Rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor shined, Marcus Smith showed up and Cody Parkey got the yips. But none of those observations will be water-cooler fodder this week following the Eagles 36-10 pre-season win over the Colts.
Because Tebowmania has come to Philadelphia.
It started as Tebow entered Sunday’s game at 3:03 p.m., and the fans rose. “Best ovation I’ve ever seen a third-string quarterback get,” marveled center Jason Kelce.” Let the record show Tebow’s first action as an Eagle was trying to silence the crowd.
When his first throw went for a five-yard gain in the flat to rookie Seyi Ajirotutu, the home crowd reacted as it did the day in 2010 when Mike Vick led that 21-point comeback against the Giants. And the excitement level stayed that way – for, let me remind you, a preseason game. It reached crescendo when Tebow barreled in for a seven-yard touchdown run.
People look at Tim Tebow and see what they want. To some, he’s simply a winner – a charismatic athlete with that undefined “it,” who always makes a team better. I basically agree, although I’m long past the point of viewing him as a starting NFL quarterback. And polarizing religiosity aside, it’s impossible not to recognize Tebow as a hard worker and a terrific guy. I saw him sticking around after a grueling practice last week to happily sign every autograph request.
But he’ll never sell that to the football purists and snarky old reporters who evaluate him on actual technique. “Still struggles with his reads and pocket presence,” tweeted one national writer Sunday. “Holding onto the ball too long, taking way too many hits.”
In truth, Tebow was outplayed Sunday by Matt Barkley, his competition for the team – at least in terms of actually throwing the ball. Barkley, now in his third season, appears more comfortable in Chip Kelly’s offense. Barkley made quicker decisions and threw more accurately, particularly on a 39-yard sideline fade to Jordan Matthews.
(On a side note, they both looked superior to Mark Sanchez, who started while Kelly sat Sam Bradford. If the coach is really serious that the starting QB job is an open competition, Sanchez did everything to drown his own chances).
Anyway, my hunch is that Barkley needs a four-touchdown day soon to earn that 3rd-stringer gig. Kelly is infatuated with everything Tebow brings other than his erratic left arm – running ability, locker-room presence, the Swiss Army Knife skills, the element of surprise. And we all believe Kelly wants to succeed where other NFL coaches, including Bill Belichick, have failed.
You could see it in Kelly’s post-game words Sunday. Asked why Tebow held the ball too long on one play, Kelly blamed the receiver for running the wrong route. He cited shaky offensive line play – not quarterback indecision — as the reason Tebow got knocked around.
Again, people see what they want in Tim Tebow. I can tell you, with little doubt, that the head coach sees a winner, who’ll play quarterback for his team. And maybe a little more than anyone imagines