All eyes on Tim Tebow with Florida’s pro day on tap

Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, one of the most eager and earnest draft prospects in NFL history, opted not to work out at the Scouting Combine because he was still working on his new throwing motion.

Tim Tebow looks to impress scouts after disappointing Senior Bowl performance.
Tim Tebow looks to impress scouts after disappointing Senior Bowl performance.

Of course, he says he’s not really changing his throwing motion. But he’s changing it enough to have kept him from throwing for scouts in late February.

Now, less than three weeks later, he’ll show what he can do at his pro day session in Gainesville on Wednesday. He promises that no conditions or limitations will apply, and that he’ll do whatever the scouts and coaches want him to do.

So let’s take a look at what they’ll be looking at:

1. The snap.

It’s the most basic and mundane of a quarterback’s duties. Place knuckles of one hand into the nether regions of the center, call for the ball, receive the ball, grasp it with other hand.

For a guy who took the huge majority of his snaps during his college career out of shotgun formation, it’s hardly a basic or mundane task. Especially when he’s asked to do it for the first time in front of a bunch of strangers.

So it’s no surprise Tebow dropped more than a few of the exchanges on his first day of Senior Bowl practices.

When he works out on Wednesday, scouts will surely closely monitor his technique for doing something that most NFL quarterbacks have long since taken for granted.

Gators expect big crowd
Tim Tebow works out for scouts on Wednesday, and there will be more than a few non-scouts in attendance. A league source says the folks at Gainesville are expecting a crowd of more than 10,000.

At many schools, attendance at the Pro Day workout is limited to players, agents, scouts, coaches, and accredited media. We’re not sure how or why the Florida folks are accommodating so many onlookers.

The festivities get rolling at 10 a.m. ET. — Mike Florio

2. The drop.

Once the quarterback has the ball in his hands, it’s time to begin moving away from the line of scrimmage. It’s not as easy as it looks, this mechanical, second-nature movement of one, three, five or seven steps. The quarterback, while backpedaling sideways, must focus on the development of the play, attempting to decipher the coverage and spot a blitz while at the same time checking to see whether the receivers were able to fight off any contact they encountered at the line of scrimmage.

For shotgun quarterbacks like Tebow, the drop already is accomplished before the ball sails from between the center’s legs. It allows the quarterback to get into passing position more quickly and more easily.

Tebow, who never had to worry about footwork at the college level, suddenly must figure out not only how to do it, but how to do it well.

3. The release.

The most obvious flaw in Tebow’s game comes from his throwing motion, a slow, looping, predictable crank shaft that makes Byron Leftwich look like Dan Marino. Much has been written and said about whether Florida coach Urban Meyer and his staff failed Tebow by not fixing this problem. Some have suggested that Meyer and company tried, unsuccessfully, to shorten Tebow’s release.

Regardless, Tebow is shortening his release. Which is an implicit admission that his release should have been shorter all along.

It definitely will be shorter on Wednesday. Whether it stays that way after he’s drafted remains to be seen.

4. Play-action.

Success in football often arises from successful deception of the opponent. One of the most effective acts of deception comes from the play-action pass.

It’s shorthand for a fake handoff. The best of the best (like former NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg) can put the ball into the gut of the running back and deftly sneak it away, pinning it against his hip while the linebackers — and hopefully the defensive backs — converge on the guy they think must be tackled.

But executing the fake isn’t the hard part. The hard part comes from turning away from the coverage while pretending to hand the ball off. Then, after roughly a full second, the quarterback must regain his bearings, figuring out what has changed — and what hasn’t — during the critical moment when he wasn’t looking.

Who bit on the fake? Who didn’t? Was a blitz called? Is the blitzer taking out the running back’s legs, or is he coming at the quarterback’s head?

More importantly, is a receiver open?

From time to time at Florida, Tebow would take a step forward and crouch a little, as if he were going to hand the ball off, before stepping back, standing up and looking for a receiver. But Tebow never took his eyes off the secondary — so he never had to reacquire the happenings down the field after turning his back to the defense.

It’s arguably the toughest thing Tebow will have to figure out, and little that anyone sees during his pro day workout will tell NFL teams whether he’ll be able to do it.

5. Pressure.

As to each of the above factors, the addition of pressure changes everything. Most importantly, it can cause a quarterback to retreat to his instincts.

In Tebow’s case, it means that he might revert back to his old throwing motion.

As one league source explained it, there’s a belief that, by the time a quarterback gets to the NFL, he has made "a million" throws, and that it will take a lifetime to truly change his motion. More often than not, the old motion will resurface when the quarterback is feeling heat.

So if the pro day workout truly is a no-holds-barred affair, one of the potentially interested teams should bring along a couple of defensive backs and a defensive lineman or two to simulate the one fact that won’t exist when Tebow is playing pitch-and-catch with several of his former teammates at Florida — real, live pressure.

The approach would be unconventional, but it would definitely make the workout far more meaningful.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, one of the most eager and earnest draft prospects in NFL history, opted not to work out at the Scouting Combine because he was still working on his new throwing motion.

Tim Tebow looks to impress scouts after disappointing Senior Bowl performance.
Tim Tebow looks to impress scouts after disappointing Senior Bowl performance.

Of course, he says he’s not really changing his throwing motion. But he’s changing it enough to have kept him from throwing for scouts in late February.

Now, less than three weeks later, he’ll show what he can do at his pro day session in Gainesville on Wednesday. He promises that no conditions or limitations will apply, and that he’ll do whatever the scouts and coaches want him to do.

So let’s take a look at what they’ll be looking at:

1. The snap.

It’s the most basic and mundane of a quarterback’s duties. Place knuckles of one hand into the nether regions of the center, call for the ball, receive the ball, grasp it with other hand.

For a guy who took the huge majority of his snaps during his college career out of shotgun formation, it’s hardly a basic or mundane task. Especially when he’s asked to do it for the first time in front of a bunch of strangers.

So it’s no surprise Tebow dropped more than a few of the exchanges on his first day of Senior Bowl practices.

When he works out on Wednesday, scouts will surely closely monitor his technique for doing something that most NFL quarterbacks have long since taken for granted.

Gators expect big crowd
Tim Tebow works out for scouts on Wednesday, and there will be more than a few non-scouts in attendance. A league source says the folks at Gainesville are expecting a crowd of more than 10,000.

At many schools, attendance at the Pro Day workout is limited to players, agents, scouts, coaches, and accredited media. We’re not sure how or why the Florida folks are accommodating so many onlookers.

The festivities get rolling at 10 a.m. ET. — Mike Florio

2. The drop.

Once the quarterback has the ball in his hands, it’s time to begin moving away from the line of scrimmage. It’s not as easy as it looks, this mechanical, second-nature movement of one, three, five or seven steps. The quarterback, while backpedaling sideways, must focus on the development of the play, attempting to decipher the coverage and spot a blitz while at the same time checking to see whether the receivers were able to fight off any contact they encountered at the line of scrimmage.

For shotgun quarterbacks like Tebow, the drop already is accomplished before the ball sails from between the center’s legs. It allows the quarterback to get into passing position more quickly and more easily.

Tebow, who never had to worry about footwork at the college level, suddenly must figure out not only how to do it, but how to do it well.

3. The release.

The most obvious flaw in Tebow’s game comes from his throwing motion, a slow, looping, predictable crank shaft that makes Byron Leftwich look like Dan Marino. Much has been written and said about whether Florida coach Urban Meyer and his staff failed Tebow by not fixing this problem. Some have suggested that Meyer and company tried, unsuccessfully, to shorten Tebow’s release.

Regardless, Tebow is shortening his release. Which is an implicit admission that his release should have been shorter all along.

It definitely will be shorter on Wednesday. Whether it stays that way after he’s drafted remains to be seen.

4. Play-action.

Success in football often arises from successful deception of the opponent. One of the most effective acts of deception comes from the play-action pass.

It’s shorthand for a fake handoff. The best of the best (like former NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg) can put the ball into the gut of the running back and deftly sneak it away, pinning it against his hip while the linebackers — and hopefully the defensive backs — converge on the guy they think must be tackled.

But executing the fake isn’t the hard part. The hard part comes from turning away from the coverage while pretending to hand the ball off. Then, after roughly a full second, the quarterback must regain his bearings, figuring out what has changed — and what hasn’t — during the critical moment when he wasn’t looking.

Who bit on the fake? Who didn’t? Was a blitz called? Is the blitzer taking out the running back’s legs, or is he coming at the quarterback’s head?

More importantly, is a receiver open?

From time to time at Florida, Tebow would take a step forward and crouch a little, as if he were going to hand the ball off, before stepping back, standing up and looking for a receiver. But Tebow never took his eyes off the secondary — so he never had to reacquire the happenings down the field after turning his back to the defense.

It’s arguably the toughest thing Tebow will have to figure out, and little that anyone sees during his pro day workout will tell NFL teams whether he’ll be able to do it.

5. Pressure.

As to each of the above factors, the addition of pressure changes everything. Most importantly, it can cause a quarterback to retreat to his instincts.

In Tebow’s case, it means that he might revert back to his old throwing motion.

As one league source explained it, there’s a belief that, by the time a quarterback gets to the NFL, he has made "a million" throws, and that it will take a lifetime to truly change his motion. More often than not, the old motion will resurface when the quarterback is feeling heat.

So if the pro day workout truly is a no-holds-barred affair, one of the potentially interested teams should bring along a couple of defensive backs and a defensive lineman or two to simulate the one fact that won’t exist when Tebow is playing pitch-and-catch with several of his former teammates at Florida — real, live pressure.

The approach would be unconventional, but it would definitely make the workout far more meaningful.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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