When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Tim Tebow, many around the NFL instantly thought about Colin Kaepernick not receiving a second chance on the gridiron. While Urban Meyer is receiving plenty of criticism, one Jaguars’ legend believes he made the right move.
Right before the 2021 NFL Draft, news broke that the Jaguars put Tebow through a workout at tight end. The 33-year-old wasn’t signed immediately, but the team confirmed the workout and he received strong praise from the organization.
Despite Tebow having zero experience at tight end, the position NFL teams wanted him to play instead of quarterback, Jacksonville came away from the workout confident Tebow’s transition to a new spot was possible.
While the signing still isn’t official, Tebow is expected to be with the Jaguars when training camp opens in July. The Jaguars are weak at tight end and there’s an outside shot the Florida native could make Jacksonville’s roster.
Years after Meyer and Tebow won two national championships with the Florida Gators, the legendary college quarterback remains beloved in the region. It’s part of the reason why Jimmy Smith, a member of the Jaguars’ ring of honor, loved the signing.
“We need a guy like Tim Tebow, who’s a hometown hero who has love for the city anyway.”Jacksonville Jaguars legend Jimmy Smith on the team signing Tim Tebow, via TMZ Sports
Meyer’s decision received far more criticism than praise and it sparked a discussion about Kaepernick remaining a free agent, years after being blackballed by the NFL for peacefully protesting during the national anthem.
The league has since changed its stance on kneeling, with Roger Goodell essentially apologizing to Kaepernick in 2020 and admitting the NFL got it wrong. But players peacefully demonstrating during the anthem remains a debated form of protest, one that Smith believes makes Kaepernick too problematic for the Jaguars.
Smith told TMZ Sports that the Jaguars “don’t need Colin Kaepernick” and the former Super Bowl quarterback could “divide our locker room.”
Why the Jaguars signed Tim Tebow instead of Colin Kaepernick
Both Kaepernick and Tebow haven’t taken an NFL snap in years, with each former quarterback focused on ventures outside of football. But while Kaepernick has played more recently, (2016 vs. 2015), the circumstances dictating the Jaguars’ impending signing are very different.
Jacksonville hired Meyer to overhaul its football team and to create a winning culture. After becoming one of the most successful coaches in college football history, Meyer is taking on a challenge with the Jaguars. With training camp around the corn, he wanted a player on the roster who he was familiar with.
NFL roster spots for the regular season are largely dictated on talent, scheme fit and a player’s contract. But that’s not the case for 90-man rosters in the summer. With clubs desperately in need of bodies to take reps in training camp, allowing veterans to rest, it leads to decisions being made based on relationships.
Not only are Tebow and Meyer close friends, they’re also neighbors in Jacksonville. If the Jaguars hired any other coach or the team played in any other city, Tebow likely doesn’t generate any interest for an NFL return.
But Meyer wants his transition to the NFL to be as comfortable as possible, leading to him making decisions based entirely on personal ties. The 56-year-old hired Chris Doyle, who faced numerous accusations of abuse and racism from players at Iowa, to serve as the Jaguars’ performance coach. Meyer made the hire because the two had a strong relationship.
Ultimately, Doyle resigned after the Jaguars were overwhelmed by criticism for the hire.
A friendship isn’t the only thing working in Tebow’s favor. He is arguably the most beloved figure in Florida and that support will be shown when fans are invited to attend training camp. But the novelty will wear off and the best players will be playing for Meyer.
When Week 1 of the NFL season arrives, it’s unlikely we see Kaepernick or Tebow on a roster.