The debate is fresh again. The voices are as loud as ever. The sides are distinct.
In the middle, there is Tim Tebow, good guy, potential quarterback.
He is perhaps the loudest debate in the history of the league. One side points out that his passes wobble. The other side points out that his intangibles do not. One side would like a no-name quarterback who is on his way to nowhere. One side prefers Tebow, who presumably, is stopping by on his way to heaven.
All of the old arguments are new again. About how Tebow doesn’t throw as well as most quarterbacks. About how he leads better than most of them. They have had this argument in Denver, and they have had it in New York. Now, it is Philadelphia’s turn.
There is this. Most of us would rather be Tebow than Matt Barkley, the quarterback he is competing with for the Eagles’ third slot. Heck, we’d rather be Tebow than Matt Sanchez, or for that matter, Tebow instead of Sam Bradford. Tebow is iconic. He is immensely popular. And his supporters act as if he is the only good man ever to play quarterback.
There is something in Tebow that attracts the zealots. He has always been something to believe in, a faith-driven quarterback who inspires his fans to applaud him. Those who criticize Tebow? Why, they’re doing the work of the devil! And those who fall in line? Well, take a number.
When Tebow was in Denver, and later in New York, every discussion turned into a holy war. You could suggest, quite calmly, that Tebow didn’t throw a good enough pass, a fact on which a great many people who make their living to determine such things have suggested. And immediately, you’re going to get a lecture on winning and intangibles and leadership. Then you can suggest that, yeah, the guy does have something, and the other side launches in about how they can’t wait to see Tebow fail, as if it were a personal insult that Tebow still has a uniform.
Me? I like Tebow. Of all the things that are wrong in the NFL, of Ray Rice and Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald, why are you going to get upset that Tebow is a decent guy with over-the-top followers? Even in his days at the University of Florida, there were critics who slammed Tebow because he was interviewed too often. My response was always that he never chased me down and asked me to interview him. Every question I ever asked him was my idea.
The truth? The truth is that Tebow has limitations as a quarterback. That doesn’t diminish that he’s a fine guy, a well-meaning man who just wants a job as a quarterback.
The all-he-does is win argument? That’s not right, either. Tebow has an 8-6 record as a starter, which is kind of routine. Yes, he won a playoff game over Pittsburgh, but his team lost 45-10 in round two. Yes, he led the Broncos on their stretch drive, but with the playoffs in the balance, Tebow scored only three points against a bad Kansas City team in which he hit only six of 22 passes. In all, Tebow hit only 47 percent of his passes that year.
And, yet, Tebow did quarterback Denver to six straight wins that year. In a league that worships nothing more than victory, it seems that Tebow might have been more coveted than, say, Ryan Leaf or Matt Leinart.
The truth is that Tebow unnerves a great many NFL executives who don’t think he’s worth the bother. Why invite the circus to town? Why stick a guy on your bench and invite the questions of why he isn’t starting? The Florida teams in particular have struggled at quarterback in recent seasons, but none of them wanted to turn their quarterback into a “Tebow Today” situation. How did Tebow look? Is he going to play this week? When might he start?
Still, even now, fans are willing to pull for Tebow. He has not played a down since 2012, when he played 77 snaps for the New York Jets. He was brought in by a general manager who saw him as a jack-of-all-trades, but he played for a coach who saw him as a master of none.
Despite the fact that Tebow hasn’t played meaningful football since 2011, he is 15th in the NFL in jersey sales. And he may well lead the Eagles in headlines this training camp.
Eagles’ coach Chip Kelley says Tebow is doing better. I hope so. The NFL is a more interesting place with Tebow in it. Discussions are livelier, opinions are louder, when Tebow is the subject.
Look, the NFL is a place where there are not enough quarterbacks. Josh Freeman still has a uniform. Tyrod Taylor has one. So do Thaddeus Lewis and Matt Simms and Tom Savage and Bruce Gradkowski. There are so many insurance men calling themselves quarterbacks that it’s amusing.
Good people don’t always make it as NFL quarterbacks. It isn’t a job requirement. Danny Wuerffel was a wonderful guy. Trent Dilfer is great. Josh McCown is a heck of a guy.
But all Tebow wants is a fresh set of downs.
Someone should give it to him.