Friday, October 14, 2011

The Great Tebow Debate

I get asked the question, probably more than anyone I know, “Why do you like Tim Tebow”?  For some reason, he is a hugely divisive figure that sparks heated debates more than any other sports figure I can remember in my lifetime.  I rarely address the “haters” and “naysayers” because they simply don’t get it.  Explaining it and defending it until I’m blue in the face will not change their perspective.  Everyone has made their decision on this kid based on a number of factors; his on field play, his off field lifestyle, the opinions of others, etc.  For some reason, people will not budge on their stance.  After a whirlwind week of Tebow taking over for incumbent Kyle Orton versus the San Diego Chargers (nearly leading to a comeback win) and then named the starter going forward, I thought it was time to finally unleash my opinions and reasons for being the biggest supporter of Tim Tebow I personally know.

Let me start by saying this is not just me defending the quarterback of my favorite team, the Denver Broncos.  I have been watching Tebow play since his first game at Florida versus Southern Miss in 2006.  It was a random act.  I had the game on TV at home that Saturday afternoon just to check out how Florida looked.  As a lifelong fan of The U, I always kept an eye on Florida and Florida State to see who looked best in the battle for Florida football.  In the 4th quarter, this beast of a kid walked on the field.  One play.  One yard.  One touchdown.  How could that lead to become such a believer in this kid?  I’m used to guys with swagger.  I’m a fan of The U, for crying out loud!  There was just something about him, some describe it as…”it”.  He has the “it” factor and that is beyond description.

As I continued to watch him progress through the years at Florida, I saw a kid that was not only a leader on the field, but a leader off of it.  He’s not fake.  He truly lives the life he believes in, the life he feels destined to lead.  I have never been the most outwardly religious guy, and secretly kind of resented those who were for no good reason.  I was always against those pushing their beliefs on me.  That’s the interesting thing about him.  He doesn’t push his beliefs on you.  He says what he feels, what he believes.  At no point have I heard him say, “This is how you should live”.  He just continues to live a clean lifestyle.  It continues to boggle my mind the hate and anger I read and hear towards him, some of which I think is based in his religious beliefs.  As a society who places professional athletes on a pedestal, shouldn’t someone of Tim Tebow’s character be someone we admire?  Isn’t Tim Tebow the type of guy you want to see succeed and thrust into the “role model” placeholder for kids?  Since becoming a father over two years ago, I examine things like this.  I would love it if my son looked up to me but we all know that outside influences resonate better than parents, at times.  I would rather have my son admire and strive to be like Tim Tebow than so many others in the sports world.  Someone who is humble, hardworking and lives a clean lifestyle is far better than a convicted felon (Vick), alleged rapist (Kobe and Roethlisberger), compulsive gambler and womanizer (Jordan).  I’ll even admit that my son’s name was influenced by two favorites of mine, Brandon Marshall and Carmelo Anthony.  Even I have to admit that they haven’t been the best role models.  The best thing that I can teach my son with athletes as examples is that it is possible to live a positive lifestyle such as Tebow, but people will make mistakes in their life and can be great learning experiences, such as the issues Carmelo dealt with years ago.  I just can’t understand the constant bashing and hatred of Tebow.

Let’s get to football related matters, though.  For years I have had to listen to his “mechanics aren’t right” and “he can’t throw the ball”.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but not all quarterbacks throw the ball the same way.  Dan Marino threw it differently than John Elway.  Steve Young threw it differently than Joe Montana.  Bernie Kosar had a good career and threw it relatively side-armed.  Let’s not even get into the throwing motion of Philip Rivers.  It may look unorthodox, but it works.  That’s all that matters.  The most important thing is getting the ball into the hands of your receivers, tight ends and backs.  Let’s also not forget that for a guy who “can’t throw the ball” he is the all-time leader in the SEC of completion percentage.  His completion percentage of 66.4% is better than SEC quarterback darling, Peyton Manning at 62.5%.  I’m not saying Tebow is better than Manning. That would be foolish, but to say he can’t throw, is also foolish.  Let’s also add in that he hasn’t played enough snaps in the NFL to prove whether he can or can’t throw the ball at the next level.  We’ll all see soon enough and my money is on Tebow to succeed and grow week in and week out.

One thing I have heard all week is that “Tebow did not earn the starting spot” and “the Broncos gave in to a popularity contest”.  First, let me counter with a question, “What did Kyle Orton do to keep the starting spot”?  The Broncos are 1-4 with 3 losses you can easily lay at Orton’s feet for terrible turnovers and mediocre play.  What did Tebow do to earn the spot?  Watch the second half of the Chargers game.  No, his statistics are not glamorous, but watch his team play.  The team rallied behind him and started playing with energy.  They got tougher.  They fed off the crowd and Tebow’s enthusiasm.  Go ahead and dissect it however you want, but the thing you can’t take away is heart.  Players win with heart.  It’s a dogfight on the field and you need a guy who will stand up and lead.  As University of Miami alum and Super Bowl champion Warren Sapp said on Inside the NFL, “I want Tebow in my foxhole”.  This is a soon to be Hall of Fame defensive tackle, one of the best ever, saying he would take Tebow because of what he brings to the table.  Sapp pointed out that not only did he affect the play of the offense, but of the defense as well.  Players were hyped up and ready to go to battle with Tim Tebow leading them.  That’s earning your spot.

Let’s just admit it.  The Denver Broncos staff made a huge blunder by letting the Orton to Miami trade fall through.  They were worried about a pouting former starter when it was clear that Tebow was the way to go.  The play on the field has shown this.  We’re having a completely different conversation if that trade happens.  I’ve had Chiefs fans, Raiders fans and many others tell me how happy they were we stuck with Orton.  I always asked why and the answer was the same; “Tebow scares me.  He’s a winner”.  Fact is, John Elway is learning on the job.  He made a mistake and created this controversy.  I’ve heard people bash pro-Tebow fans because they are “blindly following him”.  Funny thing is, these same people are saying they believe Elway knows what he is doing.  In other words, they are “blindly following” a new GM with no track record.  It’s the same thing, folks!  If they do not stick with Tebow, they will be making a colossal mistake.  It’s possible that Elway is not a great judge of talent, even at quarterback.  Before you attack me, the following story was told by Denver Post sports columnist Woody Paige, who is one of the best sports journalists in the country:

After he retired, he was looking at tape of college players with his dad Jack, one of the best evaluators of talent in the NFL at the time. Elway didn't like a certain college quarterback because he was too short and didn't fit the mold of a prototype quarterback, as John himself obviously did. His dad Jack said you couldn't measure the heart of a man, and he loved the kid quarterback. That kid quarterback was Drew Brees. All he did was win a Super Bowl and become one of the best QBs in the game.

Elway will grow into his role and utilize good scouts, hopefully.  However, just because you were a great player, does not mean you will be great at GM.  For every Ozzie Newsome (the brilliant Ravens GM), there are plenty of Matt Millen (Detroit’s old GM before they fired him and started winning games) clones.

So where does the hate come from?  Is it because he’s traditional been a winner?  Is it resentment from winning 2 National Championships, the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore and being regarded by many “experts” as the best college football player ever?  Yes, it can get tedious to have a player jammed down your throat by the media.  Have we ever seen a player as beloved by the college football media and then just as reviled by the NFL media?  It’s completely night and day reporting.  I think NFL media “experts” act as elitists.  They want you to fit the mold to be accepted into their little club.  “He doesn’t stand in the pocket”.  “He runs the ball too much”.  “He doesn’t throw a picture perfect ball”.  Usually a rookie/second year quarterback is given a chance to grow.  They are afforded the chance to learn on the field, make mistakes and grow as a player.  Tebow is not being afforded this chance by the media members.  They report on him like he has to win the Super Bowl this year or he’s a bust.  Life is not fair, but where is the unbiased reporting?  Why is he treated in such a different way, yet has done nothing to deserve that treatment?  Jealousy towards success is the only answer I can come up with.  Merrill Hoge was a mediocre fullback.  What does he know about playing quarterback in today’s NFL?  Trent Dilfer was a mediocre quarterback who simply won a Super Bowl because his defense was one of the greatest to ever play.  While Trent may know a little about playing, why does that make him an expert on how Tebow plays the game?  Can someone tell me what is so cookie cutter about the way Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Michael Vick play the game?  They all have their own styles and were given the chance to develop them without tremendous expectations.  Vick is especially interesting as so many people applauded the way he “developed as a pocket passer” last season, yet this season, they want him to “run more”.  It’s wild hypocrisy.

While on the topic of hypocrisy, let me just mention Cam Newton.  The sports media and “experts” loved him coming out of college.  He was big, strong, athletic and could make plays with his legs.  Sounds a lot like Tim Tebow to me.  They have different throwing motions, but as I discussed earlier, who cares?  They both seem to have the “it” factor and the same athleticism.  Why the unbridled love for Newton and unchained vitriol towards Tebow?  Let us not forget that Newton transferred to a junior college and then to Auburn simply because he would not play as Tim Tebow’s back up.  Sorry, I just wanted to mention that.

So to summarize, I am a fan of Tim Tebow in a big way.  I believe, like Colts fans believed in Manning when they drafted him, that Tebow will win games for the Denver Broncos.  I like the kid because he works hard, is humble, is unorthodox in his approach on the field and simply knows how to win.  He has an “it” factor I can’t explain.  Why did I become a fan off of one carry, one yard and one touchdown in 2006?  “It” can’t be explained.  “It” just is.  To those who continue to attacks and will revel if he has a bad game…keep it up.  If you haven’t noticed, Tim Tebow thrives off of your doubting him.  By the way, he was named the starter on Steve Young’s birthday, a quarterback Tebow has been compared to when Young entered the league.  Call me crazy, if Tebow’s career plays out anything like Young’s, a lot of people will eat their words…and I will simply do nothing but love the fact that Tebow is in the orange and blue.

1 comment:

  1. That's quite well-written. I wish I had been paying more attention to all this Tebow stuff so that I had a better response... He seems like a good kid, and to your point, a positive role model should always be welcomed.