The Florida Gators have come to expect only the best out of all-everything quarterback Tim Tebow. Whether it was winning last season's Heisman Trophy, dealing humbly with cult-hero worship or tending to sick and poor during missionary visits to foreign lands, the results have reached folklore proportions.
"He is a legend," said CBS college football analyst Gary Danielson. "No matter what he ever does, he will always be a legend."
Thus, as Florida takes its high hopes for 2008 into today's season opener at The Swamp against Hawaii, it might be difficult for some passionate believers to hear what Tebow must do next to improve his stock as the Gators' signal-caller.
"A lot," he says.
Tiger Woods makes double-bogeys. Michael Jordan dribbled a few off his knee. David Beckham married a Spice Girl. See, nobody is perfect.
"Last year in several ways was very disappointing for us," Tebow said. "No. 1, losing four games. So my biggest goal this year is becoming a better decision-maker. What that entails is when I approach the line of scrimmage, it's recognizing defenses faster, getting us into a better play faster. Maybe not always have to make the big play, don't always have to run somebody over. Maybe get down, I didn't say slide, but get down or maybe step out of bounds, just be smart with the decisions that I make on the field.
"I mean, that's what separates Tom Brady and Peyton Manning from every other quarterback, is their decision-making."
As robo-quarterback of Florida's spread offense, the legend last year threw for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns while running for 895 yards and 23 scores. The Gators averaged 42.5 points a game, best in the SEC and third in the nation.
UF's offense, expecting more from its running backs, should be improved. Yet, at the risk of being picky, that does not mean Tebow automatically becomes a better quarterback.
Danielson, a former NFL quarterback out of Purdue, says that to continue to develop, Tebow must show ability to be a pocket passer who can react to defensive schemes and feather passes when needed.
"And it's going to be tough to get there because he's so valuable in the other things he does," Danielson said. "Every time you take away time to concentrate on those things, you are basically cutting off your nose to spite your face. Because the offense is so good at what he does, why do anything different?"
There may be no good answer. So, when in doubt, give the ball to Tebow.
"Our coaches are giving him a hard time, because everybody is saying it's going to be a different Tim Tebow this year who will not run as much," Coach Urban Meyer said. "I'm not sure where that is coming from. One thing we do have is very functional running backs right now. However, we are still going to do what we are going to do, and Tim Tebow is still Tim."
That promises a lot.
"How does a sophomore Heisman Trophy winner improve?" asked Jesse Palmer, the former Florida quarterback and now an ESPN analyst. "He becomes a junior. I don't know what else to say.
"You look at his numbers last year and what he accomplished playing in that style of offense, and you do wonder what can he do to improve. I think it's getting him into the meeting rooms, into the playbook. They have more talent to share the wealth with, so it's a matter of Tim continuing to gel with his players."