College Football Nation: Football may never see the likes of Tebow, McCoy again
Tonight, Tim Tebow says goodbye. On Thursday, Colt McCoy does the same.
Great players graduate every year, put college football in the past and move on to the next stage of their lives. Tebow and McCoy are not merely great players, however. They’re historically significant, quarterbacks against whom future generations will be measured.
Tebow, Florida’s quarterback, will lead the Gators against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl this evening, finishing a career that includes more touchdowns than anyone in SEC history, a Heisman Trophy and two national championships. McCoy, Texas’ quarterback, will lead the Longhorns against Alabama in the BCS Championship Game on Thursday, finishing a career that includes more victories than any quarterback in the history of college football (45) and the greatest single-season completion percentage the game has ever seen.
It’s not out of bounds to argue that Tebow is the college football player of all-time.
He’s truly unique, a blend of power runner and elite passer that the game has never seen.
Tebow completed 65.2 percent of his passes this year, throwing for 18 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also ran for 859 yards and 13 more scores. And that was considered a bad season for Tebow.
He became the first player in college football history to run for 20 touchdowns and throw for 20 in 2007, when he threw for 32 and ran for 23. He threw just six picks that year, and was the first sophomore to ever win the Heisman. He added 30 touchdown passes - with just four interceptions - and 12 more on the ground last year.
His career numbers are staggering.
In three years as the starter, plus spot duty as a freshman when he backed up Chris Leak and provided a change of pace with his running, he completed 610 of 925 passes for 8,457 yards, 84 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. As a runner, he carried the ball 668 times for 2,833 yards and 56 more touchdowns.
His 56 rushing scores broke the SEC record of 49 held by Herschel Walker ... and he’s a quarterback!
“The thing that makes him different than any player I've been around is his drive, his toughness, his competitiveness,” Florida coach Urban Meyer told The Sporting News. “Tim doesn't back down from anybody. Tim wakes up every morning and tries to get better at his job. He's as competitive a human being as I've ever been around.”
Tebow burst on the scene with the 2006 Florida team, contributing to the Gators in their run to the national championship, a 13-1 season that culminated in a 41-14 win over Ohio State. Since then he’s been the perfect player for Meyer’s spread option attack, guiding Florida to a 34-6 record and a second national championship.
Is Tebow greatest player the game has seen? There’s no way to truly know, and frankly, who cares.
There can be no arguing that he’s special, unique, historic. About that there is simply no debate.
McCoy is similarly special. Like Tebow, the Texas quarterback is a blend of runner and passer. He doesn’t possess Tebow’s power and didn’t amass the rushing numbers of his Florida counterpart, but his passing prowess is better.
McCoy first gained notoriety as a redshirt freshman in 2006, when he succeeded the brilliant Vince Young as Texas’ quarterback. He threw for 2,570 and 29 touchdowns yards that year.
There was a step back as a sophomore, when the offense was placed more in his hands and he threw 18 picks.
But his junior year was as good as any a quarterback has had. He completed a jaw-dropping 76.7 percent of his passes, shattering the record of former Central Florida quarterback Daunte Culpepper. He tossed 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, and finished second to Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford in the Heisman balloting - ahead of Tebow.
He was nearly as good this season, again completing better than 70 percent of his passes, though his interceptions jumped up to 12.
In four years, McCoy has thrown for 13,244 yards and 112 touchdowns. He’s also run for 1,581 yards 20 scores.
What makes McCoy unique, however, aren’t all the passing touchdowns or rushing yards from the quarterback position. It’s the accuracy, not merely uncommon but groundbreaking.
In four years - which includes starting every game as a freshman - he’s completed 70 percent of his passes.
“He can take the ball down the field easier in critical situations than anybody in the country,” Texas coach Mack Brown told The Sporting News. “He's a guy that’s infectious with his leadership. He affects our entire team. He affects our defense. He affects our kicking team. And he's a great role model.”
What’s missing from McCoy’s resume is the national title. The Longhorns, however, will play Alabama for the championship in less than a week. And Texas was robbed of an opportunity to play for the championship last year when the system picked Oklahoma.
Besides, measuring individual accomplishment by team success in the ultimate team sport is unfair.
Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy each have one game remaining before they move on to the next stage of their lives. What they’ve done so far has been historically good. They’re not loved by everyone - especially in places like Norman, College Station, Athens and Tallahassee - and their success, particularly Tebow’s with the way he’s been portrayed as a near-saint, has bred the kind of dislike that Tom Brady and Derek Jeter engender.
But whatever someone’s favorite team, their personal likes and dislikes, there can be no question about what Tebow and McCoy have given the game of college football for the past four years.
Thank you, Tim. Thank you, Colt.
What We Learned
There’s nothing easy about coaching.
Pressure is ever present. If there aren’t enough wins, the job evaporates, someone new takes over.
Pressure makes people do funny things.
Two stories have dominated the headlines over the past week, both surrounding coaches and what they do to try and win, to try and be successful at their profession, to try and stay ahead of the competition.
First, last Saturday, Florida’s Meyer revealed that he’s pushed himself so hard that he’s losing a battle with his health. He announced his resignation last Saturday - effective after the Sugar Bowl - to address those health issues, frequent chest pains, trips to the hospital. He hedged a bit on Sunday and instead decided to take a leave of absence and return to the Gators once his health - and hopefully his ability to find balance and deal with stress - is better under control.
Then, on Monday, news dropped that Texas Tech coach Mike Leach had been suspended for the Alamo Bowl due to allegations that he’d mistreated a player. Adam James, the son of former running back and current ESPN analyst Craig James, asserted that after he suffered a concussion he was confined to an equipment room and an electrical closet while the rest of the team practiced.
Two days later, on Wednesday, Leach was fired.
In a sense, they’re similar issues. They’re both about abusive behavior, born of a profound desire to win, the pressure to be brilliant. They’re both problems that have always existed in college football, and it’s not a bad thing that they’ve come to light.
Hopefully, Meyer’s admission that he drove himself so hard that he developed and then ignored dangerous health issues will cause other coaches to take a hard look at themselves and the hours they work.
“It's something that started about four years ago,” Meyer said at a press conference on Sunday. “It was chest pains that became rather significant two years ago. Whether it’s stress related, I was very concerned. I know there’s a great basketball coach that lost his life at Wake Forest. I started to become very alarmed with that. And then I'm a person of faith, and I just wanted to make sure I had my priorities straight. A lot of times coaches do not have their priorities straight. You put business before God and family, you have a problem.
“So ... I came to the conclusion that I had to re-prioritize everything. So that’s exactly what it is. I was advised that I have to get this right or it could lead to damage. That’s what made that decision.”
Leach, meanwhile, lost his job for essentially being a bully, at least allegedly. Just last month Kansas’ Mark Mangino was fired for mistreatment of players.
Hopefully, the examples of Leach and Mangino - and the fire Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez came under for forcing players to practice far more than the NCAA’s allotted weekly hours - will discourage the dehumanizing of players.
There’s a long history of bullying behavior in college football. But many, many coaches have won without constant berating, without humiliating. The winningest coaches of all time are Penn State’s Joe Paterno and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden. They’re not yellers and screamers, and yet they seem to have done just fine.
What Meyer did to himself is not good. What Leach allegedly did to one of his players is not good.
But maybe some good will come from their examples, coaches taking better care of both themselves and their players.
Game of the Week
The season has built slowly to this point, to one game in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl on the night of Jan. 7 that will determine a champion.
Alabama, kings of the SEC, will play Texas, kings of the Big 12.
Both teams are undefeated, which hasn’t been the case in the BCS title game since Texas upset Southern California five years ago.
The Crimson Tide, based largely on a surprisingly easy win over Florida in the SEC Championship, is favored over the Longhorns, who struggled mightily to beat Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship. But basing the probable winner on what happened on one weekend is shortsighted.
In truth, Alabama and Texas appear evenly matched.
The Tide wins with a shutdown defense and an offense that grinds down the opposition. The Longhorns, meanwhile, win with an explosive offense and strong but not spectacular defense.
Alabama’s defense is the best in the nation. The Tide allows just 11 points per game, which is .23 less than any other team. The 241.7 yards they give up on average is second nationally, just eight more than TCU.
The offense, however, struggles at times. Alabama scores an average of 31.7 points per game, and while the rushing offense - driven by Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram - grinds out better than 215 yards per game (12th nationally), the passing attack is ranked just 84th (197.9 yards per game) behind junior quarterback Greg McElroy.
“We’re not able to sleep,” Texas’ Brown said in a press conference on Dec. 21. “They’ve got three (Ndamukong) Suh’s up front. That’s the problem. Everywhere you look, they’ve been knocking people down. We’re afraid to show it to our kids. We’ll limit how much film we show them, cut some plays out and go real slow with them.”
Texas, meanwhile, has one of the most prolific offenses in the country. The Longhorns are third in the nation in scoring, putting up 40.7 points per game. McCoy, who finished third in the Heisman balloting, drives a passing attack that gains 279.7 yards per game, but without a standout running back the Longhorns have been unable to mount a steady running game.
Defensively, Texas ranks eighth in scoring defense, allowing 15.2 points per game. But as stout as the Longhorns have been most of the time, they allowed 39 points to Texas A&M on Thanksgiving and 24 to Texas Tech early in the year.
“Well, I think Texas has a very good defense, period,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Monday. “They’ve got a very good secondary. They’ve got good people up front. They’ve got good pass rushers. ... I think they also have the most non-offensive touchdowns scored (in the nation), which means the defense is scoring some too. ... The challenge is that all the guys do their job well.”
Special teams are also pretty even. Neither team has a particularly good punter, but both have strong returners - Jordan Shipley for Texas and Javier Arenas for Alabama.
Simply, the potential exists for something special to take place in the Rose Bowl on Thursday night. The Crimson Tide may be favored, but a game most worthy of being the season’s finale might just erupt at the feet of the San Gabriel Mountains.
If I Had a Ballot ...
I’d vote after Texas plays Alabama for the national championship.
Eric Avidon is a Daily News staff writer. He can be reached at 508-626-3809 firstname.lastname@example.org.