Is he the next generation of NFL quarterback? Does he have magical powers? Is he directly descendant from the Great One, Chuck Norris? Will he ever lose again? The answers are murky, but I am excited to have him here to shed some light into the darkness. My brother Brian will clarify all. (What, you thought a mere mortal like myself was going to be allowed to interview Tim Tebow? Only Tim Tebow can truly converse with Tim Tebow. Or maybe Mr. T. Definitely Chuck Norris.)
Up until this past weekend, I did really know much about Tebow. I greatly prefer the NFL to college football. I had never watched him play, so I couldn’t really speak in any kind of educated way about him. Despite that, I rooted against him. He seemed too full of himself and a little too “showy” about his faith. I have a deep appreciation for people of faith, but if you seem like you are flaunting it or using it to put up a front, then all bets are off. This was exacerbated by the overly-reverent ways that his fans talked about him. Like he was truly divine or something. Bigger than this was the fact that he was a part of a juggernaut in college. I am drawn to underdogs, especially in college sports. These two factors together put me straight in the “Hater” camp.
Although “Hater” is probably too strong of a term. Mostly I was apathetic. I didn’t think about him a whole lot until the past week or so, when he was going to be going up against my beloved Chicago Bears. (You may have heard about how that turned out.) So in the lead up to the game, I started paying closer attention and I was surprised by what I saw.
The first thing I noticed was that Tim Tebow was way more humble and subdued than I thought. (See what happens when you actually get firsthand information, instead of relying on the opinions of others? I think I will go to ‘time-out’ for a few minutes to think about what I’ve done!) He seems like a genuinely nice guy who also happens to be proud of and excited by his faith, but I never got the impression that he is fake or putting on airs. I sometimes get the feeling that he also recognizes that his fans are a little too rabid for their own good. He definitely does not seem to be asking for or encouraging all of this pseudo-worship by his rabid fan base. He seems to be a guy who wants to fulfill his dream of being an NFL quarterback.
Last Sunday’s game was the first game of Tebow’s I had ever watched. So, while he may be an excellent person, he sure does not appear to be an overall excellent quarterback. There were a lot of poorly thrown and overthrown passes. There was a lot of indecision. He looked pretty bad for most of the game. And then, all of a sudden with only a few minutes to go in the game and his team’s back up against the wall, he turns into a very quarterback. It’s like Clark Kent comes out for 3.5 quarters of football and then for the very end of the game, he runs into the phone booth and out comes Superman. It is uncanny.
I am no expert NFL analyst, but I do have some observations as to why this is. First, most of the teams he has beaten for the past few weeks have not been very good. For example, this Bears team has looked absolutely pathetic the past few weeks without their star quarterback and running back. If they would have been full-strength, I don’t think this would have been much of a contest. Most of the other teams that the Broncos have played while Tebow has been starting (Miami, the Jets, the entire AFC West) are similarly flawed. The only strong team that they have faced, The Lions, obliterated them.
I think the other factor is that during most the game, he spends too much time thinking. He has been trying so hard to improve his mechanics, his ability to read defenses and make split-second decisions but most of it has not become second-nature to him. However, at the end of the game he seems to relax and stop thinking. He just goes out and plays football. I think his own brain needs that crisis mode so that he stops thinking and starts doing. But I also don’t think that is sustainable for a game, let alone a whole season or a career.
To me, he seems like a markedly less talented Brett Favre. They both function best when they are just out there playing football, drawing up plays in the dirt, running around like fools and doing unexpected, risky things like tossing the ball underhanded with their left hand out of desperation. On occasion it works, but on occasion it also makes your team, your coach and your fans want to strangle you. Brett Favre had enough skill and discipline to hold it together for one Super Bowl season. But he also had a few seasons end up blowing up in his face (his ridiculous interception in 2009 against the Saints in the NFC Championship, and another in overtime in 2007 against the Giants come to mind). To me, Tebow is the same way. He’ll make plays that make you scratch your head… in awe as well as in utter bewilderment.
In the end, I think this is a fun story and it is getting people excited about the NFL and the Broncos. But I don’t think it is going to last. This run of winning has mostly been through phenomenal defense and special teams play, with some timely offense and a lot of lucky bounces. The thing about luck is that eventually it evens out. Maybe not this season, but eventually. So, I really don’t see Tebow ever being the long-term answer for any team at quarterback. His skill set seems to be too limited to last. Just look at what happened to an much more talented Michael Vick. Last season when he burst back on to the scene, he was unstoppable. Everyone assumed it would continue on to this season and for multiple seasons going forward. Except somewhere on the road to multiple Super Bowls, Vick crashed back to Earth again.
The bigger problem with going “all in” with Tebow as your long-tern starting quarterback as he is now is that you truly have to go all in. There is no turning back. If you think you have found a revolutionary player who is going to change the NFL, then you need to commit to this change. You need to have wide receivers, running backs and so forth that fit into this new/old offense. You need back up quarterbacks that can run the same offense. The entire make-up of your team needs to change. And that is why I think that after this season, no one is going to pull the trigger on this. It is fun to go for the of-beat offense when the team is 1-4 with nothing to lose. But it is quite another to fully commit to this as your team’s way of life.
In my opinion, no one is going to risk their job on this gamble. Because if it fails, it doesn’t just result in a losing season or two. Your franchise is set back for a few years because you have focused your entire roster on a system that has failed. Even if the ultimate in wackiness happens and the Broncos somehow win the Super Bowl, Tim Tebow might still be out of a job.
The rest of the season is definitely going to be interesting to watch. I am still not jumping on the Tebow bandwagon, but I am not rooting against him anymore either. Unless somehow the Bears face off against the Broncos in the Super Bowl, then I am back to drinking the “Haterade”.
Part of why I can now straddle the fence on Tim Tebow is because I have no investment in whether or not he succeeds. However, my brother Brian is a long time Broncos fan and this has been dropped right into the lap of his fandom. As someone who is more directly affected by the wins and losses of Mr. Tebow, I asked him to put together his thoughts on the topic and he was happy to obliget. I was blown away by what he had to say and I am pretty sure you will be, too. Check it out in the next post. Oh, and encourage him to start his own blog because from his first offering it looks to me like he’s got the chops to keep writing. Now to get to work on Matt…