There is something about Tim Tebow that attracts attention. Actually, there are numerous things about Tim Tebow that attract attention. National attention. I’m not entirely sure why everyone was so initially fascinated with his hyper-faith.
I remember hearing about him as a freshman phenom recruited to back up over-hyped Chris Leak at the University of Florida. Then, he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, and competed for it again in 2009 after winning his second BCS National Championship. But, really… all you ever heard about was how he would pray before and after every game, and after every score, and he would write Bible verse references on his eye black tape.
Any time anyone talked about translating his talent to the professional level the discussion would always be short and brutal: Tim Tebow would completely fall apart in the NFL. He can’t throw and he was coming into the league on the heels of the stupid Wildcat craze of the mid-2000’s, so the game was already transitioning back to a game where Tebow would have to be converted to another position.
There were many that thought he would make a pretty good tight end—such was the rumor behind then-Broncos general manager Brian Xanders drafting Tebow in the first round back in 2010. Surely Xanders and Executive Vice President John Elway could plainly see that Tebow would not make a good NFL quarterback… especially since they already had a proven NFL quarterback in Kyle Orton.
Nope. The story didn’t quite pan out that way.
Then-head coach Josh McDaniels slowly cast Orton out of the Bronco fold the same way he did Jay Cutler. He allowed the media-generated controversy to spill over to the point where Tebow and Orton themselves would be asked over and over again to address the situation. Animosity built up within the team—but was consistently denied by all players, coaches, and executives involved—and the media ended up essentially dictating how the Denver depth chart should be ordered.
Eventually, Denver fans (assisted by the horde of people who purchased and wore Tebow jerseys simply because of his open faith) clamored for McDaniels to start a guy who was completely unproven at the professional level. It’s one of those rare times when sport becomes subjective, and one player should start over another simply because he’s more popular. McDaniels was forced to make a decision that was decidedly anti-football, even when considering the 1-4 start the Broncos endured, and he ended up caving to fans and the media and started Tebow.
As a starting quarterback Tim Tebow has arguably made more mistakes than good decisions, but he also happens to be 9-7 in his career (including postseason), including a devastating overtime playoff win against Pittsburgh last January. Tebow has an uncanny ability to find a way to win. He just does. It cannot be denied. People can complain about his religion or how he still has trouble throwing a spiral, but he has found ways to win in ways that guys like Tony Romo and Jay Cutler have forgotten how to do.
17 touchdowns and 9 interceptions are not bad numbers for a would-be career backup, and that’s what Tebow has done as a constant Plan B. The way he’s covered in the press makes him look simultaneously like the gifted phenom he was on the college level and like the laughable mishap that jukes too early and gets slammed by defensive lineman.
Regardless of how he is covered he seems to find ways to win, and the national football audience has been reminded of this enough to stay interested in him beyond the fad news stories about his faith or his clean appeal. And his team, the team that traded for him when they didn’t need to… the New York Jets... they’re 2-2 with -28 net points. Their playoff prospects are vanishing right before their eyes, and ours. I don’t understand why a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars (who need a QB and actually play in Florida Gator country) never picked up Tebow.
Furthermore, I don’t understand why a team would pick up Tebow strictly for press.
All 32 NFL franchises rank in the top 50 most valuable franchises in the world. Yeah, you read that right. To give you an idea of the gravity of that fact consider that Forbes Magazine has the Cleveland Browns worth almost double that of the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, every single NFL franchise is worth more than every single NBA franchise. This is because every NFL team does very well. Decades of mandated profit-sharing has resulted in constant competition and parity, which itself results in more exciting matchups and whole seasons.
In short, the New York Jets never needed the press. And anyone who knows how football teams work knows that adding Tebow to the mix of a squad that has already committed to a proven quarterback (and Mark Sanchez has certainly proven himself by leading the Jets to the AFC Championship game in both of his first two seasons) is tantamount to poisoning the well.
In a bizarre twist it seems Rex Ryan never had a problem with it, either. Then came the recent revelation that Jets owner Woody Johnson is a huge Mitt Romney fan, and I have to wonder if the decision came from the top… and if it was made for reasons that have nothing to do with football and everything to do with faith. Either way, this is the NFL and sometimes you need to try out another quarterback if your starter is 2-2 with five touchdowns, four interceptions, and a 69.6 QB rating.
On the other side of the ball the Jets have been having uncharacteristic problems, allowing more than 20 points in all four of their games. But, the offense is now displaying a dismal ability to play football that itself is uncharacteristic even of the Jets; which have never been seen as an offensive force anyway. They’re coming off of a game in which they were completely destroyed (and shut out) by the San Francisco 49ers 34-0. In New York.
That’s about as bad as it gets and Rex Ryan is too smart a football mind to not see that this is the writing on the wall. If this team falls apart it will fall on his shoulders; and really it could be much worse. He could NOT have a backup quarterback who dispatched the Steelers in the Wild Card Round last January.
He could have some chump that nobody cares about, who has never exhibited a true ability to win. But he doesn’t. He has Tim Tebow, the guy who personally kicked the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the playoffs… the guy who instantly has people interested in your team AND can win. It’s never a guarantee that he’ll win, but if you’re trying to play the Guarantee Game with the NFL, good luck. This league is live or die every weekend.
With Darrelle Revis out for week 5 with a torn knee ligament, this game could blow itself out of proportion. And, really, if there is one thing about “Tebow Mania” that has held true it’s that the public won’t blame the coach for starting Tebow if they lose. They’ll blame Tebow for not delivering, because he occupies that unique niche where people demand he start even if he’s not the better option.
It just so happens that this time he could very well be the better option.