HEISMAN TROPHY winner

Tim Tebow

can't enter the NFL draft until 2009, but NFL scouts already are intrigued by the pro potential of the versatile University of Florida quarterback.

The 6-3, 235-pounder, who became the first quarterback in NCAA history to throw and rush for 20 touchdowns in a season, has drawn comparisons to University of Texas product Vince Young, who was taken by the Tennessee Titans with the third pick in the '06 draft.

"[Tebow] made great strides this year as far as throwing the ball,'' one NFC scout said. "Both mechanically and accuracywise. If you make the assumption that he'll continue to make strides [as a passer] his junior year, then he would really pique my interest when we get to '09.''

Tebow plays in the same type of spread option offense at Florida that Young did at Texas. It takes advantage of his running skills, but isn't an ideal system for preparing someone to play quarterback in the NFL.

Mike Mayock, a former NFL cornerback who is the top draft analyst for the NFL Network, was lukewarm on Young when he came out in '06. Had him rated as the third best quarterback in the draft, behind Jay Cutler, who went 11th to Denver, and Matt Leinart, who went 10th to Arizona. He's got the same type of reservations about Tebow that he had about Young.

"In a nutshell, I thought Vince was a winner,'' Mayock said. "I thought he was the kind of kid who made the people around him better. But I wasn't sure he was ever going to be able to pass the ball from the pocket well enough to lead an NFL team to a Super Bowl. Right now, I wonder the same thing about Tebow.''

Young has struggled this season. He's 29th in the league in passing and has thrown just seven touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. But Mayock has been impressed by the second-year player's work ethic and willingness to learn the position.

"Michael Vick, despite all of his talent, resisted becoming an NFL quarterback,'' Mayock said. "To me, he always was going to be just an athlete. Because he didn't want to develop the pocket skills.

"Vince Young, on the other hand, looks to be working his tail off to try and become a complete NFL quarterback. Even though his numbers in the pass game aren't great yet, he's working hard on becoming a better pocket passer.''

Young is a little more athletic than Tebow. He's more of a make-you-miss runner than the Heisman winner, who is a little bigger and stronger and more likely to take tacklers on when he runs.

"I see a raw kid with incredible athletic ability who improved as a thrower, as a passer, from his first year to his second year," Mayock said of Tebow. "He seemed to show a little more touch this year. He's still really raw in the pass game. But he's exciting because of his physical attributes."

But playing quarterback in the NFL is about throwing the football not running with it.

"I would struggle as an NFL general manager drafting either guy [Tebow or Young]," Mayock said. "That's me, though. Whether it's Tebow or Young, you've got to completely retailor your offense to take advantage of what they do best. And in the event of an injury, is the next guy the same kind of guy?"

Around the league

*

Bill Cowher

has made it clear that he has no intention of returning to coaching in 2008, yet his name continues to be linked with NFL jobs, including the current vacancy in Atlanta. Frustrated Eagles fans even have floated him as a possible replacement for

Andy Reid

. Cowher, who is working as a studio analyst for CBS, will eventually return to coaching, but it won't be next season. His youngest daughter

Lindsay

is a standout basketball player at Ravenscroft High School in Raleigh, N.C. and Cowher doesn't want to get back into coaching until her high school career is over. Lindsay is a junior.

* Bill Parcells wants back into the NFL, but not as a coach. Says he'd be interested in being a general manager. Only problem there is that he isn't a particularly good talent evaluator. Despite his famous line that the guy cooking the meal ought to be the one buying the groceries, Tuna's greatest coaching success came when somebody else was calling the personnel shots. The late George Young was the architect of Parcells' two Super Bowl-winning Giants teams. And Keyshawn Johnson's claim the other day that Parcells handpicked most of the talent on the 12-1 Cowboys was off-base. Most of the credit for the draft and free agency decisions there belongs to owner-GM Jerry Jones and player personnel VP Jeff Ireland.

* Add Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to that ever-so-long list of NFL coaches who won't be exchanging Christmas cards with Bill Belichick. Belichick took one of his patented snide shots at Steelers safety Anthony Smith after the Patriots clobbered Pittsburgh on Sunday. Smith had foolishly guaranteed a Steelers win before the game. "We've played a lot better safeties than him, I'll tell you,'' Belichick said. Mr. Hoodie called the Steelers' safety play "pretty inviting." Responded Tomlin: "I don't care what coach Belichick has to say after the games regarding our performance. His opinions are irrelevant to us. Do we need to get better [safety] play? Absolutely. But it won't be because he said it."

* There has been speculation that Ravens coach Brian Billick could be getting canned after the season. But owner Steve Bisciotti would have to eat a lot of money if he dismissed him. Bisciotti gave Billick a $5 million-a-year extension last year that runs through 2010.

* Patriots owner Bob Kraft is developing the area around Gillette Stadium into a shopping and entertainment complex called Patriot Place. It will include shops, restaurants, a movie theater, even a four-star hotel. CBS announced last week that Patriot Place will be the site for its first CBS Scene Restaurant and Bar, which apparently is their answer to ESPN Zone.

By the numbers

* The Colts'

Peyton Manning

has been sacked once every 29.4 pass plays in his career. The Eagles'

Donovan McNabb

has been sacked once every 13.6.

* The production numbers of the Eagles' wide receivers this season are not much different than those of the '04 wideouts when the team went to the Super Bowl. Through 13 games this season, the wide receivers have 143 catches for 2008 yards and 12 touchdowns. Through 13 games in '04, T.O. & Co. had 133 catches for 2,215 yards and 15 TDs. *

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