In a weird way, it seems appropriate that I’ve had so much trouble starting this column. I’d tried 100 different beginnings, and come to 100 different dead-ends. I’ve tried to be funny and serious, goofy and grim. And so far I’ve got nothing.
Then again, it’s hard to blame me. I am trying to write about Tim Tebow after all. And at this point, how can anyone possibly quantify this guy with words?
How do words fully explain the most unique, fascinating and polarizing athlete of my lifetime? How do they explain a quarterback that can look so bad for 56 minutes and so utterly untouchable for four? How do words capture a guy who’s so revered, loved and admired by his teammates, even as- at times- he does so little to help them win games?
You can’t. Which is the beauty of Tim Tebow. He’s a perfectly flawed, perfectly confusing, and at times, a perfectly…perfect quarterback.
He’s also perfectly unexplainable, which makes him so damn fascinating. It’s why I love the guy, and why so many others hate him.
Speaking of the haters, let’s start with this: Is there a single person on the planet that can actually give a logical explanation as to why the guy is such a lightning rod? I’ve thought about it from every angle, and I certainly can’t. He hasn’t broken the law. He hasn’t been arrested. He hasn’t gone to jail. He hasn’t done anything morally or ethically wrong like Tiger Woods. He hasn’t even inadvertently alienated a community or fan base like LeBron did to those in Cleveland. Seriously, what’s the worst thing Tebow has actually done? Tried to push his religious values on us? Well my goodness, lock him up and throw away the key. What a jerk, huh?
Taking out his goofy personality though, let's move to the football side of things. Even there, there is no logical explanation for the hatred.
As a matter of fact if you want a fun exercise to pass the time, ask a Tebow hater what exactly it is that they can't stand about him. Most will just hem and haw like a kid caught with their "friends" cigarettes, before usually blurting out something stupid. My personal favorite excuse, which I’ve probably heard at least 30 times over the last 24 hours? “Well, he's just...ahh...not GOOD!!!!”
Except ask that same person a follow-up question of “what exactly do you consider good,” and there’s just more hemming and hawing.
The most common response to Tebow "not being good" is to reference that hideous throwing motion. Which I will admit, is ugly. Then again, Shawn Marion’s shooting stroke is ugly and he still averaged 20 points per game in his prime. Tim Lincecum’s wind-up is a mechanical nightmare, yet he wins 20 games every season. Nobody would ever teach Gael Monfils to play tennis the way he does, yet he’s one of the 15 best players in the world.
Going in a different direction, since when is “good” defined solely by the quarterback with the prettiest throwing motion? If that were the case, Jay Cutler’s biggest claim to fame would be “three-time Super Bowl champ,” (rather than “Kristin Cavalleri’s ex”) and JaMarcus Russell would be the reigning NFL MVP. Except last time I checked, Cutler was still ring-less (engagement, Super Bowl and otherwise) and JaMarcus was hanging out at the barbershop in Mobile, Alabama rather than in NFL locker rooms. Speaking of which, you know who doesn’t care about Tebow’s throwing motion? His receivers. They seem to care much more about trying to win the AFC West than catching 15 balls a game.
Another of my favorite anti-Tebow sentiments is that he gets too much credit and his defense doesn’t get enough. My personal favorite line was when someone told me on Twitter last night, “Hey stupid, Tebow wasn’t the one that returned that Mark Sanchez interception for a touchdown.”
To a degree, that person was right (although the name calling did hurt. I can’t lie). Except here’s my question: Since when is “giving the quarterback too much credit,” become a “Tebow thing,” as opposed to a “football thing.” Am I the only who has heard the phrase, “The quarterback gets too much credit when the team wins and not enough when they lose?” Or did I just make that up in my head? Because if I did, I certainly apologize.
And while we’re here, since when is Tim Tebow the only quarterback in NFL history that’s had success thanks in large part to a good defense? You think Mark Sanchez won all those playoff games over the last few years because he was throwing for 450 yards and five touchdowns every night? Not in any of the games I watched. Think Joe Flacco isn’t helped every single weekend by Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs? Football is a team game, and success is dependent on a lot of things- including but not limited to- offense, defense, special teams and coaching. You don't need to be great in every phase to win, but you likely do need to be good in more than one.
Finally, there’s the whole idea that Tebow just “doesn’t do things conventionally.”
Ah yes, “doing things conventionally,” my favorite argument of all. That phrase alone might give Merrill Hoge a heart attack and send him to an early grave.
Again though, what exactly is conventional? Isn’t football an ever-evolving game? Would you even say that Peyton Manning has done things “conventionally” over his career? I’d say no. There’s nothing conventional (by modern NFL standards anyway) about lining up in the shotgun and throwing the ball 40 times per game. Only for Peyton Manning, that’s what has worked. At some point Indianapolis had to defy convention, throw logic to the wind, and say “Screw it, this gives us the best chance to win.”
And really, isn’t that the job of a coach? Isn’t it his or her job to look at the personnel they have, figure out what that personnel is good at, and try to make it all work? The answer is yes. Coaching isn’t black and white. It’s about making adjustments. It’s about altering your game-plan. It’s about being creative and thinking on the fly. And if you’re not willing to do that, if you’re not willing to try and find more than one solution to a problem, well, I’m just not sure this is the profession for you. In math, there's only one answer to every problem. In football there are multiple.
As a matter of fact, that sentiment alone boggles my mind every single year as we approach the NFL Draft: Everyone tries to pigeonhole players into what has worked in the past, rather than figuring out what they specifically do best. Here’s a crazy idea, how about instead of saying, “I wonder if Cam Newton can handle taking snaps under center,” why not say “If I draft Cam Newton, maybe I should just figure out a way to let him do what he does best. And maybe, if I can’t figure out a way to do that, I just shouldn’t draft him at all.” Seriously, is that such an insane concept to handle?
Well, to John Fox’s credit, he decided to do just that. Granted, it may have been reluctantly. It may have been because he had no other choice. But he did finally, mercifully do it. He finally looked around, looked at what he had and said “Screw it, let’s do this differently and see what happens.” Have the results always been pretty? Of course not. What Denver is doing is certainly not conventional, and may be a de-evolution of offensive football rather than an evolution. It might also only work for this one particular quarterback, on this one particular team, and might be a total flop for everyone else.
But guess what? It doesn’t matter. Tebow is 4-1 in the five games he’s started. And as Herm Edwards once famously said, don’t you “Play to win the games?” Isn’t Tebow doing just that? Isn't he winning games?
Which brings me to my final point. I get that Tebow isn’t conventional. I get that he hasn’t been pretty. I get that his throws are more wobbly than Lindsay Lohan after a night on the town, that his receivers are more likely to catch a cold than his passes, and that he might be unwatchable for 56 minutes a game, even if he’s great over the final four.
Still, let me ask you a serious question: How many quarterbacks would you take over him right now.
No, seriously, stop and think about that for a second.
Take a deep breath and think, “If my life literally depended on it, who would I take over Tebow right now?”
Now there are obviously some you'd prefer to Tebow. You would roll with Brady, Brees and Big Ben over Tebow. So would I say. I love Tebow, but I love life that much more. And I trust those guys more.
But everyone else? I suspect there are fewer guys you'd take ahead of Tebow than you think.
Would you take Mark Sanchez over him? From what I saw Thursday, give me Tebow. Colt McCoy? Hell no. Sam Bradford? Maybe. Rex Grossman, Matt Moore, Carson Palmer, Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Matt Leinart, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, or even Matt Hasselbeck? I take Tebow over all of them. Andy Dalton would probably be a wash. Alex Smith might be 8-1, but do you really trust him without Jim Harbaugh calling the plays? I’m not sure I do. Hell, let me ask you this: Given what we've seen from him in the clutch over his career, would you take Tony Romo over Tebow? I’m not sure I would.
Again, Tebow isn’t perfect. I get that. As I said before he’s a perfectly flawed, perfectly maddening, and perfectly imperfect. At times he’s everything that’s beautiful about the game, but more often is everything that's not quite right.
But he’s also 4-1 as a starter.
So to all the haters out there, keep hating. Keep telling Tebow how ugly his motion is, how ugly his game is and how it’s all going to come crashing down sooner rather than later.
Keep telling him that.
Just as long as he’s winning, I doubt he, or anyone around Denver will care.
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