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The Pro Game

Tebow's start, McNabb's finish

About the Author

Tom Danyluk

Danyluk1@yahoo.com
Contributing writer

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Posted Dec. 22, 2010 @ 4:45 p.m. ET
By Tom Danyluk

Viagra is an active sponsor of the NFL, and in the TV promos we are dutifully warned about erections lasting more than four hours. After listening to CBS's Gus Johnson broadcast Tim Tebow's first NFL start versus Oakland, we know they can last for at least three.

"I'm a football player that just happens to play the position of quarterback," That's the old-world Tebow mantra. And Johnson reminded us of that to exhaustion, fawning and gushing and romancing after nearly every Tebow exertion. Even deep throws that sailed far out of bounds, unreachable, were described with a high-fever pitch and fingers crossed.

"Tim Tebow's first start — it's been one to remember," Johnson beamed as the fourth quarter died away. Which means we're to file away an 8-for-16 passing day for 138 yards in a 39-23 Denver loss?

"Grandpa, what were you doing the day of Tebow's first game?"

"Looking for Grandma."

How did Tebow really play? Not badly. OK, in fact, considering the Broncos' coaches didn't ask him to do much, particularly in 3rd-and-long situations. The Raiders' pressure didn't seem to shake him; he was functional, trying to make gains when his protection fell down, keeping his wits amidst the chaos.

You won't hear this in the highlight reports, but his 33-yard TD pass to Brandon Lloyd, late in the first quarter, was a luck job, a floater into double coverage that somehow dropped into friendly hands in the right corner of the endzone. It easily could have been a Raiders theft.

We saw that Tebow still delivers quite a lazy ball. He's short on big-gun velocity. The Denver coaches haven't fixed that yet, and often it's not treatable.

So, as expected, Tebow dialed up his old college buddy, the QB draw, his up-the-gut Larry Csonka routine - one that he broke for a 40-yard score in the first quarter. A helluva romp it was, and in the booth Johnson wept from joy.

Yet people seem to forget that's how Tebow made his early name at Florida; not by any wild aerial displays, but by Csonka-ing into the pile in short-yardage situations, fullback-type plunges, mashing through defenders. He ran the ball. And last Sunday he ran for 78 yards, second-most all-time for a Broncos QB.

Csonka. Nagurski. Riggins. Jim Taylor. ... Heavy farm equipment names. Those are the honest Tebow roots.

 


 

Donovan McNabb is sentenced to the bench once again, but in all my years I can't recall a coach use such a punishing tone during his explanation to the newsmen as Mike Shanahan used last week.

"I told Donovan that there's nothing he can do in the three games that would influence me over what he's done over the last 13 games," was how Shanahan put it.

There's nothing he can do … A scolding, words to a teen who has been grounded for bad behavior. … "There's nothing you can do to get the car keys back, son …" etc.

There's a John Unitas remark from way back — "You don't become a real quarterback until you can tell the coach to go to hell."  

Now we've got a head coach telling his quarterback to go to hell. I'm not sure what happens next in that Washington front office, although I've got a pretty good idea.

 


 

I wish ESPN hadn't given up on its SportsCentury series, those mini-documentaries they used to put together on the big-time athletes and coaches from history. I was reminded of how good they were as I sat through HBO's recent 90-minute special on Vince Lombardi.

Lombardi is rich — a real captivating piece of goal-line history. And that's no surprise because HBO Sports always gets it right when they attempt something like this, with patience and delicate brushstrokes and a well-lit canvas.

The program's biggest ice-water moment came in a segment with daughter Susan Lombardi, surrounding the chaos her father brought to the family's home life.

"He was so bi-polar," she said, "of course, we didn't know it. One minute he'd be up here, the next minute he's down here. When he got out of control, I ran to the basement … you know, just turn on the radio and just stay away."

"An imperfect man trying to achieve perfection," added Lombardi biographer David Maraniss.

Some of those old football SportsCentury episodes — in particular, the ones on Bradshaw and Shula and Namath and Al Davis — were of the same classy grade. I wish they'd do more. HBO, too. There's a genuine craving for them.

 


 

I once knew a guy who always wore fine, dark suits to the office — and white socks. Business-wise he was pretty sharp, and you'd sit there in weekly 2 p.m. meetings and his comments on pricing and market conditions were usually right on. But then you'd inevitably gaze under the table and see those crossed legs and the dress shoes and that fine, over-the-calf NBA hosery, and human nature made it difficult to take the balance of those meetings seriously.

But the style is really catching on with some TV/radio sports types. Suits and white socks are in — in the form of referring to coaches by their nicknames during on-air commentary.

For eternity a journalistic no-no, but more and more we're getting insight on Foxy (Carolina's John Fox), Spags (the Rams' Steve Spagnuolo), Whiz (Ken Whisenhunt of the Cardinals) and Koob (the Texans' Gary Kubiak). The insider, frat-boy familiarity. I don't like it.

Fox Sports' Jay Glazer is one of the big white socks offenders. Terrific on scoops and his bug-on-the-wall stuff, but the buddy-buddy treatment he often gives it is tough to take. "Yeah, I talked to Spags about this the other day ..." or "Whiz feels he can get it turned around out there."

It's an unprofessional comfort level, a reporter etiquette 911.

 


 

Daydreaming. All those glamorous college teams of the past. What would it take to go back in time and inject a playoff system from the beginning? Does Mark Cuban have the kind of dough to get that kind of project going?

Take 1978, for example. These would've been the first-round matchups, based on the final regular-season AP rankings from that December. Lord, what a bounty of riches!

No. 8 Arkansas (9-2) at No. 1 Penn State (11-0) — Hogs and Nittanies had never met before … nor since. In civvies, Lou Holtz tops Joe Paterno in the Punch Line Bowl

No. 7 Clemson (10-1) at No. 2 Alabama (10-1) — In the real world, the Tigers were three years away from a national title; Ol' Bear's Tide was three weeks away.

No. 6 Nebraska (9-2) at No. 3 USC (11-1) — Huskers' 500 yards-per-game attack against that lush roster of SoCal pros … Ronnie Lott, Charlie White, Dennis Smith, Chip Banks, Anthony Munoz, etc.

No. 5 Michigan (10-1) at No. 4 Oklahoma (10-1) — The ultimate conflict of interest. Wolverines allowed eight points per game; Wishbone Sooners scored 40 per game.

Sigh. Maybe in another lifetime.

 

Tom Danyluk is an award-winning freelance writer based in Chicago. His book on pro football, "The Super '70s," is available at Amazon.com. You can contact Tom at Danyluk1@yahoo.com.

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