First, a video:
Jones went on to clarify his remarks here.
This is my interpretation of what happened:
June Jones finally got a chance to do a live interview on ESPN during a time when people on the East Coast are still awake and watching. He wanted to make the best case he could for his guy, Colt Brennan, to win the Heisman Trophy, so he did what everyone else has done in 2007: put Brennan in terms of Tim Tebow. He compared his guy to the front runner for the award and said Brennan is better. How he made that case was from the start bound to cause confusion.
You see, in the college football world, the spread offense is commonplace and there’s nothing unusual about it. It is considered to be a normal part of the landscape. June Jones however is first and foremost an NFL guy, so when he evaluates football he looks at both the NFL and college. The spread has not been tried in the NFL, so for him it goes alongside the triple option, the Nebraska power option, and other college-only systems. For an NFL guy, an offense has to work in both college and the NFL to be a valid offense and not a “system” that manufactures good stats due to scheme rather than talent and technique of the quarterback. Because of this mindset, Tim Tebow is a “system quarterback” for running the spread.
Now, June Jones implemented the Run & Shoot offense at Hawaii, which he also ran in the NFL while coaching the Atlanta Falcons from 1994 – 1996. His argument is that because Colt Brennan has proven himself in Jones’ NFL offense, then Brennan could run any offense and therefore is a better pro prospect than Tebow is. Also, because Brennan is the better pro prospect, he is plain and simple a better quarterback and should win the Heisman Trophy. Remember: in an NFL guy’s mind, anything that is NFL-related is automatically better than anything solely college-related. Tebow runs a college-only scheme, so he is not as good as the pro-offense running Brennan.
There are two glaring problems with Jones’ statements, though. First, he says Tebow is not a natural passer due to a lack of accuracy and not being able “to make all the throws” required by his offense. I find it overwhelmingly unlikely that Jones has had time to break down tape on Tebow, and due to time zone differences and just plain being busy because he’s a coach, its just as unlikely that he’s seen Florida play a full game. He’s probably only seen highlights of Tim’s play. That’s unfortunate because the majority of his highlights this year are of his runs, not his throws, because it’s his running style that makes him unique from any other QB. If Jones had seen Tebow play all year, he’d know that Tebow has made every throw in the book, from screen passes all the way up to 50-yard bombs. He’s stuck on the old “Tebow can’t throw” theme, and he hasn’t had the chance to see enough of Florida to know it’s not true.
The “inaccurate” comment is completely inexcusable when it’s easy to look up that Tim Tebow has a better passer rating than Colt Brennan himself does. Plus, Tebow faces much more difficult defenses week in and week out. Boise State and Hawaii going to a BCS game in consecutive seasons does a great job at disguising the fact that the rest of the WAC is really, very, extremely, deplorably bad. Take out the top two and you’ve got the Sun Belt west.
The second glaring weakness is his implied assertion that the Run & Shoot is a legit NFL offense. As far as I can tell, only two teams actually ran it in the NFL: the early 1990s Houston Oilers and Jones’ Atlanta teams. Other franchises have done no-huddle or other fast-paced schemes, but those two teams are it for the actual Run & Shoot. Those teams never made it to even a conference title game much less the Super Bowl, and the offense hasn’t been used again since Jones’ firing by Atlanta due to it not employing the running back enough. Jones’ final NFL record was 19-29. At best, the Run & Shoot was an experiment run by two head coaches (Jerry Glanville and Jones) that was discredited for a lacking a sufficient running game and not having enough blocking. In other words it’s no West Coast Offense, something that has been employed in the NFL consistently for more than 20 years.
Jones did backtrack from his initial comments some, saying that Tebow is a great QB who will likely win the Heisman and probably a national title as well. However, he continued, Tebow is productive by doing things that can’t be done in the NFL, whereas his guy Colt Brennan is the “best passer in college history.” While that’s true if you look at the record book, Jones should also look at the guys Brennan has been passing up: Andre Ware, David Klingler, Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons, and the like. Owning records in college is an awful predictor of NFL success, especially when you consider that Jones’ and Brennan’s Run & Shoot is what Ware, Klingler and (more or less) Mike Leach’s Texas Tech guys (Kingsbury and Symons) ran in college. You should also note that when pressed on the issue, Jones bases his evaluation of Tebow more on how Alex Smith is performing with the 49ers than anything Tebow has actually done at Florida.
In the end what we have here is someone seeking to promote his player by denigrating another. We also have an NFL supremacist taking a shot at the spread offense, despite the fact that his own “pro-style” offense hasn’t been run in the NFL for over a decade. We also have someone asking for 70+ points to be scored on him come August 30, 2008. Perhaps when Tebow levels his linebackers, June Jones will understand why Tebow is such a special player as a runner. And maybe, just maybe, as he watches Tebow connect with Percy Harvin on a 70 yard touchdown pass he’ll realize a year behind the rest of the country that hey, this kid can throw after all.
UPDATE: Tebow responds with humor, Jones backtracks, and Bob Griese talks some sense.