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National Columnist

If Tebow winds up in Jacksonville, it will be NFL's biggest freak show


Tim Tebow is the NFL's bearded lady, a circus act in need of a circus, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are the league's most financially beleaguered franchise. Add the obvious geographical connection -- Tebow was a high school and college legend within an hour's drive of Jacksonville -- and you have a match made in Ringling Bros. heaven.

You'd also have the most cynical manipulation of Tebow yet, a struggling circus finding a freak show to draw a crowd. Gawkers spend money too, you know, and that would be the Jaguars' new target audience if they do in fact trade for Tebow, as sources near and far expect them to do.

Tebow deserves better, and by "better" I am in fact suggesting he deserves to be run out of the league before being used by the Jaguars, or any team, to make a cheap buck.

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The Jets trafficked in Tebow's popularity last offseason when they acquired him, trumpeting his arrival like a carnival barker.

He'll play Wildcat, and that's not all. No, that's not all!

It was a lie, of course. The Jets had no plans to use Tebow beyond acquiring him for the obligatory surge in attention that followed. He's a human Search Engine Optimization, more Kim Kardashian than Colin Kaepernick, and it's not his fault.

Please understand that. Tebow isn't a carnival act because he wants to be. When he looks in the mirror he sees not just a quarterback, but a starter-quality NFL quarterback. He's not entitled, not lazy. He's willing to work at his craft to make it happen, and he did have a magical run last season for the Broncos that suggests, perhaps, he's right. Perhaps he is a starter-quality NFL quarterback, albeit the most unorthodox starter-quality quarterback in the NFL today, a throwback to the days of Joe Kapp or maybe even Tom Matte. Don't know much about those two? There's a reason for that.

Tebow sees himself as a legitimate quarterback, but the people making decisions in the NFL see him as something else, something ... less. Something to be exploited. People like Jets owner Woody Johnson and, reportedly, Jags owner Shad Kahn look at Tebow and see the Yak Woman, with big horns growing right out above her ears. Ugly as sin, but a sweet gal, and a helluva good cook.

Tebow is more than that, and by more, I mean more than an NFL quarterback. Most people, that's the most they can aspire to -- to play quarterback in the NFL. Life's all downhill after that, or it would be for most of us. But for Tebow? Nah, he's more than an NFL quarterback. Or he will be, once he moves onto whatever comes next.

Tebow might never be as famous as he is now, might never make this much money or have this kind of platform, but all of those things -- the fame, the money -- are beneath him if this is how he is to acquire it: standing on the sideline and holding a clipboard while fans chant his name, media write it and anonymous sources in his own locker room savage it.

When his career is over, Tebow can go about the rest of his life, which will be the best of his life. You don't have to subscribe to his religion to believe that Tim Tebow will make a bigger impact off the NFL field than he has on it. Hell, if you don't subscribe to his religion or politics, you might even be scared of the impact he'll make as he fights for his beliefs while backed by an army of people just waiting to follow.

That day could be at hand. Tebow's playing career could very well end this offseason unless someone rescues it, and since nobody in the NFL seems to think he can actually play quarterback, that rescue mission would be a symbiotic gesture of survival.

We'll save your career. You save our franchise.

That's the deal Tebow would be making with the Jaguars if he is traded there or signs as a free agent should the Jets release him. For years the Jaguars have been fighting off what seems to be their inevitable relocation to a bigger television market, with owner Wayne Weaver tiring of the fight -- the blackouts, the tarps, the gimmicks to unload tickets -- and selling the team.

Under Khan the team has sold more tickets, avoided blackouts and even removed the tarps covering upper-deck sections for some games -- like the one Sunday against visiting New England. But the Jaguars remain the least valuable franchise in the NFL, according to Forbes, and one good year does not a viable business make.

The NFL in Jacksonville is on shaky ground, and while Tebow wouldn't stabilize it permanently, he would offer a few months, maybe even a few years, of respite. He might even play in real games. But he might not, and either way his saga would be the biggest storyline in town every week.

Tim Tebow isn't anyone's freak show, or shouldn't be, but if that's how he was used in New York this season, imagine him playing for the struggling NFL franchise located smack dab in the middle of his biggest fan base. The curtain would go up on the 2013 season, and will you look at that? It's Tim Tebow and the Jacksonville Jaguars -- conjoined twins.

Step right up.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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