The talk of the NFL season has not been the play of Drew Brees or the strength of the Green Bay Packers…this has been the year of Tim. The man who, as a second year NFL player, has become the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos and a veritable national lightning rod. Tim Tebow is, you see, a devout Christian, and he makes no bones about that fact, often dropping to one knee, or “Teebowing”, on the field after plays.
The problem is that Tebow the quarterback is at times historically awful, throwing balls well over heads and into the ground. He has been at times this year so bad that it was fair to ask how it was that Denver strung together a long mid-season win streak….the guy was awful using any measure. But after his game winning pass against the Steelers this weekend he broke a Twitter record with 9420 tweets per second-per second! So the Tebow story has captured our national attention and set the stage for the battle of “the pundits versus the converts”.
Regardless of your views about Tebow the man, he has not been a very highly skilled quarterback in terms of his ability read defenses or throw the ball. In fairness to his critics, he’s been historically bad and despite the six game win streak he threw for 69 and 60 yards in two games against Kansas City this year. But Denver won both games so Tebow kept his job. Based on performances like that he’s been ridiculed by the pundits who predicted his swift and humiliating demise.
The Converts, on the other hand, pointed to Denver’s penchant for last minute comebacks, often in the most improbable ways as a sign that Tim Tebow was benefiting from Devine intervention. Tim wins, and Jesus saves, I guess.
The truth about Tebow is that he really seems to be a genuinely good guy, he performs missionary work, he meets with sick kids, and most importantly he doesn’t have a blip on his record—he is clearly a great role model. But at the same time, it is difficult to imagine a more annoying individual because of his near constant references to Jesus and his Lord….we get it buddy….please do not become the NFL Evangelist. Like most Americans I like to separate my sports from my religion. So Tim Tebow is annoying, but can he play?
Most so-called pundits are too quick to judge football talent which is why we have been blessed with the likes of Brian Bosworth, Ryan Leaf and Akili Smith- all fabulous busts after being “projected” as great NFL talents. Then there are the really bad projections like quarterback Tom Brady, arguably one of the best of all time, who was selected in the sixth round and was said not to be able to throw well or long, he didn’t respond well to pressure and he was slow. Pundits be damned!
These so-called experts generally miss as many as they get right, so let’s wait and see on Tim Tebow the player. Remember we here in TV land will not decide if or when Tim Tebow will become a successful NFL quarterback. Those decisions will be made, for the most part, by the defenses he will face and the coaches who direct those defenses in the next year or so. It will not be a complicated evaluation process either: Tim Tebow will succeed or he will not and there is not going to be a lot of hand wringing if he doesn’t.
You see, the road to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is strewn with the likes of Todd Marinovich, Ryan Leaf, Jeff George, Art Schlicter and the hapless Jamarcus Russell. There is simply no room in the National Football League for people who cannot perform at a high level week in and week out, especially at the quarterback position regardless if they are getting the play call from Jesus or not.
The public debate about Tebow the player, man, and role model are just an ESPN fueled sideshow, as every ESPN football analyst has predicted Tebow’s future. They do not, however, have any say in the outcome of the grand Tebow experiment. No my friends, only Tebow and his teammates on offense can write the ending to this story. If any trend has emerged it is that this guy will manage to have a professional career and may become a very strong player if he can continue to improve. In the past five weeks the Tebows, I mean Broncos, played the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the questions remain. Prior to the start of the playoffs Tebow looked ill equipped to handle the pro game, he passed the ball poorly, he didn’t manage to run well and in the final three games of the season the Broncos were beaten actually crushed by the Bills and Patriots. Tebow struggled mightily and whether you are a Tebow fan or not there was an unsettling sense that Tim’s days were numbered. Despite the poor record, the Broncos play in the weakest division in pro football and they qualified for the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
In Tebow’s first playoff game he would face the famed Pittsburgh Steelers and even the Bronco players seemed resigned to their demise at the hands of a typically ferocious Steeler defense. This past weekend, however, we were treated to an all new Tim Tebow. He still threw the short ball poorly but he went deep frequently, he threw very few bad balls and he was not intercepted once. In a must win game Tebow was not only “not awful”; he was very good, throwing for 316 yards and an implausible (not miraculous) win over the heavily favored Steelers. So the story will continue with this guy and I’m sort of rooting for him except for this weekend where I’m hoping that the Patriots destroy him. But later, I hope he can become a viable quarterback because this league needs fewer Rex Ryan’s and more like Tim Tebow. So good luck Tim, just not this weekend. Go Pats.