JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tim Tebow won’t be playing for his hometown team.
The Jacksonville Jaguars made it clear Thursday that they have no plans to pursue the popular and polarizing New York Jets backup quarterback.
The Jets are likely to release the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and Jacksonville native during the offseason, and many believed Tebow would land with the Jaguars.
But new general manager David Caldwell nixed that idea at his introductory news conference.
“I can’t imagine a scenario in which he’ll be a Jacksonville Jaguar — even if he’s released,” Caldwell said.
And Caldwell won’t get any pushback from his new owner.
Shad Khan, who made a run at Tebow last year, said it was Caldwell’s call.
“It’s not my decision,” Khan said. “I want to do whatever to help this team win. Who the players are is really the general manager’s and coaches’ — it’s a football-side operation decision. It’s really not my decision.”
What has changed for Khan in the 10 months since he wanted Tebow?
“I’m telling them to take a look at Tebow and they’re saying, ‘We’re going to go in a different direction,’” Khan said. “That’s the difference.”
Tebow starred at nearby Florida, helping the team win two national championship, and created buzz that he would be a huge hit with the Jaguars. He would sell tickets and merchandise, many said, and bring the small-market franchise national recognition and Super Bowl rings.
Despite all the hype, the Jaguars passed on drafting Tebow in 2010 because former general manager Gene Smith didn’t view him as a franchise quarterback.
But after Khan took over last year and the Denver Broncos started quietly shopping Tebow, Khan told Smith to look into acquiring the left-hander.
The Jaguars increased their offer several times. By the end of negotiations, Jacksonville had offered a fourth-round pick and agreed to pay $3 million of the $5 million in advance salary the Broncos had already paid Tebow. The money the Jaguars offered was better than the little more than $2.5 million the Jets agreed to pay, and the draft pick was nine spots higher than New York’s fourth-round selection.
But it never really got down to the details.
The Broncos told the Jaguars they were allowing Tebow to choose between the teams, and the Jaguars believe Tebow picked the Jets because he felt he would have a better chance to compete for the quarterback job with Mark Sanchez than Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne.
Still, the Jets failed to find a way to effectively use Tebow this season.
Apparently, the Jaguars don’t want to try now, either.
“We plan to address the quarterback situation, obviously,” Caldwell said. “Blaine is the second-youngest quarterback in the NFL, but we’re going to have open competition. Whether it’s through draft or through free agency, we’ll bring in some more people to compete at the quarterback position. We’re going to let the best player win that position.”
Harbaugh sticking with Akers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — David Akers is keeping his job as San Francisco’s starting kicker. For now, anyway.
Jim Harbaugh made the announcement after practice Thursday, two days ahead of the 49ers’ NFC divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers (12-5) at Candlestick Park.
“Suffice it to say we feel confident in David giving us the best chance to win,” Harbaugh said.
The 49ers (11-4-1) signed Billy Cundiff on Jan. 1 to compete with Akers, a 15-year veteran who has struggled this season while making only 29 of 42 field-goal attempts. Akers revealed last week he underwent double hernia surgery last February, then re-aggravated the area when he slipped on the field during practice.
Akers understood why Cundiff was brought in but made it clear he wants to remain the kicker.
Cundiff, who missed a potential tying 32-yarder that might have kept Baltimore and Harbaugh’s big brother, John, from reaching the Super Bowl last season, will remain on the roster.
Harbaugh said he isn’t likely to be among the active players Saturday.
Eagles interview Lovie Smith
PHILADELPHIA — Lovie Smith interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday as the team continued its search to replace Andy Reid, who was fired after a 4-12 finish.
Smith is the seventh candidate to meet with owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski. The Eagles haven’t announced who they plan to interview next, but they received permission to speak to three assistant coaches.
Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden are on the list.
Smith was the second former head coach to meet with the Eagles, joining Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Smith was fired last Monday after going 81-63 in nine seasons with Chicago. Nolan was 18-37 in 3½ seasons with San Francisco.
Gruden interviews for Arizona job
TEMPE, Ariz. — Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is the latest to interview for the vacant head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals.
Gruden, younger brother of former Oakland and Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, said his interview Thursday at Cardinals headquarters was his first for a head coaching job with any NFL team. He said he may interview with the Philadelphia Eagles next week.
The Cardinals also have interviewed their defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Although the Cardinals have not confirmed it, Steelers President Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley interviewed for the Arizona job Wednesday. Haley was offensive coordinator of the Cardinals’ 2008 Super Bowl team before becoming head coach at Kansas City.
2-14 Jaguars fire Mularkey
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The more Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan watched his team play, the more he realized one thing.
“We needed a rebuild from the ground up,” Khan said.
So the Jaguars fired coach Mike Mularkey on Thursday after just one season, the worst in franchise history. The move came 10 days after Khan fired general manager Gene Smith.
Mularkey, who went 2-14 this season, became the eighth head coach fired since the end of the regular season. He looked like he would be one and done when Khan parted ways with Smith last week and gave Mularkey’s assistants permission to seek other jobs. Even though Khan ultimately hired Mularkey, Smith directed the coaching search last January that started and ended with the former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator.
Steelers cut Rainey after arrest
PITTSBURGH — Rookie running back Chris Rainey has run out of chances with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers cut the troubled 24-year-old following his arrest on a battery charge in Gainesville, Fla., on Thursday, the latest in a series of off-the-field incidents that have threatened his career.
Gainesville police officers charged Rainey with a single count of misdemeanor simple battery after an altercation with his girlfriend. Police said in a news release the two were arguing over Rainey’s cell phone. When his girlfriend got into a vehicle, the former Florida Gator tried to pull her out.
Witnesses told detectives that Rainey slapped his girlfriend across the face and then chased her when she ran away with his phone in her purse.
The Steelers, who selected Rainey in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, waived him shortly after being made aware of his arrest.