Goodbye And Thanks To 2009, Football And Tim Tebow

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This week brought the start of the New Year and the end of the NFL's regular season. That means the end of one Heisman winner's spectacular college career. Guest host Ari Shapiro talks NFL playoffs and college football with Howard Bryant, senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.

And it's time now for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

This week brought the start of the New Year and the end of the NFL's regular season. That means the end of one Heisman winner's spectacular college career. Joining us now is Howard Bryant, senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine. Howard, Happy New Year.

Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (Senior Writer,, ESPN The Magazine): Happy New Year, Ari. How you doing?

SHAPIRO: I'm great. So, this Heisman winner we're talking about is Tim Tebow, quarterback for the Florida Gators. He went out with a bang last night, huh?

Mr. BRYANT: Went out with a bang last night threw from 533 yards, I mean, an amazing, amazing player. He may very well be considered the greatest college football player of all time. He shattered every record. He can run. He can throw. He can win. And so, it's not as though he just put out big numbers and his team didn't win. The Gator's went 13 to 1. They won national championships. He's pretty much done everything a college football player could do.

And now the interesting thing about it is because his college career is now over, all of that seems to go away a little bit and now comes all the questions about whether or not he is the right type of player to play in the NFL. And so far the consensus is that he's not an NFL player at the quarterback position. So, it's going to be very interesting to see how he goes from being the greatest college football player ever to a guy who's probably going to be fighting for a job because the NFL scouts focus a lot on what a player can't do instead of what he can.

SHAPIRO: Well, speaking of the NFL, NFL playoffs start next week. And who do you see is the teams to beat?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, I still think the Colts and the Chargers and the AFC are the teams to beat. It was a storybook season in the NFC for the Saints and for the Vikings. The Saints have gone undefeated and then suddenly they've lost two in a row. And the Vikings had found their fountain of youth with Brett Favre suddenly playing as though he was 21 years old.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRYANT: And now, they have kind of fallen off the table and so neither one of those top two teams in the NFC are as strong as they were, say, a month ago. And the Philadelphia Eagles are - Philadelphia Eagles very well may be the best team in the NFC. And you don't want to overlook the Patriots. They are a checkered team who are kind of going up and down this season. But once the playoffs seem to begin, they are always - they are tough out as they like to say in baseball.

I think one other thing that's very interesting to pay attention to in football this year is the two defending champions of their respective conferences; the Pittsburgh Steelers need to win this weekend. And then need help to even make the playoff. And then you have the Arizona Cardinals who gave it a great show in the Super Bowl last year and probably a lot of people thought should have won that game. And they're in the play offs but no one is really talking about them. So, maybe they have got one more run in them.

SHAPIRO: Well, very briefly, Howard, describe for me this debate about the integrity of the games going into the playoffs.

Mr. BRYANT: Well, one of the interesting things about the games today is that you have some teams like the Jets who need to win who are playing the Bangles, who don't. And The Texans need to get into the playoff. And they're playing the Patriots who are already in. So, one of the big questions this weekend is going to be just how much effort those teams that don't have to make the playoffs are going to give because I'm sure that their number one concern is not get their players hurt.

SHAPIRO: That's Howard Bryant, senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine. Thanks, Howard.

Mr. BRYANT: My pleasure.

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