A few days ago I was reading an article by Howard Bryant of ESPN on the most polarizing player in recent memory, Tim Tebow. To summarize Bryant’s article:
• The NFL season revolves around Tebow
• The media and his supporters are fueling/creating his legend, but he isn’t a very good quarterback
• They are winning more because of their defense and running game than Tebow and if they had a better QB they wouldn’t need these late game heroics
• After this season, when coaches get more film on him he will taper off into oblivion
• There’s a small chance he enjoys continued success, but it’s minute at best
“Tim Tebow is an overblown phenomenon drowning out the buzz for more talented QB’s”
“Fans flock to Tebow and his good-guy image, but it has little to do with merit”
You’ve probably heard these arguments from a number of analysts whose livelihood depends on them providing an entertaining read and being correct in their opinions. You can’t blame them for taking the obvious angle. Sports analysts often take the popular opinion. When they reach a fork in the road, they take the beaten path as opposed to the one marked ‘caution’. Their job depends on it.
It doesn’t take a football expert to watch Tebow play and realize that he has a long release; he’s inaccurate and doesn’t fit the mold of what is now perceived as a prototypical NFL quarterback. No one can really argue that. What we should start questioning is how important ‘looking the part’ really is.
There is no doubt that the Denver Broncos as a whole are playing much better football. Their defense has been one of the league’s best in recent weeks and John Fox deserves a lot of credit for that. So does Von Miller, Champ Bailey and the rest of the Denver defenders. Believe it or not, so does Tebow.
If you were to rank NFL players on passing accuracy, Tebow wouldn’t be in the top 30. If you were to rank them on vision, he would rank near the bottom. However, if you ranked all NFL players on leadership and passion, he would be #1 by a considerable margin.
John Fox says that Tebow is exactly what you look for in a football player, maybe not a quarterback, but as a player, he’s the prototype. In the ultimate team game, is it so shocking that he would have success?
The problem is we’ve created this image of an NFL passer that transcends what football is all about. In order for a quarterback to be successful he has to be at least 6’4, throw the ball 100mph and it helps if he’s athletic. Evidently it doesn’t matter if a guy is an awful leader (Ryan Leaf) or has no passion for the game (JaMarcus Russell).
If you’ve never played football before you cannot fully understand the importance of momentum. All it takes is one play, one penalty, or one hit to turn the tide. I’ve coached teams that are much more talented than their opponents and believe me; the worst feeling is witnessing your opponent gain momentum as they take control of the game. You feel helpless. It seems like no matter what play you call, it doesn’t work.
The Denver Broncos have arguably more positive momentum right now than even the Green Bay Packers. Guys on that team are playing above their skill level. Tim Tebow doesn’t play defense, but if you think his leadership and passion hasn’t impacted their level of play, you clearly didn’t see Bronco rookie safety Rahim Moore run to the middle of the field after they beat the Chargers and do the ‘Tebow’. Maybe it’s because Tebow plays the game like a defensive player. Sure it’s nice to have a guy like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, but as a defender it might be kind of inspiring to see the leader of your team out there grinding out yards instead of complaining about late hits and dating super models.
Every now and then a player comes along that has an attribute that has never been seen before. Barry Sanders had unique agility. Peyton Manning’s football intelligence revolutionized the way Quarterbacks play in the NFL. Devin Hester’s speed and vision has made him a once in a generation returner. When it comes to leadership and passion, Tebow is unmatched. Not in this generation, and maybe not ever.
Football is a game for the dramatic. We’re to believe that on any given Sunday, anyone can win. It’s about blood, sweat and tears. It’s about brotherhood and overcoming the odds. The ultimate team sport. Tim Tebow might not personify a prototypical quarterback, but he personifies football. For the Broncos, that seems to be enough.
Don’t question why it’s working, or how long it will last. No one really knows the answer to those questions. Just sit back and enjoy watching a once in a lifetime player do what he does best. Win.