Tebow could have saved Del Rio, Jacksonville's NFL future

Where's the Gabbert Mania?

Coach Jack Del Rio was fired Tuesday, and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver announced he has sold the struggling franchise to a Pakistani businessman.

And maybe it could have all been avoided with one simple, logical and incredibly obvious move.

All the Jacksonville Jaguars had to do was draft Tim Tebow and build a franchise around the biggest rock star the city has known since Ronnie Van Zant, another hometown hero and the lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, went down in that plane crash more than three decades ago.

Oct. 20, 1977 — when Free Bird fell from the sky — will forever be the day the music died in Jacksonville.

Likewise, April 22, 2010 — when the Jags passed on Tebow — might well go down as the day the NFL died in Jacksonville.

On the same Tuesday afternoon he fired Del Rio, Weaver also announced he'd sold the team to Shahid Khan, a Pakistan-born businessman from Illinois. Question: If and when the new owner moves the team to L.A., will the headline in the Jacksonville paper be: "Wrath of Khan?"

Although Weaver said Tuesday that Khan plans to keep the team in Jacksonville, there are no assurances. Let's face it, the new owner has no known ties to Jacksonville and there is no contractual stipulation in the sales agreement requiring him to keep the team in Jacksonville.

Meanwhile, as Jacksonville waits, wonders and worries about its NFL future, the city's favorite son has resurrected a moribund franchise in Denver. Since being installed as the starter, Tebow has led the Broncos into playoff contention with a 5-1 record and four straight victories. He's been THE story of the year in the NFL and has become a cultural icon, an international role model and a Christian evangelical leader whose popularity transcends football.

His jerseys fly off the shelves. Songs and books have been written about him. Babies, dogs and racehorses have been named after him.

Can you imagine if Tebow were doing in Jacksonville what he is now doing in Denver? They would have already taken the tarps of all those empty seats and filled the stadium. The Jaguars have been irrelevant for more than a decade — and Tebow would have made them relevant again. The Jaguars have been uninteresting for more than a decade — and Tebow would have made them interesting again. The Jaguars have been painful to watch for more than a decade — and Tebow would have made them fun again.

I'm so sick and tired of the NFL helmet-heads who believe everything revolves around identical schemes and cookie cutter quarterbacks. If you have a once-in-a-lifetime freak athlete like Tebow — a big, bullishly strong man who can run the ball, take a pounding and throw when necessary — why not draft him, build a system around him and let him do his thing? Especially when his thing involves being the ultimate leader, winner, role model and rock star?

Instead, the Jags drafted no-name defensive tackle Tyson Alualu in 2010 and he's helped the team compile an 11-19 record. So far this season, Alualu has 32 tackles, 1.5 sacks and has likely accounted for zero tickets being sold. To make matters worse, the Jaguars then took quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the first round of last year's draft.

Gabbert Mania, anyone?

Anybody out there asking Santa for a Gabbert jersey for Christmas?

And have you heard about Gabbert-ing — that new craze sweeping the nation where people get their picture taken while lying flat on their backs?

By the way, Gabbert was benched last week after being sacked six times. He is 2-6 as a starter with six touchdowns, six interceptions and a 62.2 quarterback rating. Tebow is 5-1 with eight touchdowns, one interception, 455 rushing yards and an 80.5 quarterback rating.

It's no wonder, the coach has been fired, the team has been sold and the future of franchise is in jeopardy.

Ronnie Van Zant put it best at the end of "Free Bird":

"Bye, bye baby, it's been a sweet love."

mbianchi@tribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at BianchiWrites. Listen to his radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on 740-AM.
 

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