The Vindication of Tim Tebow

MVP! MVP!  Ok, ok, we’ll hold off on engraving the trophy for now… and I won’t make my reservations for his Hall of Fame induction ceremony just yet. But you must admit, something interesting is afoot. At no time in recent memory has there been a player as polarizing as Tim Tebow, as far as whether or not he belongs playing football at the professional level. His ardent supporters will point to his iron will, determination, leadership qualities, and something called “intangibles,” which if you translate it literally, would mean things you cannot touch. His ruthless detractors will point to is hideous throwing motion, poor arm (remember, Bernie Kosar had a terrible throwing motion too, but a decent arm among other things helped him overcome that), inaccuracy, and shameless devotion to Christ (as if that should really have anything to do with anything… though just once I want to hear the losing team blame Jesus for an ill-timed fumble). There is little, if any, middle ground. You love him, or you want to see him battered into oblivion. Not just fail, but fail epically.

So let’s take a look at a Cliff’s Notes version of the Bronco’s season. At 1-4, and on the verge of the season being a lost cause, exit stage left embattled starter, Kyle Orton. Enter, Tebow.

First game against the winless Dolphins, Tebow vindicates all the haters’ hatred by putting up one of the most diabolical performances by a quarterback in memory for 54 minutes. All of a sudden, with a bit of good fortune, 6 minutes of excellence lead to a furious fourth quarter comeback and a win. Still, though, it’s only the Dolphins, right? (side note, Miami continues to play with backbone in spite of the season being a lost cause, and has put together a couple wins behind backup quarterback, Matt Moore, when other teams cough cough Indianapolis cough cough appear to shamelessly be sucking for Luck. More on this later) No way he can win consistently.

Second game against, Detroit, see? Told you. Tebow is dreadful, so much so, that Detroit players are openly mocking him and criticising him in postgame interviews, a line rarely crossed in pro sports. Then again, these are the classless Lions who openly mocked Tebow during the game, jeered an injured Matt Ryan as he writhed in pain on the turf, and have been called for an inordinate amount of personal fouls for late hits and other dirty plays this season. Still, fearless forecasts of Brady Quinn sightings abound. The Tim Tebow era was surely over, soon to be followed by his career as a professional quarterback.

Next, a stunning defeat of the division leading Oakland Raiders. Tebow’s pedestrian sub-50% completion rate would be vigorously pointed to by his detractors, and his 2TD passes and 100 yards rushing conveniently ignored. It had to be a fluke, though, right? The Raiders are good this season, and no way that win happens without a huge game from Willis McGahee. Right?

Next, once again, Tebow comes crashing back down to Earth as… oh, wait. That’s right, the Broncos beat Kansas City. No thanks to Timmy T, though. He only completed 2 passes.  Count ’em! 2. One was a late 56 yard, game clinching TD to Eric Decker, but seriously? 2 passes? It may bear mentioning though, for the second straight game, no turnovers for Tebow. Quietly, what appears to be a underrated Broncos defense turns in another decent performance. No, the Chiefs are not world beaters, but they are only one season removed from a terrific 2010 campaign, and lo and behold, they are not out of the running in the AFC West this year either.

And then, it comes crashing to halt. The vaunted Jets defense smashes a hapless Tebow into… oh, that didn’t happen? Nope. After several days of crowing about how they would easily handle Tebow, the loudest of which was done by all universe corner, Darrelle Revis, the Denver QB led his troops on 95 yard, game-winning fourth quarter touchdown drive capped by his own 20 yard run. The Jets, while having failed to live up to expectations after being a popular pre-season prognosticator’s pick for the AFC Superbowl representative, are a good team with a good defense. Don’t look now, but Denver is half a game behind Oakland for first place. It should be noted, since I mentioned the trash talking, that I should also mention that Revis and Jets coach Rex Ryan were both complimentary of Tebow after the game.

Tebow is now 4-1 as a starter this year. It’s easy for people to get excited over success, or failure for that matter, in a small sample area. And five games is a small sample area. It afflicts other sports too. David Ortiz suffers through an early April slump and half the baseball media is shouting that he’s washed up and about to be released, and like clockwork he finishes the season with his customary 30 home runs and 100 rbis. It’s as reliable as rising and setting of the sun. But we aren’t talking about Big Papi. We’re talking about Tebow.

It still seems that the overwhelming majority (not counting Denver, of course) of people want, or even seem like they need Tebow to fail. Why is this? It can’t be that he breaks the mold of what a traditional pro quarterback is. Michael Vick, Vince Young, Randall Cunningham, Fran Tarkenton, Doug Flutie, and others have done that before, and none of them (save for Vick, after his unspeakable acts against dogs) have been met with such opposition to success. (we’re speaking here of football reasons, not ignoramuses who wanted the first three guys I mentioned to fail for idiotic racist reasons.)

It hit me today, as I recalled an interview I saw on television with Doug Flutie, the former Charger, Bills, and Patriots starter (as well as a distinguished career in the CFL). Flutie (who MIGHT be about 5 foot 9) theorized that the mold of the current starter is what it is, and not too many others get chances because front office execs are worried about their jobs. If they draft a towering behemoth with a cannon for an arm (say, Jamarcus Russell) and he fails, well, that guy is an underachiever. No mistake made on the part of the front office, the kid just ended up not working out. If someone takes a chance on a kid who may be undersized, or well put together abysmal technically, but has a way to will his team to win, and he fails, that guy will lose his job. Of course that guy was going to fail! Look how terrible his technique is! You thought he could win?

It’s true, right? I don’t watch college football for a variety of reasons, so I will not be able to back up my next claim with names. But I must be right. There have to be dozens of guys over the years who had glittering college credentials but were passed over at the pro level because their intangible ability to get the job done despite a lack of the prototypical skillset of a starting NFL quarterback was deemed good enough for college, but insufficient for the pros. Oh sure, several journalists have come out recently saying they’re pulling for Tebow because of what a genuinely nice fella he is. And he really does seem to be. But those in football’s inner circles (Again, outside of Denver) want, no, need him to fail. They need to continue to have the luxury of making safe picks at quarterback, and the job security that comes along with it.

Watching Cincinnatti’s Andy Dalton play, you have to know that every owner of a team with a quarterback need, that had the opportunity to pick Dalton, but passed on him, is asking his general manager, “Where were you on that one, moron?” Watching Dalton, he can only succeed, with his poise, accuracy, and the belief in him that’s demonstrated by his teammates. But he’s a prototype. Over 6 feet tall, well over 200 lbs, good arm.

What happens if Tebow succeeds, this season and beyond?  Suddenly, it won’t seem so far fetched that a unorthodox quarterback can be a winner. And then the guys in the plush chairs making the draft picks will have something to think about. Seriously, if us regular folks performed as poorly at their jobs as so many of these GMs do, we’d be fired in weeks, not years, and we don’t have the guaranteed millions on our contracts to fall back on.

So, do I want Tebow to succeed? I don’t know. The praying thing is kind of annoying… but sure.  Why not? He seems like a nice kid.

Ok, that was supposed to be end of this article. However, I forgot to mention something that I intended to say earlier, and rather than scroll back up and try to find where I wanted to put it, I will just say it here. I can’t wait for Tebow to throw a pick, run upfield to try and make a tackle, and have the defensive back slide down, quarterback style at Tebow’s feet rather than get leveled by him. Seriously, wouldn’t you? Who wants to get hit by that monster? Plus, he has Jesus power behind him!

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