"[Tim Tebow] can't play quarterback in the NFL," McShay, ESPN's director of college scouting, said earlier this week. "I'm convinced of it."
Wow. No "Sorry, you just ain't got it, dog"? No "You have such great energy"? Nope. McShay, a former pine-riding quarterback at FCS-level Richmond, came right out and delivered the most brutally crushing career advice since newspaper magnate Mitchum Huntzberger told budding journalist Rory Gilmore, "I gotta tell you, kid, you ain't got it," on "Gilmore Girls."
And I gotta tell you, Todd, I dig you for saying what you did. Not because you are correct (I don't know) or because I am riding shotgun on the Tebow backlash bandwagon (on the contrary, I love the guy) or even because I am pro-choice (if I'm "pro-" anything, it's Propecia). Rather, I dig you because by giving such an unvarnished appraisal you became the only person at this week's Senior Bowl to take a bigger risk than Tebow.
You don't kick puppies, you don't interrupt Taylor Swift's MTV Video Awards acceptance speech and you do not denigrate Tim Tebow's talent. Less than a month ago, when the Florida quarterback was completing 31-of-35 passes for 482 yards in the Sugar Bowl, he was being hailed as perhaps the greatest college football player of all-time.
Certainly Tebow, who won one Heisman Trophy and was a finalist for two others, as well as helping lead Florida to two national championships and three bowl wins, was as successful as any player in memory. How much simpler for McShay if he had just allowed
McShay seemed to take no sadistic pleasure (it's not as if he is Tyra Banks, after all) in stomping on Tebow's dream. He just didn't sugarcoat it. Okay, he arsenic-coated it. "To me [Tebow] has two choices," McShay said. "He needs to strip down and completely start over as a quarterback and passer or he needs to find another position to play in the NFL."
Is that all?
By speaking so decisively, by being completely unequivocal in his assessment of Tebow's future, McShay has in a sense risked his own. And that takes courage. Or stupidity. I'm going with the former.
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There are millions of people who want to see Tebow succeed. Scores of football fans who don't want his only Super Bowl appearance to be in the form of a Focus on the Family ad. And should Tebow make an NFL roster or take a single Sunday snap someday (out of the shotgun, of course, Lord knows he'd fumble one under center), I imagine McShay will have a difficult time living it down. His words will haunt him, to speak in terms ESPNers can understand, somewhere near the degree of "You're with me, Leather."
I admire McShay's conviction -- just as I admire Tebow's. A former quarterback at Swampscott (Mass.) High School who cut tape for his college coach once a back injury ended his career, McShay looks like the buddy you'd order a Bloomin' Onion with at Outback when you escape the cubicle to go to lunch. And yet in just a few short years he has become a valuable and near-ubiquitous presence on ESPN's multi-platformed media leviathan.
Unlike Mel Kiper, (the Ryan Bingham to his Natalie Keener for "Up in the Air" fans) McShay does not come across as self-promoting. His evaluation is sober, albeit extensive and withering. And, truly, if he truly believes Jake Locker would have been the top pick in this year's draft, then I'm not entirely sold on his evaluation prowess (the U-Dub quarterback possesses, at this stage of his career, slightly more accuracy than Mariah Carey throwing out a ceremonial first pitch).
And all this talk about mechanics, about release points and delivery issues, begins to sound as if we are discussing nuclear arms as opposed to Tebow's. Where is the Excel spread sheet column that assesses passion or grit? Peyton Manning is a draftnik's delight. Brett Favre is not so shoddy, either. And Kurt Warner, who retired Friday, was never even drafted.
So, sure, I'm rooting for Tebow. But I also salute McShay for, in a world that has yet to eradicate the phrase "We'll just have to agree to disagree," truly speaking his mind. Knowing that he is only taking on the most beloved college athlete in America. Whereas the upside for any franchise selecting Tebow in a later round is so much greater than the possible downside, the inverse is true regarding McShay's candor.
He has so much more to lose if he is wrong. This week he did the draftnik equivalent of participating in both the Senior Bowl and the Combine when he could have just faked an ankle injury. Let's face it: you've never been so anxious to actually to tune in to the game in Mobile, Ala., as you are this weekend. Okay, you've never been anxious to do so. But McShay has made Tebow's performance the greatest stunt to air on ESPN since Travis Pastrana's New Year's Eve leap across Long Beach harbor.
Good luck, Tim Tebow. And good luck to you, too, Mr. McShay. You've got millions of Gator fans rooting against you. As well as Mel Kiper.