By: Dan Grant
Much and more has been written about Timothy Richard Tebow, from his Heisman Trophy win in 2007, to his controversial drafting by the Denver Broncos, to the height of his popularity and success in the 2011 playoffs, to his lost 2012/13 season in New York. While he’s always a polarizing figure, when I approached the Same Page Head Honchos (SPHH) about writing this article, skepticism was thick in the air; not whether there was a story, but whether there was a FRESH story.
SPHH: Dan, this story has been done to death!
DG: But he just signed with the Patriots! It’s a major story! Besides, I’m pretty sure I’ve got a fresh angle—
SPHH: Like what? Listen there are two positions on Tebow. One is that he’s a player who just needs a chance and is one of the most exciting, multi-talented players in football and the other is that he’s a bum, a backup at best who’ll never amount to anything in the pros, who caught lightning in a bottle for one half season in Denver and who only manages to stay in the spotlight because of the whole ‘Great White Hope/religion’ aspect.
DG: Well, yes. But then there’s the possibility that he’s just in it for the money.
SPHH: Of course — WAIT, WHAT?
DG: Listen, let me break it down for you. When you think about it, everything points to that.
SPHH: Alright, then. Godspeed.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” – James 1:2
Tebow’s successes and failures as a player have been well covered. He was a unique talent in college, winning the Heisman Trophy at Florida as a sophomore, when he threw for 32 TD’s and rushed for another 23. He remained a national star after that, but ‘declined’ each season, finishing third in Heisman voting as a junior and fifth as a senior, with drops in both his passing and rushing statistics. All throughout his college career, the debate raged about how his game would or wouldn’t translate to the pros. He still managed to become a first round pick, with Denver trading up to select him with the 25th pick, thereby guaranteeing him millions of dollars in salary. The biggest problem teams saw, and it’s a big one for a quarterback, is that Tebow really struggled with his passing accuracy. His arm strength wasn’t in doubt, nor was his athleticism, but his ability to consistently make accurate throws was seen as the big mark against him becoming a star at the professional level.
So far? Those concerns have been validated. He completed 50% of his passes in rookie season in 2010 and 47% in 2011. To make a comparison, Chad Henne ranked dead last in the NFL in completion percentage in 2012. He completed 53.9% of his passes. And Tebow in 2012? Well he upped his completion percentage to 75%! Sadly, he was only allowed to throw 8 passes all season, despite being the biggest offseason acquisition of the New York Jets. The passing is a problem.
“For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” – Acts- 18:10
They don’t often talk about his game, however. At least not in Denver, where things ended reasonably amicably, or in New England, where things have just gotten started. In New York however?
In a mid-season article, anonymous players were quoted as saying ‘we don’t even think of him as a quarterback. He’s just the Wildcat guy’ and ‘he’s terrible’.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Then there’s the whole debacle from Tebow’s stint in Denver. Oft forgotten because of the Tebowmania that ensued, the Broncos began that season 1-4 under starter Kyle Orton. With Orton struggling, fans took money out of their own pockets to put a billboard asking Broncos coach John Fox to play Tebow.
Now, you’d think Tebow the ‘winner’, the ‘leader’, would denigrate this kind of behaviour, seeing as he’s such a shining example to his teammates, right?
In fact, his quarterback teammates began fining Tebow for each day the billboard remained up, particularly because he chose not to speak out against it. He didn’t support it either, but simply chose not to comment on the billboard, even when asked directly about it.
To quote Geddy Lee ‘If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice’.
In New York, he was passed over for a starting assignment when Mark Sanchez was injured and he then told the Jets that he no longer wanted to be used situationally, which, last time I checked, was pretty much the role of every NFL player. This signed his death warrant in New York and led to his release.
This passive aggressiveness has quietly followed Tebow around during his career, and has contributed to quick exits from his first two NFL stops. It remains to be seen how and if it will manifest itself in New England.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” – Matthew 28:19
Tebow the Brand is really all that’s left at this point. His playing ability is maligned and his choices as a teammate are starting to hurt him. However, two years ago, during the Tebowmania run, when he led Denver to a division title and a last second upset playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, he established himself as the NFL’s biggest rising star. Even with a lost year in New York, the casual fan still knows who Tim Tebow is.
In a recent study, marketers have determined that while Tebow lost appeal and trust with fans from his time in New York, his awareness is still the same. Because of this, he still owns endorsement deals with Nike, TiVo, Jockey and FRS Health Energy that cumulatively net him around 10 million dollars annually. When he signed with the New England Patriots earlier this month, he made sure that people remembered that he’s still TIM TEBOW.
He held a press conference like he was Joe Namath, despite the fact that he’s on a completely non-guaranteed contract. He said all the right things. He finished his first press scrum by laughing with reporters like they were old friends and stating ‘Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll be talking more soon’. And I’m sure they will. Tebow will do anything to keep himself in the public eye, to keep that awareness up.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft lauded him and his ‘spirituality’, discussing that as a major reason for the signing, something stone-cold Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t comment on. In fact, he wouldn’t say much beyond ‘he’s talented, he’s smart, he works hard’.
The day Tebow was signed reporters asked Belichick 14 straight Tebow questions, at which point Belichick stated ‘I think I’ve covered it’ and refused to answer further questions on the matter. Tom Brady was asked if he would mind Tebow playing quarterback at times during the season, if that’s what Belichick wanted to do and he gave reporters a look that said ‘settle down’, while his mouth smiled and said ‘well let’s just see what happens, how about that?’
The taciturn Belichick appeared exasperated with the repetition of the questions during the press conference and it made you wonder why the Patriots would have brought such a distraction to town. Then you remember that the Patriots are known for reclamation projects, from successes like Danny Woodhead and Randy Moss to disasters like Albert Haynesworth and Chad Johnson (Ochocinco).
You then might wonder, if this time perhaps, the Pats have bitten off a bit more than they can chew. A reclamation project is one thing, but obviously Tim Tebow is quite another. After all, this is one of the most successful and distinguished franchises in the NFL, one of the premier franchises of the past 20 years! They won the Super Bowl just…wait? When? Their last Super Bowl was in 2005? That’s coming up on ten years ago! That can’t be right!
But it is.
People seem to forget that for all their regular season success, and even their reasonable post-season record, the Brady-Belichick combo hasn’t won the big game for quite some time. Two losses to the New York Giants loom over their legacy and Brady isn’t getting any younger. They lost Wes Welker to free agency and have both Rob Gronkowski’s five off-season surgeries and the Aaron Hernandez mess to contend with currently.
Like Tebow, the Patriots are coasting on their past successes. They’re little more than a brand themselves at this point. Tebow might provide a welcome distraction from the bigger questions surrounding the team. If he’s actually willing to do what Belichick asks, he might just contribute. And if he doesn’t? Well, he’s a scapegoat in waiting. And who knows what that might do to the Tebow brand?
What all this boils down to, is what kind of man do you think Tim Tebow is? I can honestly say that I’m not totally sure.
Tebow has various charitable endeavours and his openness about his religious beliefs as much a part of his persona as his inability to throw a spiral pass. He regularly meets with fans identified through his Tim Tebow Foundation and has spent time working as a missionary in southeast Asia. His parents are both Christian missionaries. In this article and others, Tebow is quoted as saying that football is just a platform for bigger things; that he wants to make a difference in people’s lives. And maybe that’s true. Maybe that’s where all the posturing, peacocking and ‘Tebowing’ came from: a good place in his heart, a desire to increase his celebrity, thereby increasing his income and allowing him to give more back to the community he so treasures, and to do that for as long as humanly possible.
However, the passive aggressiveness mentioned earlier, as well as a vibe that is exuded when the man actually speaks gives me the feeling that he’s not always being totally genuine. I’m not saying that the good he’s done, which is undeniable, is disingenuous. I am however, saying that Tebow wants to remain relevant for Tebow’s sake, not just for the good of others.
Isn’t it possible that he just really likes attention and wants to make millions of dollars playing a kids game and is sticking around the only way he knows how?
I think it is. And in fact, I think it’s likely.
The charity and the accolades make it seem more worthwhile and noble. They lend the real power behind Tebowmania – money – credibility. They give his defenders the perfect platform to keep him in the game longer than he would have been. It’s nothing but a savvy business move. Maybe.
But what will happen to Tebowmania when the money runs out?
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he may have enough to finish it; lest perhaps, after he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish, all those seeing begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish.” – Luke 14:28-30