When the Denver Broncos announced earlier this offseason that they were putting Tim Tebow on the trading block, speculation became rampant that the Jacksonville Jaguars would make a trade for their native son.
Tebow, however, reportedly did not want to play for the Jaguars and was instead traded to the New York Jets, where he will compete with incumbent Mark Sanchez for the starting quarterback job.
This was a huge mistake on the part of Tebow, as no other market in the NFL makes as much sense for what he brings to the table.
Cult of Personality
As a Jacksonville resident, I can honestly say that the city's devotion to all things Tebow is unlike anything else in the world of sports. A native of the city, Tebow followed up a legendary prep career by deciding to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, which is about 70 miles from the Jacksonville city limits.
Tebow would put together one of the most legendary careers in college football history during his time at Florida. He was the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, won a pair of BCS Championships, and his name is all over the SEC and NCAA record books.
As a result, Tebow is practically a saint to the people of Northeast Florida. He is one of three players to have a statue outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and his famous post-game speech following a loss to Ole Miss in 2008 is forever immortalized at the stadium's entrance.
Tebow also had the top-selling jersey in the NFL during his rookie season. While I cannot definitively say that Jacksonville was entirely responsible, I can say for certain that the town gained a vast Broncos following the minute he joined the club.
It is this unflinching devotion that makes Tim Tebow more valuable to the Jaguars than any player who could possibly join another franchise.
As of now, Jacksonville is one of the few teams in the NFL that has trouble filling their home stadium. The Jaguars averaged 62,331 fans per home contest last season, and their 92.8% listed capacity is only such because the franchise artificially limits the size of the stadium down to just over 67,000 seats. In reality, Everbank Field is designed to hold over 76,000 for NFL games, and the stadium expands out to 84,000 for the yearly college football game between Florida and Georgia.
If Tebow were to join the Jaguars, it would practically guarantee eight sold-out home games. That's an additional 14,000 people at the stadium, assuming the Jags go back to the facility's regular capacity. At an average price of $57.34 per ticket for each of the eight home games, that's a cool $6.4 million in revenue for the franchise in ticket sales alone. Add in the value of concessions and merchandise sales (Tebow's jersey would likely return to top-selling status), and it's easy to see where the addition of Tebow could easily top eight figures.
Any wonder why new owner Shahid Khan believes that the Jaguars made a mistake by passing on Tebow two years ago?
Tebow could easily leverage this value into a new contract with Jacksonville that pays him several times more than his current $1.9 million salary with the Jets. And odds are good that he would be worth every penny to the franchise.
So Why Not?
All of this begs the question: Why was Tim Tebow uninterested in being traded to Jacksonville?
There are a variety of factors, chief among them being the fact that the New York Jets are much closer to playoff contention and that Jacksonville would have had to give up more to pry Tebow away from the Broncos than the Jets' negotiated price (thereby putting Jax farther from contention).
But Tebow has always struck me as someone who wanted to prove that he could do it on his own, without being treated differently from any other player. He most certainly knows that this would never be the case in Jacksonville, where Tebow would be viewed in much the same light that Derek Jeter is with the New York Yankees: someone who can do no wrong, only right. From a developmental standpoint, this is not the ideal environment.
On the other hand, a case can be made that Tebow has proven that he can succeed in the NFL without any special help. The guy led the Broncos to a playoff victory; what else does he need to do to demonstrate that he can get it done?
If Tim Tebow were to head to Jacksonville, he would be placed in an environment where he would be allowed to succeed on his terms and by using his strengths. And the fanbase would have total faith that he could do it, too.
After all, they have already seen it happen before.