“My faith will forever be strong with you. But today, my prayers were not answered. I’m sure that you have a plan for my life, and today’s thrashing by the Patriots has a hidden lesson in it. My faith is never wavering with you… Amen.”
And that’s probably (vaguely) how Tim Tebow ended his Saturday night, kneeling next to his bed, praying to God, and asking for a sign of hope for his, and his team’s future. Before you continue, please understand, this is not an article about Tebow’s beliefs. This is not about any religion, faith, fate, or higher beings. This is not about his incredible charity work, the hospitals he has set up, or the under-privileged children he meets before every game. The pre-game story about him on Saturday almost brought tears to my eyes as it related how he meets someone before every game, to “put perspective on things”. I will never, EVER argue that this man shows the attributes of what every professional athlete should be. This article is about his deficiencies playing professional football, and some incredible luck that brought about “Tebow-Mania” in 2011-12.
By now everyone knows how coddled the top university sports recruits are in the United States. They are immediately welcomed as heroes, saviours, and feel an immediate sense of entitlement to all they want. The scandals in American University sports that have come to light in the past three years have brought shame to the NCAA, and make every normal human cringe that this sort of behaviour actually exists in an educational environment. Most of these “student-athletes” (I had to shut off the “oxymoron” sensor there) have had that sense their entire life. They have been gifted athletes throughout their high school lives.
However, Tebow was born in Makati City in the Philippines, to American parents who served as Baptist missionaries. A constant daily reminder that he was the chosen one, and had to save his community, sport, and family did not exist. He was home-schooled in Florida upon his parents’ return to the United States. It was only because of a 1996 Florida state rule, that he was allowed to play public school sports.
His legend grew quickly, however. He finished a high school game with a broken leg, was featured on ESPN, and in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” section. It was more his intense competitive drive, and willingness to play a physical game that made people admire him. He garnered a full scholarship from 2006-2009 with the Florida Gators, and his mystique grew further. He skipped his first draft eligible year due to a bad shoulder. All that did was raise his stock in the next year’s draft. Or so everyone thought.
Surprisingly, he dropped to 25th overall and drafted by the Denver Broncos. Head coach Josh McDaniels said his first-round QB was “…a player who is tough, smart, has great character, loves football and is passionate about coming here and helping the Broncos win a championship.” But honestly, isn’t that the same thing you say about a guy chosen 3rd overall? ESPN’s Bill Williamson said, “Josh McDaniels’ legacy is Tim Tebow. The Denver Post columnist Woody Paige praised the pick, saying “Tim Tremendous may be high risk, but he will be a Mile High Reward.” On July 29, Tebow signed a five-year contract worth $11.25 million. The contract also included $8.7 million guaranteed and included incentive based bonuses.
On October 17, Tebow scored his first NFL touchdown, which was a 5-yard running play against the New York Jets. On November 14, Tebow threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Larsen on his first career NFL pass attempt, as part of a 49-29 home victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Tebow started his first NFL game on December 19, which was a 39-23 road loss to the Oakland Raiders. He threw for 138 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown pass. His 40 yard touchdown run was the longest for a quarterback in Broncos’ history, and the longest touchdown run in NFL history for a quarterback in his first start
Tebow’s first career victory came in his second start on December 26 with a 24-23 win over the Houston Texans. Tebow helped rally the Broncos from a 17-0 deficit at halftime, as he finished the game with 308 passing yards and one touchdown pass. He also added a 4th quarter rushing touchdown, which capped the comeback. Tebow finished his rookie season playing in six games as back-up, before starting the last three games of the Broncos’ season. He threw for a total of 654 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed for 227 yards and six touchdowns.
2011 began with Tebow as the Bronco’s backup QB to Kyle Orton. However, after a 1-4 start, Tebow replaced Orton at halftime against the San Diego Chargers in week 5. Tebow almost brought the Broncos back for the victory, and following the game, Coach John Fox announced Tebow would start week 6 against the Miami Dolphins. Tebow led his team back from a halftime deficit of 15-0, to win the game 18-15. I found it odd how nobody factored in that Miami had yet to win a game in 2011, but so began Tebow-Mania. From there, victories over Oakland and Kansas City, and then two comeback wins over the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears only fueled the fire. That fire was quickly doused the following week as the New England Patriots stopped the streak in Denver.
After the third straight loss, Bronco’s Vice-President and legendary QB, John Elway offered some constructive criticism for his young protege through the media. This of course led to speculation that management was not pleased with Tebow as a starter, and had backup QB Brady Quinn ready to go at the first sign of trouble. However, the Broncos made the playoffs, and defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card game, setting them up for Saturday night’s re-match against the Patriots.
During the Bronco’s string of five straight wins, it always seemed that some force of nature, or higher power was watching over Tebow. The strange bounces that went the Broncos’ way, inopportune fumbles by the opposition, opposing runners inexplicably stepping out of bounds to stop the clock giving the Broncos more time, and Matt Prater’s long-yardage field goals to tie or win games sure made it seem like he was being “taken care of.” Fate didn’t get a chance on Saturday, as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick very quickly showed that the Pats were there to play for keeps, no mistakes would be made, and no prisoners were being taken.
Young Mr. Tebow still has a whole lot to learn about the real world of professional football. Last night’s game versus the Patriots was his wake up call to the “real” world of the NFL. Sure, he won a Heisman trophy. Sure, he won a NCAA Division 1 Championship. But his years at the University of Florida were played in a Wildcat Option style offense. I said the same thing when Mike Vick came back to play for the Eagles. He (Vick) doesn’t have the arm for a pass-happy offense coached by Andy Reid. The Patriots’s highly suspect pass defense, and heavily injured secondary was a prime chance for Tebow to show he could break that mold. But he could not, as the Patriots played off his major weakness, and set up each down as if the Broncos would be running the ball every time. This forced Tebow to throw the ball, and the results were not pretty.
Tebow has already learned quite a bit from his experiences this year. The Broncos management and coaching staff now have a full off-season to prepare him for next year as their full time starter. He must learn how to play a pro QB game, not college option plays. He has to learn to to read, recognize, and react to the defenses that are being thrown in his face at the line of scrimmage. In between performing good deeds and charitable acts, I think he will be a “learning sponge” and will put all the teaching and advice to good use. Fans who have been “Te-Bowing” for a Super Bowl since the days of John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, and Mike Shanahan now have some hope. They may have found their “saviour” in a very gifted, humble, grounded kid, who has no problem looking into that Mile-High sky for help.