It almost pains me to watch Tim Tebow try another comeback.
Because, chances are, he will fail again and further undercut a legacy that deserves better.
A low point came this week when Tebow was ripped by, of all people, a kicker.
Former NFL extra-point ace Jay Feely remarked on “Jim Rome on Showtime” that Tebow was the “single-worst quarterback I ever saw.”
We all know Tebow’s latest comeback, with the Philadelphia Eagles, is fueled by his inability to let go of the competitiveness that made him All-American at Florida.
It’s fueled even more, probably, by the ego of Eagles Coach Chip Kelly, out to prove he can salvage an entire depth chart of former collegiate quarterback stars: Sam Bradford, Matt Barkley, Mark Sanchez, Tebow.
It has always bothered me a bit, as a college football writer, that greatness is too often measured by how well a quarterback pans out in the NFL.
The more Tebow fails as a pro, and is ridiculed by extra-point kickers, the more his collegiate legacy may be marginalized.
Tebow’s failure in the pros should not undermine the brilliance he brought to the game of football.
It takes a certain skill set, and mind-set, to make it as a pro.
Running a transformative offense in college does not always translate professionally. The things that get you famous in college — running the ball — get you killed in the NFL.
So, before Tebow’s latest effort is lampooned, let’s salute the best college quarterbacks who didn’t quite make the transition.
Here are my favorites since I arrived on the scene in 1995.
1: Tommie Frazier (Nebraska). He remains the greatest college quarterback I have covered. Frazier ran Tom Osborne’s option offense to near-perfection in leading Nebraska to national titles in 1994 and 1995.
2: Tim Tebow (Florida). His touchdown-to-interception passing ratio was 88 to 16, with 57 rushing touchdowns. Take a second look at his fourth-quarter performance against Alabama in the 2008 Southeastern Conference title game.
3: Vince Young (Texas). Might have fared better in the NFL had he been drafted by a team that wanted him (as opposed to Tennessee). Young’s mesmerizing tenure at Texas was highlighted by all-time performances against Michigan and USC on college’s biggest stage — the Rose Bowl.
4: Colt McCoy (Texas). He was a smaller, friskier version of Young who never got injured until the 2009 national title game against Alabama.
5: Cade McNown (UCLA). Four-year starter who nearly led the Bruins to the first BCS title game in 1998. It’s a shame he’s remembered more by some as a first-round NFL bust.
6: Matt Leinart (USC). First snap came in 23-0 win at Auburn. Leader of the Pete Carroll-era dynasty. Seemed to lose desire once he cashed his first NFL paycheck.
7: Kellen Moore (Boise State). Insanely accurate and smart. He was 50-3 as a four-year starter. The three losses were by five total points.
8: Oregon quarterbacks. (Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Dennis Dixon, Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas). The same school that produced NFL Hall of Fame members Norm Van Brocklin and Dan Fouts also produced these guys.
9: Pat White (West Virginia). Dual-threat left-handed superstar for Rich Rodriguez who had zero chance of making it in the NFL. In college, though, he passed for 56 touchdowns and rushed for 47.
10: Chris Weinke (Florida State). A big-armed former minor league baseball player who led the Seminoles to a perfect season in 1999. Also won the Heisman Trophy.
Honorable mention: Ken Dorsey (Miami), Chase Daniel (Missouri), Michael Bishop (Kansas State), Major Applewhite (Texas), Danny Wuerffel (Florida), Colt Brennan (Hawaii), Case Keenum (Houston), Eric Crouch (Nebraska), Graham Herrell (Texas Tech), Josh Heupel (Oklahoma), Jason White (Oklahoma), Tee Martin (Tennessee).