Thoughts of the day: December 31, 2013

A few thoughts to jump start your New Year’s Eve.


ESPN has made its first really significant hire for the SEC Network, which will debut in August, by hiring former Gator quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as an analyst. Tebow is bright, articulate and extremely passionate about college football. He knows the game as few do so from the standpoint of being able to talk intelligently about what he’s seeing the answer is yes. The real question will be how critical can he allow himself to be? If there is one thing I learned in writing about Tim Tebow for four years it is that he’s always positive about everything. As an analyst he’s going to have to be as willing to talk about the positives as he is the negatives. That might be a real hurdle for him.


Tebow supposedly will have an out clause in his contract that will allow him to continue to pursue his dream of playing quarterback in the NFL. Can he play? My answer to that is yes and no. I’ll start with the no first. He absolutely, positively cannot play quarterback in a traditional NFL/West Coast offense and that has everything to do with the fact he has never been comfortable taking a snap under center and he’s never been particularly adept with timing patterns. Tebow has played in a shotgun snap, spread system where he’s the primary runner and because of the running threat he’s not required to be a precision passer. The yes part of my answer has to do with playing in a system that is designed to his particular talents. Can he run a shotgun spread where he can run around a lot and where the bulk of his throws don’t rely on precision and exact timing? My answer is yes he can, but until someone other than Chip Kelly is willing to run that kind of offense in the NFL, no one is going to give him a shot.


It’s a mystery to me why Tebow won’t make a wholesale change in his pro football plans. I have no doubt that he could become another Rob Gronkowski if he switched to tight end. I could see him as a motion guy who also takes an occasional center snap, handles some fullback duties and maybe finds his niche as a slot receiver. I know and understand that Tim has this dream of playing quarterback in the NFL, but if that door is shut – and apparently it is and nobody hears him knocking – then why not switch positions? He can make a darn sight more money playing tight end in the NFL than the SEC Network is going to pay him and he would give an NFL team the luxury of having an extra quarterback who has won playoff games on the roster in case of emergency.


I’m not the least bit surprised that former Gator defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is being mentioned for both the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns’ head coaching jobs. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Detroit comes calling if Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly just says no. When Quinn was at Florida, he gave rapid fire answers and wouldn’t duck a question about coaching technique or strategy. What impressed me most was the relationship he had with the kids, who all thought of him as a straight shooter who treated them like men. I thought Quinn and Will Muschamp made a terrific team when it came to running Florida’s defense. I’m a bit surprised that more people haven’t mentioned that one of the reasons Florida’s defense wasn’t as productive this year was the fact that Quinn had bolted to the NFL.


The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania says that Penn State has set its sights on hiring Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to replace Bill O’Brien, whose departure to the NFL is probably the worst kept secret in sports about now. Early reports had former Penn State player/assistant and now Miami head coach Al Golden as the top target, but that was followed by reports that just-fired Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Greg Schiano was on the Penn State wish list. Having gone through two self-imposed bowl bans at Miami, you have to wonder if Golden is up for another couple of years of NCAA sanctions. As for Schiano, Penn State endured the last few years of Joe Paterno. Is the school willing to hire a certifiable idiot just two years removed from Paterno’s final years? Franklin seems to be the best fit. He’s from Pennsylvania, is of sound mind, and he’s got the kind of enthusiasm for what he does to light up the entire state.


The Austin American-Statesman isn’t backing down from its report that the top four on the Texas list are Art Briles (Baylor), Jimbo Fisher (Florida State), Charlie Strong (Louisville) and Franklin. Briles, Fisher and Franklin have yet to say they aren’t interested in the job. The only thing they say is how happy they are where they are and to be coaching in big games. Strong, who just led Louisville to a 12-1 season capped by a bowl win over Miami, says he has no interest. Of those four, I think Franklin is the one who positively wouldn’t say no if the job were offered. I believe that Jimbo Fisher wants the Texas job but won’t leave if he wins the national championship. After all, how many chances do you get to win back-to-back titles and FSU will be loaded again next year. I think Briles is happy where he is and the only job I think Strong would leave Louisville for at this point in his career is Florida.


What happens if the A-list guys all say no? In that case, keep an eye on Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and North Carolina coach Larry Fedora. They wouldn’t be embarrassed to take the Texas job even if they were Plan B or C guys and both would be very good hires. T. Boone Pickens can match Texas dollar for dollar to keep Gundy at Okie State, but he will never attract the kind of athletes to Stillwater that he could recruit to Texas. He has a track record of proven success and runs one of the most exciting offenses in the country. Plus he would bring Joe Wickline with him, the best O-line coach in the country. As for Fedora, he’s an Austin boy and he also has a track record of success and runs an exciting offense. He and Wickline are buds. If Fedora were at Texas he could afford Wickline, whose complete compensation package rounds out at about $700,000.


The Mack Brown era at the University of Texas ended Monday night, not the way he wanted to but with the full measure of class and dignity that you would expect. All Brown did was graduate his players, win a national championship, average just under 10 wins a season for 16 years, and do it all without the NCAA lighting up his program with sanctions. Maybe it was time for him to go since the program had been spinning its wheels a lot in the last four years, but the way he was forced out is an embarrassment. Mack Brown deserved better. He left the program in far better shape than it was when he inherited it.


When they were at the peak of their musical game in the 1990s, The Rippingtons put on the best show in jazz. Their “Live in LA” album in 1992 is one of the best live jazz albums of that decade. This is one of The Rips signature songs, “Tourist in Paradise” and it features some very cool piano work by David Benoit along with great vocals by Carl Anderson. Back in those days, percussionist Steve Reid was a show almost unto himself.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.


  1. so, now with these developments in the coaching carousel, IF the Gators shoot themselves repeatedly again next season and Foley makes a change, the Gators could likely be looking at Charlie Strong as compared to James Franklin (taking the PSU slot)? Or, would Foley overlook Charley and avoid having to pony up some pretty serious jack to pry Strong back to Gville?