If you happen to get your sports news online from any major, national outlet you likely came across a story about ESPN analyst Tim Tebow still training this summer for an NFL comeback.
Although Tebow has a contract with ESPN to be a college football analyst and work predominantly for the SEC Network this fall, it’s well-known that the former quarterback has an out clause. If he gets an NFL job, he can leave ESPN at anytime. And he’s been training and preparing for that opportunity. The only issue is it’s one that will likely never come.
Tebow last played football in the 2013 preseason for the New England Patriots. And although he’s still getting overtures from the Canadian Football League, there’s still no sign that an NFL team is willing to lend Tebow a lifeline. God love him for refusing to give up on his dream, but it appears the sun has set on that part of Tebow’s life. Nevertheless, Tebow is spending time this summer hanging on to his last career instead of jumping in to his new one:
“I go back and forth, here to L.A., doing a lot of quarterback work there … and come here to get all the therapy, and to get my conditioning in, and I’ve loved it. You know, I feel great. I feel the strongest, healthiest, throwing the best that I ever have, so I’m just really excited about the improvement.”
It would be ludicrous to criticize Tebow for chasing his dream and working towards an NFL return, even if I have the same chance of making an NFL roster this season. Although I’m sure if there’s a hot take to be found here about Tebow’s potential non-return return, First Take will do it.
However, this does open up an interesting conversation about Tebow’s television future, one he clearly hasn’t fully embraced just yet. ESPN, and specifically the SEC Network, is banking a lot on the celebrity status of the former Heisman winner. The television rookie is being thrown right in to the flagship Saturday morning studio show alongside media vets and heavy hitters like Joe Tessitore and Paul Finebaum. Tebow is going to have to hit the ground running and be able to contribute on that level right away, or else he runs the risk of being another Emmitt Smith or Joe Montana in front of the cameras. Tebow’s TV analyst debut during the national championship game in January gives me hope that he won’t fall into that same category, but he hasn’t been seen much on ESPN airwaves since.
It’s becoming more and more true that first impressions are everything in the TV business. Look at Gus Johnson and his work on Fox’s soccer coverage as just one example. Tebow is in a very similar situation in that he hasn’t gotten a lot of reps in front of the red light to truly prepare for the college football season. Just like Fox threw Gus Johnson into the fire of the Champions League, it looks like ESPN will be doing the same with Tebow and SEC Nation. With the insane scrutiny that follows Tebow everywhere he goes, he will be one of the most-watched, most-scrutinized new analyst hires in years. And he and ESPN need to be prepared for it. At least for Tebow’s benefit, ESPN is writing his paychecks now instead of obsessively stalking him.