Tim Tebow’s return to the NFL became official Thursday. A day later, we learned he’s back for the bare minimum.
Tim Tebow is one of my favorite public personalities. He certainly stands out in the world of professional sports, among all the arrogant, criminally prone athletes. This week, Tebow made the news again, when the Philadelphia Eagles signed him to a contract. Expect a lot of media coverage, virtually all of it ridiculing both Tebow and the Eagles for signing him.
I have been following sports for about fifty years, since I was a very young child. I have never seen any athlete, at any level, be as hated and ridiculed as Tim Tebow. What’s truly remarkable is that all this hatred, all this vitriol, has been directed at a fantastically successful athlete. Tebow is arguably the greatest college football player of all time. He won the Heisman Trophy, and two national championships. When Tebow retired, he left as the SEC’s all-time leader in passing efficiency and career rushing touchdowns. In fact, Tebow ranks second all-time in NCAA passing efficiency. His completion percentage as a senior was over 70 percent.
Despite Tebow’s astonishing accuracy as a passer in college, against countless future NFL defenders, he has been ridiculed, time and time again, for his “inaccuracy.” Another absurd criticism of Tebow is that he lacks arm strength and cannot throw down field. Unfortunately, the statistics contradict this as well; Tebow is ranked third in NCAA history in yards per attempt (9.33). Yet because of this persistent refrain, Tebow tinkered with his wildly successful throwing motion, and his accuracy in the NFL suffered as a result.
In Tebow’s first NFL start, he had a 40 yard touchdown run. Somehow, this escaped the notice of the “journalists” who had been loudly proclaiming that the Broncos had wasted a first round pick on him. He started the last three games of the 2010 season, and posted a higher QB rating than Kyle Orton would for the first three games of the 2011 season, after being inexplicably handed the starting job over him. Tebow flashed great potential during those first three games, yet again it went unnoticed. Tebow became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for a touchdown in his first three starts.
The real anti-Tebow firestorm started prior to the 2011 season, when fans logically expected last year’s promising rookie, perhaps the SEC’s greatest all-time player, to be anointed the starter. Instead, journeyman Orton was handed the job by new coach John Fox, clearly at the behest of new Bronco honcho John Elway, who consistently referred to Tebow derisively as “Timmy.” Never had sports fans seen so many “experts” on television and in the print media angrily shout “he can’t throw!” and “he can’t play!”
Despite being saddled with a prehistoric offense that only permitted him to throw in the most obvious passing situations (which largely explained his low completion percentage), Tebow defied his coach and general manager and reeled off a series of improbable, fantastic victories, eventually leading the Broncos to the playoffs. It was illuminating to watch Elway in particular fume on the sidelines and in his sky suite, over Tebow winning. Never has an executive in any professional sport rooted so openly against one of his players. Clearly, Elway and Fox thought that if they forced Tebow to run a 1930s-style cloud of dust offense, he would quickly fail and the fans would stop demanding that he be allowed to play. Their strategy backfired.
During Denver’s 2011 winning streak, fueled by Tebow’s fourth quarter magic, the media grew apoplectic in their furor against him. Merrill Hoge in particular was full of pure hatred for the openly Christian, devoutly humble young quarterback. At one point, a frustrated Hoge called the sincere Tebow “as phony as a three dollar bill.” Never had any alleged reporters so openly rooted against a player. On the contrary, ESPN and other sports networks have long served as a public relations arm of the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, etc. If anything, they have consistently overrated the abilities of athletes, especially ones as accomplished as Tim Tebow. Hoge and other journalists even started blasting Tebow’s practice performances, something unheard of in the world of sports.
Despite the efforts of Hoge and most every other sports journalist, Tebow remained very popular with a large segment of fans. Even before he started an NFL game, Tebow led the league in jersey sales. After leading the Broncos to the playoffs, Tebow capped off a miraculous season with a long touchdown pass in overtime, upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Broncos lost the following week. it would be Tebow’s last start in the NFL (at least for now). Tebow became, in fact, only the second quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game as a starter, and never start another game (while not retiring and remaining active as a player). That could still (hopefully) change, of course. But for now, Tebow stands alone as a supremely successful quarterback who was then summarily dismissed by the entire league.
John Elway managed to lure the great Peyton Manning to Denver for the 2012 season. Manning was just about the only quarterback who could have made Broncos fans forget Tim Tebow, or forgive Elway for kicking him to the curb. Tebow wound up with the New York Jets, coached by neanderthal defensive specialist Rex Ryan. Led by Merrill Hoge, Tebow was trashed by anonymous leaks that claimed his teammates thought he was a “terrible” quarterback. Ryan humiliated Tebow by installing him as a punt protector on special teams, a position no quarterback had ever played before, or is likely to play again. The final indignity came when starter Mark Sanchez was injured, and Ryan refused to start Tebow, preferring instead to go with third stringer, Greg McElroy. The Jets treated Tebow in a manner that is impossible to explain. It’s almost as if they wanted to create a buffoon for the public.
In a league littered with mediocre talent, including mediocre quarterbacks, no one was interested in signing Tim Tebow after the Patriots cut him during the 2013 preseason. Now, at long last, renegade spirit Chip Kelly has acquired him for the Philadelphia Eagles. Will Tebow actually be given a legitimate chance to play? That remains to be seen. One thing is certain; Merrill Hoge and the other myriad of “journalists” who despise Tim Tebow will be out in full force, looking to undermine his chances at every turn.
In an honest sports world, a man like Tim Tebow would be revered, a highly sought after commodity for his box office appeal alone, not to mention his winning record, slew of intangibles and positive locker room presence. Instead, he has turned out to be a pariah; spurned by the NFL as if he were a crucifix trying to enter a den of vampires. And despite all the negative energy directed at him, Tebow has remained upbeat and civil. He politely thanked the Broncos after they traded him to the Jets, for instance, and issued a gracious comment about how he understood a team wanting to sign a legendary player like Peyton Manning.
Tebow has been viciously attacked over his religion, his public vow of celibacy, and his humble nature. In a corrupt society like ours, it is indeed difficult to believe that someone like Tim Tebow is “real.” Surely, most of us think, this must be an act. Tebow must be as “phony” as Merrill Hoge believes he is. There is no logical reason to assume this. Unlike so many NFL players, Tebow has been an exemplary citizen, unlikely to ever be accused of sexual assault, drunk driving, or any of the other sundry of offenses that so many other players, all of them welcomed back with open arms by the league, have been charged with.
The NFL, and the sports “journalism” community in particular, has engaged in an obvious conspiracy to keep Tim Tebow from doing what he does better than most of the players who play his position in the league. The idea that he isn’t good enough to start in this watered-down league is ridiculous. Along with millions of other fans, and virtually no “expert” journalists, I will be rooting as hard as I can for him to shut them all up and succeed with the Eagles.