Tim Tebow starts his new gig with ESPN next Monday, making an appearance leading into the BCS Championship Game. He is also still wants to pursue a career as a NFL quarterback, and that dream has not officially died with the move to ESPN.
In talking about his start at ESPN and still wanting to be a quarterback, Tebow said, [b]ecause of our great relationship, they’ve been generous to allow me to pursue my dream. If I get the opportunity to be a quarterback in the NFL, I would love to do so.”
Later, when describing how the relationship with ESPN came about, he added, “my love for being a quarterback and pursuing that, they did not want to take that away from me.”
Obviously, though, this dream of being a quarterback could interfere with preparing and appearing on the SEC Network if, say, an NFL team with injuries came calling on a Thursday in September. I asked Tebow and Justin Connolly, ESPN Senior Vice President Programming, College Networks, if there was any understanding on how long Tebow would also pursue being a NFL quarterback before committing to being on ESPN every Saturday in the fall for the 2014 season.
Neither talked about specifics. Tebow emphasized that it was “an ongoing process, a great relationship,” and later added, “when you have a great relationship, you can work through situations like that.”
Connolly said that it was important to Tebow that he be able to still pursue being a quarterback. “In terms of specific situations, I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but that’s a key piece of this relationship, and we are going to honor it and respect it.”
It looks, then, like Tebow could walk away, at any time, from the ESPN broadcast if he got an opportunity he wanted to pursue in the NFL at quarterback. It’s a smart play by ESPN. They were competing with other networks for his services, and Tebow, with his popularity, has the leverage.
ESPN is banking that his NFL career, at least as it relates to opportunities for 2014, is over. (Lurking out there? The rumors of Josh McDaniels to Cleveland, and an opportunity to backup there, as McDaniels originally drafted Tebow in Denver). They do not want to dictate specifics to Tebow. Tebow did not get any other looks in 2013 after being released from the Patriots, despite numerous quarterback injuries. With the relationship with ESPN now, it is doubtful that a NFL team will come calling if the concerns were the attention he would draw.
ESPN is gambling on that, rather than formally requiring a commitment from Tim Tebow. They are probably right.