Gruden: "How could you not root for Tim Tebow?"
Tim Tebow wore a tank top, exercising his right to bare arms, despite the frigid wind that howled off Lake Magdalene and swayed the goal posts at Carrollwood Day School.
Half the football field doubled as the outfield to a girl’s softball game that was being held just a check-down pass away. High school players rubbed the sting off their hands as they tried to hold onto passes whipped toward them by the Florida Gators quarterback.
For about an hour Thursday, Tebow worked on the most scrutinized passing delivery in NFL history under the direction of former Bucs coach Jon Gruden.
“This is 78-X, shallow cross,’’ Gruden said. “Get the ball out of your hand.’’
For about an hour, Gruden positioned CDS players around the field like chess pieces. Tebow made all the throws – digs, back-shoulder, sprint-outs, bootlegs, 44-yard go routes.
Gone was the long windup as Tebow held the ball high by his ear. He was fairly accurate, despite being a little too deliberate.
“You might not ever meet a guy him,’’ said Gruden, who works now as an analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. “He’s the kind of guy who can do just about anything in life. He’s a great person and he’s a heck of a quarterback. And he’s a courageous competitor, play-making, undeniable force and I think he’s going to be a great success.
“He’s made real progress with his stroke. You know, a lot of people have criticized his arm action. But 88 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 66 career completion percentage – he’s gotten results. A lot of us aren’t looking for jugs machines, we’re looking for completions. You know what I mean?’’
Gruden is just the latest member of Team Tebow, a group of forme rhead coaches, offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches helping groove the mechanics of the former Heisman Trophy winner, a list that includes Sam Wyche, Marc Trestman and Zeke Bratkowski.
Gruden already has worked with Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen. His session Friday was being videotaped by ESPN under the direction of MNF producer Jay Rothman.
Tebow spent the afternoon watching tape with Gruden of other NFL left-handed quarterbacks such as Boomer Esiason, Steve Young, Michael Vick and Mark Brunell.
“It was great, it was wonderful,’’ Tebow said. “I have so much respect for coach Gruden. To be able to spend the day with him and just talk ball and get out here and throw with him, it was a lot of fun. It was a great opportunity for me.
“You know, he’s got a passion and love for the game that is unrivaled by many people., especially coaches in the game. He loves what he does. You could see that when he coached. He still loves it, he’s into it. He knows everything about you. He’s broken you down, he understands you. I think that’s a big plus for him because it’s not like he’s a coach who says,. “Just go out there and do it.’ He actually spends time and cares about what he’s doing.’’
Gruden was clearly back in his element. “I feel like I’m coaching again,’’ Gruden said.
After Friday’s workout, he as asked if he would advise an NFL team to draft Tebow?
“You want to hit your draft pick? Or do you want to not hit your draft pick?,’’ Gruden said “This guy is going to lead all of us at working at it. I think he’s going to be a work in progress. He’s going to make the transition just like these guys are down here in spring training.
“People are doubting him right now and I think that will even make him better, give him motivation. But I love guys who are quick-minded. What they’ve asked him to do from a decision-making standpoint is incredible, just listening to him take me through sequences. So I have a lot of confidence and trust in him. He protects the ball, he moves his football team and he’s one of the more inspiring guys that I’ve ever met.
“How can you not root for Tim Tebow?’’