention to detail and the respect for the need to play some power football come from his time with former LSU coach Nick Saban to go with some things from Josh McDaniels' Patriots playbook as well as his time with Fox and McCoy that helped him see the bigger picture, the one where he had to understand what defenses were doing and why.

“Adam is just a guy that was ready," McCoy said. “He's smart, creative, works very, very hard, a guy I leaned on a lot in my time in Denver. And you can see he's had a big impact in what they're doing."

What the Broncos did in the regular season was make history. From Manning's statistics to Denver's push-the-pace philosophy to the pile of touchdowns, the Broncos pushed the envelope on offense to a spot that had not been seen before.

None other than John Elway, still considered the final word on most things football for legions of fans across the Front Range, has said “I wish I could have played for him" and characterized Gase's decision not to interview with the Minnesota Vikings and Browns for their head-coaching jobs while the Broncos were still playing as “studly."

“Being somebody that did not play in college or at the professional level, I had to learn as fast as possible," Gase said. “It was an adapt-or-die situation for me. I said that a lot, especially with Peyton. You go from running an option offense to all of a sudden the protections are ‘you've got to be on it.' You have no choice but to figure out a way to speed up that learning curve.”

The curve now has a Super Bowl on it. The one where Gase will call the plays Sunday against the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

A game, an opportunity, that was almost left on the table. At Applebee's.

“I'm grateful for the chance, grateful to everyone who helped me, grateful to be a part of this organization," Gase said. “And I'm excited to be in this position, in this job. It's what I want to do, and you know, it really has worked out OK."

DENVER -- When Hall of Famer John Elway sat across a nicely appointed desk from Peyton Manning, whose gold jacket is a future given, a promise was made.

A promise that went beyond the recruitment of the most decorated free agent to ever hit the open market in the NFL's history, a promise of what could be if both took a leap of football hope and faith.

Elway made a promise to Manning 22 months ago that he would "do everything in my power to make sure [Manning] finishes his career the way I finished mine."

Make no mistake, children across the Front Range leave their footy pajamas behind carrying the knowledge Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls in his final two seasons with the Denver Broncos. And in his third season as the Broncos' chief football decision-maker, hired by Pat Bowlen to restore glory and secure trophies, Elway has now seen Manning lead the Broncos into the Super Bowl.

Manning was at his take-that best Sunday as he swatted away the pregame chatter about his record against Bill Belichick, about his oh-so-many on-field battles with Tom Brady, with a performance that was as efficient as it was relentless in a 26-16 victory in the AFC Championship Game. Manning finished 32-of-43 for 400 yards and two touchdowns.

He wasn't sacked, was rarely even disturbed as he went about his work and did not throw an interception. The Broncos and Manning dropped a total of 507 yards worth of misery on Belichick's defensive game plan and flaunted the variety that has vexed defenses all season long.

Five different players caught at least three passes as eight players had receptions overall. Or as Belichick put it, in his own bottom-line way: "They've got a lot of good players."

That they do. And in the end, it was Belichick who provided the nudge that pushed the Broncos to where they were Sunday.

It was Jan. 14, 2012, when Belichick dismantled the Broncos' postseason run powered by Tim Tebow and a read-option offense. In a 45-10 hide-your-eyes Patriots win, Tebow was 9-of-26 for 136 yards and was sacked five times.

It dropped the curtain on what had been a dynamic stretch for the Broncos, who had unveiled the read-option after making Tebow the starter, a run that included an overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round. And the loss left the Broncos at a crossroads.

Broncos coach John Fox said this past week that "I remember we lost in the playoffs in New England that year, and it was a pretty good indicator of how far we had to get moving."

Then, after Manning was cut loose by the Indianapolis Colts a few weeks later, Elway and the Broncos closed the deal on the surgically repaired quarterback. Manning has gotten better and better since.

He threw a franchise-record 37 touchdowns in 2012, threw a league single-season record 55 touchdowns in 2013.

"There was a lot of uncertainty, whether he was going to play anymore," said Archie Manning, Peyton's father. "That kind of makes it special ... His age, what he went through, playing the quarterback position in this league, we tried to stay positive with him. He handled it so well."

"He's a great man off the field, a great leader and a great person to follow because he does everything right," said Broncos rookie running back Montee Ball.

But simply landing Manning wasn't all Elway did. He hit on some draft picks, players like Ball, Orlando Franklin and tight end Julius Thomas. He got a coach in Fox who assembled a staff with both veteran hands like defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and mark-it-down, up-and-comers like offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Elway also got more from inherited players such as Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno.

He had to deal with last January's crushing playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens; and Von Miller's six-game suspension to open the season; Fox's open-heart surgery; a long list of injuries that included Pro Bowl tackle Ryan Clady, Miller and Chris Harris Jr.; and making the right call on short-term signings like defensive end Shaun Phillips and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He had to maintain his composure and hold the door against complacency.

"It meant we had to deal with everything we had to deal with, to keep the focus on what needed to be done," Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. " ... A lot of people talk about being good, but you have to do the things that need doing to be good. All the time, every day. All you want is a shot at the big game, and we have that. Now you get to work on that one game."

People are always telling Elway, because his quarterback is 37 years old and in his 16th season after four neck surgeries, that the Broncos need to win now. Elway's retort is not a surprise to anyone who knows him, to any of those who were in the huddle with him while the game was on the line.

Elway always says "it's about win [from] now on."

It was all there Sunday, awash in orange, played out with the emotion of a team making its first Super Bowl appearance since Elway was its quarterback. It will be a Super Bowl where the Broncos will be asked questions about whether their high-powered offense can handle a snowy day, can handle a muscle-bound defense from the NFC or if the Broncos' defense can be good enough, for one more game, to get it all done.

And it will be a Super Bowl game where a promise is kept.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Colin Kaepernick stole Cam Newton’s “Superman” move.

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
Sam Sharpe/USA TODAY Sports49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick celebrates a touchdown run in the third quarter.
So what.

You know what they say: If you don’t want them to do something, stop them.

The side story of the San Francisco 49ers' 23-10 victory against the Carolina Panthers in the NFC divisional round came when Kaepernick scored on a 4-yard touchdown run with 8:53 remaining in the third quarter, staking the 49ers to a 20-10 lead. Kaepernick mimicked Newton's “Superman” jersey pulling and then Kaepernick did his trademark bicep kiss.

After the game, Kaepernick said it was “just a little shout out.” Kaepernick wasn’t the only 49er to do it. Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman did the “Superman” move after a fourth-quarter sack of Newton.

When asked about Kaepernick’s actions, Newton said: "It’s not the first nor the last time somebody does that."

Players do this type of stuff all the time. Plenty of San Francisco's foes mimic Kaepernick's bicep kiss.

It’s just a silly little gesture. Newton and the Panthers should be upset about being controlled at home, not a benign motion.
IRVING, Texas -- John Elway is in his third year as the Denver Broncos' executive vice president of football operations. It's a fancy title that says, basically, he's in charge of all things football when it comes to the Broncos.

The Hall of Fame quarterback has been able to ride Tim Tebow to a playoff appearance -- and win -- and was able to lure Peyton Manning to the Broncos as a free agent.

[+] EnlargeTroy Aikman
AP Photo/James D SmithBringing Troy Aikman into the front-office fold would help the Joneses generate goodwill with Cowboys fans.
Before Elway took that job, his personnel experience consisted of owning the Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League.

The Broncos have gone 26-6 in the last two seasons with Manning as quarterback and are the AFC's top seed in the playoffs for the second straight year.

The Dallas Cowboys do not have an executive vice president of football operations.

They have Jerry Jones as owner, president and general manager. They have Stephen Jones as chief operating officer, executive vice president and director of player personnel. Will McClay is the assistant director of player personnel.

On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to appear on "The Score With Babe Laufenberg." Sportscaster Bill Jones asked what changes could or should the Cowboys make in 2014. I came up with change the defensive coordinator. I mean, how hard is that when Monte Kiffin's defense was as bad as it was?

Laufenberg, the former Cowboys quarterback, sports director at KTVT and Cowboys radio analyst, had an ingenius thought.

Hire Troy Aikman.

Brilliant.

Think about the goodwill that would give Jones, who has long been criticized for being the general manager by just about everybody upset with the lack of success the Cowboys have had. Think of the jolt it would give the franchise.

Last year, Jones talked about sometimes having to do something "inordinate" to get the change you seek. His idea of change was to fire Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator and have Bill Callahan call plays. And the Cowboys still went 8-8.

In his role as a Fox analyst, Aikman has been closer to the game than Elway was when he took over. I wonder if a part of him sees what Elway has done and thinks, "I can do that." Is Elway poring over player reports every waking minute and up on all of the salary cap machinations? Not necessarily.

Dan Marino tried to do this in 2004 and it didn't take. He lasted just three weeks as the senior vice president of football operations. Last fall Marino hinted he would be interested in a front-office gig once again, referencing Elway's success.

A lot of this is pie in the sky. We know Jones won't give up the GM duties. Ever. We also don't know if Aikman would ever consider giving up the Fox gig for something a little more grinding than calling games about 20 weekends a year. And we don't know if he could work with (or for) Jones again.

As we sit and wait to see what changes Jones will or will not make in this offseason, it sure is fun to ponder a Cowboys' life with Aikman in the front office.

Thanks for the idea, Babe.

Tim Tebow to Jaguars logic is flawed

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Tim Tebow-to-the Jaguars movement seemed to have slowed until golf pro Dewey Arnette revved it back up by purchasing an ad in the Florida Times-Union newspaper urging owner Shad Khan to sign the former University of Florida standout.

But the latest effort -- which comes on the heels of a plane carrying a banner urging the same thing flying around EverBank Field on Sunday -- isn't going to make a difference. General manager Dave Caldwell has made it abundantly clear that the team has no desire to sign Tebow.

Tebow
That's not going to stop Tebow's fans from trying to get him to change his mind, but they're using flawed logic.

Their top argument is that signing Tebow would mean fans would fill EverBank Field. Maybe they would. The novelty of having the Jacksonville native and Heisman Trophy winner would surely cause a spike in attendance for one or two of the Jaguars' three remaining home games. But what about long term?

How many will show up for every home game? How many of them will buy season tickets, which are the lifeblood of a franchise? Some surely will, but what's the number? Ten thousand? Five thousand? Five hundred? There's no way to know for sure and a billboard or newspaper ad promising that the stadium will be filled is hardly a guarantee.

Besides, Tebow wouldn't be on the field anyway. He's not going to play quarterback, certainly not coming in with six weeks remaining in the season and having to learn a brand new offense. He wouldn't be the Jaguars' quarterback next season, either. Caldwell is drafting a quarterback in the first round in May -- and if he doesn't and instead opts for Jadeveon Clowney, he's taking a quarterback pretty soon after.

Which results in the second argument that Tebow's supporters use: He can switch positions and play fullback or tight end.

That makes it sound as if playing fullback and tight end is so easy anyone can do it. Learning to block blitzing linebackers and defensive ends, apparently, is pretty darn easy. A minicamp, a couple of practices, and a preseason game or two and Tebow would be able to play positions he's never played before as well as guys who have been doing it since high school.

Forget how illogical that sounds. It's also a slap in the face to fullbacks (however few there are remaining) and tight ends who have worked for years to reach the NFL.

It's easy to understand the Tebow fervor. The Jaguars are floundering, Blaine Gabbert obviously isn't the answer, and there isn't anyone on the roster who generates any excitement or national attention. Tebow would certainly generate national attention and his jersey would fly off the racks. But he wouldn't make an impact on the field.

The Jaguars need players who can make an impact. They add enough of those and there will be plenty of people in the seats.
PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said Sunday he wanted to play quarterback at the level established by the likes of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

No one gets into that club without a Super Bowl ring, but the numbers say Foles is playing at that level.

Passer rating? Foles is tops in the NFL at 128.0.

QBR, which measures overall quarterback performance? Foles’ 78.2 is second only to Manning’s 82.8.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesNick Foles has thrown 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions this season.
Yards per attempt? Touchdown/interception ratio? Foles is right there at the top.

The question becomes, then, what do the numbers mean to Chip Kelly?

The Eagles' coach is the one who will decide whether Foles or Michael Vick is his quarterback for the rest of the season (spoiler alert: barring injury or prolonged slump, it has to be Foles) and then whether Foles or someone else is his quarterback for 2014 and beyond.

“The big thing for me with our quarterbacks is wins, No. 1, and then interceptions, No. 2,” Kelly said Monday. “(Foles) has been really good at both things. A lot of that, attempts and all that, a lot of times it depends on who’s calling plays. He can’t throw where you’re not calling it.

“Anything that gets over 100, it skews me. I don’t know how you get like a 132. I know the higher the better, but the biggest thing for is us is, are we winning? We’ve won with Nick, and he’s not turning the ball over.”

Foles has thrown 16 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. He has led the Eagles on the three-game winning streak that has taken them from 3-5 and reeling to 6-5 and first place in the NFC East.

All that, and he is still not officially the Eagles’ No. 1 quarterback. Kelly has deferred making any pronouncements until Vick is healthy enough to play. Kelly said Vick “could have played” if necessary against Washington on Sunday. He was inactive, though, because there was no reason to force the issue with his twice-injured hamstring.

But that means the day of reckoning is coming. Barring a setback, Vick should be healthy when the Eagles return to practice next week, after their bye.

“(Foles) is going to start for the bye week,” Kelly said, teasing reporters who have been asking who's-the-starter questions since Vick got hurt.

More seriously, he said he would sit down with Foles and Vick and explain his plan “whenever we get two healthy guys that we need to talk to.”

The only reason to go back to Vick would be if Kelly believed the veteran was better at running his offense. And it’s pretty hard to make the case for that when Foles is running Kelly’s offense as well as any quarterback is running any coach’s offense. Foles is even running the ball off the read-option pretty well.

“When Nick takes off, it’s not 60 yards, it’s six,” Kelly said. “In critical situations, he can still do that. There’s flexibility in what we do. It’s all based on personnel. Anybody who’s smart is going to cater their offense to what (the quarterbacks) do.

“The best example in this league is (Denver’s) John Fox. When he had Tim Tebow, he ran one offense and they went to the playoffs. When he had Peyton Manning, the offense changed. He didn’t ask Peyton Manning to do what Tim Tebow was doing. He also didn’t ask Tim Tebow to do what Peyton Manning is doing.”

It’s safe to say Foles is closer to Manning’s style than Tebow’s. Foles might not be at Manning’s elite level yet, but he’s the closest thing Chip Kelly has.
Tim Tebow, Geno SmithGetty ImagesThe Jets' offense has featured the Wildcat and zone-read elements, without the Tim Tebow circus.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- One year after the over-hyped and ill-fated Tim Tebow experiment, the New York Jets finally have it figured out. They've successfully incorporated the Wildcat and zone-read elements into their offense.

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you have the right person calling the plays and the right people executing them -- strange and radical concepts, indeed.

The surprising Jets (5-4) are in the playoff hunt, in part, because they've kept defenses off-balance with their change-of-pace rushing attack. Ironically, they've managed to do it in relative anonymity, sans the crush of national media. Without Tebow, it's almost as if nobody cares.

A year ago, Rex Ryan was questioned about Tebow and the Wildcat on a daily basis. That he made it through the season without losing his cool (or turning sideways) was a tribute to his patience. This year, the topic rarely comes up even though they're using the zone-read and Wildcat twice as often as in 2012.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Al Bello/Getty ImagesGeno Smith has scored three rushing touchdowns this season.
Twice!

And more effectively.

Not only have the wrinkles sparked the offense, but they've helped Geno Smith through a difficult stretch of season. His most accomplished pass-catchers, Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow, were gone for a month, prompting the coaches to install more designed running plays for the rookie quarterback. He's no Colin Kaepernick, but Smith is a capable runner. He's the Jets' most mobile quarterback since Ray Lucas, circa 1999.

"I never said I was a pocket passer," Smith said Wednesday. "I'm effective from the pocket, but I can run as well. That's kind of the point I've been trying to push all along, that I'm not a quarterback you can put in a box. I do it all and I try to perfect every single thing, even running the ball."

Smith, displaying unwavering confidence for someone who has thrown 13 interceptions, described himself as a player with "a tremendous skill set. I think I can be one of the better quarterbacks in this league, but it's going to take time and effort."

Lately, he has been better with his legs than his arm. In the Jets' last game, their upset of the New Orleans Saints, he scored on a 3-yard run -- a designed play off a zone-read. For the season, Smith has rushed 11 times for 48 yards on zone-read plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

As a team, the Jets have run 46 zone-read plays and another 23 out of the Wildcat. The combined production is 30 yards per game. (Keep in mind that some zone-read plays can come out of the Wildcat.) In 2012, the respective season totals were 40 and 19, averaging a total of 18 yards per game.

Last season wouldn't have been so bad if the Jets didn't shamelessly promote Tebow and his potential impact, but they sold it with more passion than a used-car salesman. On the rare occasions when they used Tebow, it usually was a dive play into the line. They fattened him up and tried to turn him into Larry Csonka. The whole thing was a sham, perpetrated by an organization desperate for attention.

Now they run it with creativity and precision, along with proper use of personnel. Running backs Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory also have been used on zone-read plays; in fact, Ivory is averaging 7.4 yards per carry, second only to Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor (8.2) on such plays, per ESPN Stats & Information.

The Jets have melded quarterbacks coach David Lee's Wildcat and zone-read concepts into Marty Mornhinweg's offense, becoming what they were supposed to be last season.

"They do a lot of unique things," said former Jets safety Jim Leonhard, who will face his old team Sunday as a member of the Buffalo Bills. "They do a lot to make you think. That's nothing new. They've done it all year, and we definitely have to stay on top of our adjustments."

Smith's mobility adds a different dimension to the offense. He already has scored a team-high three touchdowns (two designed rushes and one scramble), meaning he already has reached the end zone three more times than Tebow, who never got a chance to do any Tebowing.

Coaches and teammates, namely backup quarterback David Garrard, have encouraged Smith to run more often. He wasn't a big runner at West Virginia, so this is a transition. He already has rushed for 172 yards, well past Mark Sanchez's career high.

"We've been running the ball well, and we've been doing a pretty good job on the read plays," Smith said. "We've tried to stick with the things we're good at, and that's one of them."

It's funny, but Smith was chided for his touchdown run against the Saints. Based on the way it was defended, he should've handed the ball to Ivory. The result was six points, but he still heard the criticism.

"Coach Lee," Smith said, "is a hard coach."
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Terrelle Pryor did not head to Los Angeles to work with quarterback guru Tom House over the Raiders’ bye this past weekend.

Pryor
Instead, House came up to Oakland to work with the Raiders quarterback on Sunday.

“We went to a local field and got in some good work,” Pryor said after a light practice Monday as the team began preparations for Pryor’s favorite team growing up, his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pryor was not able to work out with Raiders coaches during the bye -- players are guaranteed four days off due to the CBA -- but Pryor said he did come into the facility to study film on his own after Oakland’s final team practice on Wednesday.

“You know me,” he said, “steady trying to get better.”

House, a former big league pitcher who is now a pitching coach at USC, has worked with quarterbacks from Drew Brees to Tom Brady to Carson Palmer to Tim Tebow on throwing mechanics.

Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said last week he was the one who recommended House to Pryor this past offseason.
Yates/KeenumUSA TODAY SportsThe Texans chose QB Case Keenum (right), a local product who holds several NCAA records, over the more experienced T.J. Yates to start.
HOUSTON -- Case Keenum smiled and his eyes glinted as he talked about how cool it would be to fulfill a lifelong dream.

T.J. Yates spoke solemnly about the task at hand, having been in this position before, knowing his status as the team's backup quarterback was in danger.

"Case just has sort of like an aura about him," Andre Johnson said. "When he’s out there, he’s real excited, having fun. T.J., he just goes out there and plays. He takes more of a business approach to it."

The Texans went with the fresh-faced Keenum over the the more experienced Yates. Gary Kubiak announced the decision on Thursday, saying the Texans were struggling and needed a spark.

"His eyes got really big," Kubiak said of Keenum's reaction when he was told. He'd completed the transition from practice squad quarterback to third stringer at the start of this season, when he's been inactive all year, to the precipice of starting his first NFL game.

See what Keenum can do, some said. And the Texans have done just that. As they work through this week and go forward, the Texans can take lessons from another team's quarterback situation.

On some level, I hesitate to begin this discussion, because Keenum and Tim Tebow have as many differences as similarities.

They were both heralded college quarterbacks who put up big numbers and won games. They are both players for whom the local NFL fan base has clamored given the struggles of the starters in each town.

On the other hand, Tebow was a first-round draft pick and given the benefit of the doubt, despite some obvious red flags, since he was a Heisman Trophy winner and a national champion at the University of Florida.

Keenum, meanwhile, was considered just a system quarterback and too small to play in the NFL despite a record-setting career at the University of Houston. He went undrafted and spent his rookie year on the Texans' practice squad, learning. He has grown into a better passer than Tebow ever was with better football acumen, too.

While it's impossible to compare the two players, it's useful to compare their situations.

Right now, the Texans find themselves in need of a jolt, and many people, including Kubiak, think Keenum will provide it.

There came a time in the fall of 2011 when the Denver Broncos needed a jolt.

Their starting quarterback, Kyle Orton, appeared to lose his confidence and seemed unlikely to get it back. They were 1-3 and down 13 points at halftime to the San Diego Chargers. The new, post-lockout coaching staff finally gave in to the most popular third-stringer in town, a once-prolific college quarterback.

"You heard it every single game, 'We want Tebow,'" said Texans linebacker Joe Mays, who was with the Broncos at the time. "We kind of knew something had to shake. The fans, they do have a little bit of a say-so when it comes to what the team does. I felt like when we [weren't] winning, we were losing all those games, Tebow’s going to have to play sooner or later. We felt it coming, especially with the way Orton [was playing]; he didn’t really play too well. We were losing games. That didn’t help anything."

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellFan favorite Tim Tebow provided the Broncos with a spark en route to a playoff run. Could Case Keenum do the same for the Texans?
Denver lost to San Diego but won seven of its next eight games with Tebow as the starter. The Broncos lost the final three games of the regular season, beat the Steelers in the playoffs and lost to the New England Patriots 45-10 in the divisional round.

Some saw Denver's playoff run as proof of Tebow's quarterback ability. The Broncos did not. They began shopping him during that year's NFL combine in February, gauging interest from at least one team even before the Colts cut Peyton Manning. Once the Broncos officially signed Manning, they traded Tebow to the New York Jets.

But this fact remained: The change to Tebow energized the floundering Broncos. And the element of surprise that came from an offense that changed for Tebow helped Denver. It didn't matter that he wasn't a long-term solution. What mattered was what he changed immediately.

"I’m not sure if the atmosphere changed. We just realized whoever the quarterback was going to be, we had to stick up for him," Mays said. "We had to play for him, and we had to believe in him. That’s going to be the same thing here with Schaub being out this week."

The Texans need a jolt right now. Keenum is hugely popular in Houston. Like Tebow, he was outplayed in the preseason and training camp by the man who won the backup job.

There are things the Texans can learn from that situation.

Even though Orton hadn't lost the locker room, just like Schaub still has his teammates' support, change helped. But change came in a situation where Denver felt it had nothing to lose.

Today the Texans chose between two quarterbacks between whom the skill gap wasn't wide. But one of them had a shaky outing against the St. Louis Rams, throwing two interceptions, while another is a spirited unknown.

Like Denver two years ago, the Texans have nothing to lose by making this move.

What they gain will be worth watching.

Double Coverage: Colts at Jaguars

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
12:00
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Maurice Jones-Drew and Trent RichardsonUSA TODAY SportsMaurice Jones-Drew and Trent Richardson will square off Sunday in Jacksonville.
The winless Jacksonville Jaguars return to EverBank Field after spending more than a week on the West Coast -- they played at Oakland on Sept. 15 and remained in California to prepare for this past Sunday's game at Seattle -- for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts had a much better trip out West than the Jaguars. They routed host San Francisco 27-7 on Sunday by shutting down 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Jaguars, meanwhile, fell to 0-3 after the Seahawks routed them 45-17. Sunday presents another tough task for the Jaguars. Colts reporter Mike Wells and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco take a look at this week's matchup.

Michael DiRocco: Mike, Peyton Manning was such an iconic figure in Indianapolis. With all the success he's had in his first 20 games, has Andrew Luck come close to that level yet?

Mike Wells: Manning may be on his way to his fifth MVP trophy out there in Denver, but the Colts could be set at quarterback for the next decade with Luck. It’s only natural to compare the quarterbacks because they both carry themselves in the same manner. They’re humble, perfectionists and, best of all, damn good quarterbacks. Luck isn’t at the same level as Manning, but the goal in Indianapolis is for him to reach that status or beyond. Speaking of quarterbacks -- or maybe it’s not a good idea -- what’s going on down there in Jacksonville with that situation? When do the Jaguars officially throw in the towel and say Blaine Gabbert is not the answer for them?

DiRocco: That is the general belief around Jacksonville, but that's not yet the case for new general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley. They have given Gabbert a clean slate and will evaluate him based on what they see from the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder this season. They have to find out whether Gabbert is the player around whom they can build the franchise, so this season is essentially a pressure-packed tryout for him. He has not performed well since being taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft. This year he's dealing with a pretty porous offensive line, and two of his top three weapons -- tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf) and Justin Blackmon (suspension) -- have yet to play this season. By the end of the season Caldwell and Bradley will know whether Gabbert is the answer. The Colts obviously have one piece of their foundation in Luck, but they recently traded for Trent Richardson to fulfill the role Edgerrin James had for years. My question is this: Who's the next Marvin Harrison?

Wells: They don’t have that receiver yet. Reggie Wayne is obviously a future Hall of Famer, and he’s still playing at a very high level. But he’s also 34 years old. The Colts are hoping that Darrius Heyward-Bey could be that receiver. He was the No. 7 overall pick in 2009, so he has the potential to complement Luck and Richardson. But Heyward-Bey has to get over his case of the drops. Playing well in spurts isn’t good enough. In fact, T.Y. Hilton, the Colts’ third receiver, outplayed Heyward-Bey in the preseason. I hate to do this to you -- and probably a lot of NFL fans -- but is there any possibility that the Jaguars would even think about bringing in Tim Tebow? There are fans down there rallying for him. And if anything, it’ll help in the attendance department.

DiRocco: Not going to happen, no matter how much noise Tebow’s supporters make. The Jaguars are moving forward with Gabbert, and if it turns out he’s not the player around whom they can build the franchise, they’ll look to the 2014 draft to find a quarterback. I covered Tebow at Florida, and he was fantastic, one of the best collegiate players of all time, but he’s just not able to make the leap. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t diminish what he did at Florida in any way. As for attendance, the Jaguars actually ranked 20th in that stat last season, drawing an average of 64,984. That’s ahead of teams such as Chicago (62,329), Minnesota (60,725) and Miami (57,379). That was for a 2-14 team that didn’t have Tebow. Sometimes young, talented teams that make the playoffs take a step backward the following season before really taking off a year later. Do you see that being the case with the Colts in 2013?

Wells: The Colts are a better team this season, but they will take a step back with their record by a game. Good fortune was on their side in more ways than one last season. They caught some breaks and Luck led them to seven fourth-quarter comebacks. They're still a playoff team, and if Houston slips up, the Colts will take advantage of it and win the division. The Jags are ranked last in this week's Power Rankings. Will they stay there all season?

DiRocco: I think they'll battle the Browns and -- I can't believe I'm writing this -- the Steelers for the last spot all year. Right now no team is playing worse than the Jaguars, especially on offense. But I do think things will get a little better with the return of Lewis and Blackmon. The offensive line has to play much better, though. Cleveland's victory last week was surprising, but I see that as more of a byproduct of emotion and anger after the Richardson trade than anything else. The Steelers have looked horrible, and the loss of Maurkice Pouncey has them reeling. Plus, we all know it's a matter of time before Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt.

Broncos get down to AFC West business

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
1:55
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Eric DeckerDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesEric Decker and the Denver Broncos are heading in the right direction in the AFC West.

DENVER -- Three weeks into the season and there is one team in the NFL that has scored more than 100 points.

Actually, one team in the NFL that has scored more than 110 points. OK, one team in the NFL that scored more than 120 points.

And with their third consecutive game with at least 37 points the Denver Broncos formally announced their plans in the AFC West on Monday night with a nationally-televised 37-21 win over the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Raiders rookie tight end Nick Kasa, a suburban Denver native who played at the University of Colorado and has spent a lifetime discussing the Broncos with friends and relatives, may have put it the best.

“They’re a devastating team," Kasa said. “That’s obvious from [Monday night]."

As August drew to a close, there were plenty of folks in and around the NFL who wondered how things would look in the AFC West. After all, the Broncos, with Peyton Manning behind center, are surrounded by three rebuilding projects in the division.

The Raiders are in the second year of what has been the league’s most extreme makeover and sported 10 different defensive starters from a year ago Monday night. In San Diego, former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is in his first season as the team’s head coach.

They are both 1-2 after three weeks and despite some quality moments in those three games -- small glimpses of potential -- they both look like there’s plenty of work still to do before all is said and done this season.

The Chiefs are another matter. First-year coach Andy Reid has Kansas City out of the gate at 3-0 with a defense that has surrendered just 34 points. But Chiefs-Broncos matchups are for another day.

What the Broncos showed Monday was division games are important to them. Everybody talks a good game about division games, about how they’re the only guaranteed road into the postseason for any team, but idle mid-week chatter is one thing, getting it done is another.

The Broncos showed the focus of a team with designs on bigger things, and that they want to leave no doubt in the division along the way.

Quarterback Peyton Manning will routinely say division games “count double," and losses in the division, especially home losses in the division, sting a little more. John Elway reeled in perhaps the greatest marquee player to hit the open market in the free-agency era. One of the reasons he wanted Manning so badly, beyond the extended and sometimes breathtaking list of quarterback stuff, was Manning’s constant push for his team to be a little better tomorrow than it was today.

Elway has described it as “that uncomfortable feeling," at times.

That can be seen in how the Broncos have handled their division business of late. In 2011, or YBM (the year before Manning) when they won the division at 8-8 overall, they were just 3-3 in AFC West games. Last season, Manning’s first in Denver, the Broncos were 6-0 in the division on the way to a 13-3 mark.

Or as linebacker Wesley Woodyard put it after Monday's victory: “It’s a division opponent, and the Raiders, they always bring their best shot. I hate losing to any division guys, especially the Raiders."

The bottom line is, in a league cocooned in overreaction, with every win celebrated like a lunar landing and every loss treated with a this-team-stinks-forever approach, the good teams simply need a get-off-my-lawn guy or two to keep the heads level. They need some grumpiness to sweep up the rose petals that get tossed from time to time.

Sure, there is a line there between some kind of joyless pursuit of victory and the easily obtained misplaced ego, but a good team needs some perspective as much as touchdowns. And the Broncos showed Monday night they are good, ruthlessly good at times, with a dose of perspective.

Manning threw three touchdown passes, was as dialed in with the Broncos receivers as he has been at any point in his career -- at one point late in the first half both of his incompletions were drops -- and the Broncos put up their second 500-yard game of the season.

The defense stifled the Raiders’ run game -- Oakland had averaged just more than 198 yards rushing coming in -- as Oakland finished with 49 yards on 17 carries. Yet after surrendering a touchdown in the third quarter and another in the fourth quarter, Woodyard, for one, was swatting away any compliments.

“No, I’m not pleased at all," Woodyard said. “We gave up 21 points. We’ve got to stop them at the end of the game. I’m not satisfied at all with that win. … We’ll definitely take a win any time we can get one, but to give up 21 points, got to stop that leaky football."

Monday’s win was the Broncos' first in division play this season and will also be the last time they face a division opponent until Nov. 10, at San Diego. A lot can happen between now and then, but it's pretty clear Denver has the goods and may have to wrestle with itself a bit along the way because of it.

“We have to just play our football," Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. “I say fast, physical and violent, but we can’t give up garbage points, make mistakes, things like that. We just have to keep grindin’, man. Win your division first, worry about week to week; do that and things will work out. And we want things to work out, so everybody knows you have to do that. We’re 3-0 and moving on. That's it, look at the win and get to work."

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