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Tim Tebow is ready for NFL, old Bucs coach Sam Wyche says

Tim Tebow, practicing at the Senior Bowl, is working with former Bucs coach Sam Wyche. “I think Tebow is one of the elite,” Wyche says.

Associated Press

Tim Tebow, practicing at the Senior Bowl, is working with former Bucs coach Sam Wyche. “I think Tebow is one of the elite,” Wyche says.

The dismantling of a legend is in full force. These days, it is easy to wonder if Tim Tebow ever played football at all.

Listen, and you will hear about the long, loopy flaw in his delivery. Read, and you will find those who question his feet, his arm and his ability to read an opposing defense. Pay attention, and you will find those who think any NFL team interested in drafting Tebow is wasting its time.

Then there is Sam Wyche, who suggests the critics should worry more about their accuracy than Tebow's.

"If this guy can't be a starting quarterback in the NFL," said Wyche, a former Bucs coach, "then I was in the wrong profession for a lot of years."

Say this much for Wyche. He didn't win enough games in Tampa Bay (23 in four years), but he knows what a quarterback looks like. Once, in San Francisco, he was Joe Montana's quarterback coach. Once, in Cincinnati, he was Boomer Esiason's head coach.

These days, Wyche is part of Tebow's pit crew, the collection of coaches in charge of reinventing Tebow's passing mechanics. Last month, Wyche and Tebow spent two days at a facility in Franklin, Tenn., working in the classroom and on the field.

In the end, Wyche was impressed with what he saw. And if the reports out of Franklin are correct, NFL scouts might do well to give Tebow another look when he has his pro day (March 17).

"Would I draft him?" Wyche said. "Absolutely. Sure. If he's not taken early, somebody is going to be called a genius for taking him wherever he goes."

Perhaps you have heard different reports, haven't you? Since the end of the season, skeptics have lined up to talk about the varied reasons why Tebow will not succeed in the NFL. At times, the talk was so harsh you wondered if those 47 games Tebow's Florida team won was a misprint, or if his 88 touchdown passes were just a rumor.

Some of that, naturally, is the way the draft process dissects a player. But some of it seems to be a backlash toward a player who was praised so often in college.

Give Tebow credit for this much: He has at least been on a quest to get better. How many quarterbacks who were stars in college can say that? Former NFL offensive coordinator Zeke Bratkowski is the chief mechanic, but Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman and Arizona State offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have offered input, too.

As for Wyche, he became involved when Tony Dungy, the coach who replaced him in Tampa, recommended him to Bob Tebow, Tim's father. Wyche, now 65 and a county council member in Pickins, S.C., dusted off his whistle and came aboard.

"He's accurate," Wyche said of Tebow. "He's smart. He anticipates well. He's a commander in the huddle. He has good footwork. … He has agility. He has athleticism. So many things are right about this guy."

Wyche said their sessions began in the classroom. What does it mean when the free safety is in the middle? (It means a defense can't outnumber you.) What does it mean when the corner is bent at the waist? (Probably zone coverage, because it's not a good man technique.) What does it mean when the corner plays inside technique? (He doesn't have safety help.)

"He's as smart as anyone," Wyche said. "I was around Montana and Boomer, and they would be at the top of the list of understand theory coming out of college. They understood concepts. This guy is right with them. I hope he gets a good coordinator and a good quarterback coach. If not, he'll be smarter than they are."

Arm strength? Wyche says Tebow will have one of the strongest arms in the league. Footwork? Wyche says it's as good as anyone's. Accuracy? Along with intelligence, Wyche says that's Tebow's strongest asset.

Ah, but then there is Tebow's much-discussed delivery. While at Florida, there were a lot of plays when Tebow wound up like a pitcher and threw the ball like a shot-putter.

Wyche admits that if he knew nothing more than what he was seeing on film, that would concern him. As it is, Wyche thinks Tebow will quickly overcome his flaws in the manner that former NFL star Randall Cunningham did when he came out of college with his own awkward delivery.

"Everyone wants to talk about his long windup and dropping the ball," Wyche said. "But if he takes the ball up with two hands, which he didn't do in college, you have to put it in the same spot near your ear every time. If you wind up (as Tebow did at Florida), you get a different release point every time.

"Boy, he worked hard at it. He could tell when he tried and it wasn't right. He was coaching himself."

So where is Tebow going to be drafted? First round? Third round? As an H-back?

Wherever it is, Wyche said, he hopes there is a veteran there who can mentor him for a year or so.

"Paul Brown used to say to me, 'Don't tell me about how good an athlete a guy is. Tell me about how good a football player he is.' I think Tebow is one of the elite."

So, you ask Wyche. Is Tebow better than anyone you coached in Tampa Bay?

"Well, yeah."

Tim Tebow is ready for NFL, old Bucs coach Sam Wyche says 02/22/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 7:22am]
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