Is Tim Tebow’s Early Success Just Fool’s Gold or the Wave of the Future?

Posted on November 21, 2011

0


By Geoff Ratliff

I have to admit that I am finally fascinated by the Tim Tebow experiment. As a fan of the NFL and football in general, and a former quarterback myself, I can’t help it. I’m also fascinated by what the treatment of Tim Tebow says about our society, but I’m mostly focused on the football aspect of this whole phenomenon.

When the Broncos decided to spend a first round pick on Tebow in the 2010 draft, I was squarely in the “what the f$%k are they doing?” camp, not so much because of what I thought of Tebow’s future NFL prospects, but because it was pretty clear to everyone that nobody had him pegged higher than late second to early third round at best.  Picking him in the first round really forced the organization’s hand in having to justify the pick early as opposed to allowing him to sit and develop for a year or two.

Do you really think the Denver fans would have been as adamant about giving the kid a chance earlier this year had he been picked in the third round? While the draft situation was talked about ad nauseam last year, it’s worth bringing up because it directly affects the perspective that people have when discussing Tim Tebow. The media, fans, and the Broncos’ organization will never be able to escape the fact that Tebow will forever be evaluated with the expectations of a first round pick on his shoulders.

On the one hand, I want Tim Tebow to succeed long-term in the NFL for a couple of reasons. First of all, I like the guy’s demeanor both on and off the field. I am philosophically opposed to the idea of organized religion, which you’d think would put me squarely in the anti-Tebow camp, but I respect and appreciate anyone whose beliefs genuinely motivate them to work for the greater good. I also like the fact that, from what I’ve gathered, Tebow is able to walk the fine line between believing in something strongly without insisting that others believe in it too, which is to say that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. I thought his comment in Thursday’s post game press conference in reply to Hugh Douglas’ promise to go to church on Sunday if the Broncos won was great. It played up his Christianity in a funny, non-offensive way. Well played Tim!

From a purely football perspective, I want Tebow to succeed for an entirely different reason. I am a contrarian at heart, not because I simply enjoy arguing with people – I do – but because I feel like most people take positions on issues simply because that’s what they were raised or taught to believe, not because they’ve actually taken the time to do any research to support their beliefs (this is why I’m not a fan of organized religion but that’s for another post). The NFL has long been a league based on innovation, from the introduction of the forward pass, to innovative defenses like the 3-4 and the Cover 2, to the gimmicky variations of the Wild Cat formation, all the way to now where it appears that you do not need a premier running back to win in the NFL, something that was long thought to be the gospel truth. If quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning can essentially make the featured running back a thing of the past, why can’t Tim Tebow usher in a new era of football that quells the belief that you need a quarterback that can successfully air it out to win in the NFL? Why can’t the offense that the Broncos currently run, when combined with a premier defense, which the Broncos have become over these last few weeks, be a winning formula in the NFL?

I’m not going to try to personally build a case for Tebow succeeding in the NFL playing like he is today, but he may not have as far to go on his improvement as people think. Simply raising his completion percentage to somewhere between 55% and 60% might be enough given his other tools. Many football experts have characterized his 5-3 record as a starter as a nice story and good for the young man’s, and the team’s, confidence, but simply delaying the inevitable. Mel Kiper, Jr., in fact, wrote a very compelling column for ESPN.com on why the Broncos’ current handling of Tebow has little chance to succeed long-term. While my football knowledge and instincts tell me to agree with Kiper’s assessment – one that has been echoed by other ESPN analyst and former NFL players like Trent Dilfer and Ron Jaworksi – another part of me is thinking, maybe this isn’t so crazy. What is it about Tebow and the Broncos’ offense that can make them look so horrible for three-quarters but then somehow come up with big plays time and time again in crunch time? This guy clearly is the anti-Lebron when it come to having the clutch gene, so why not go with that?

The stats tell us that this offense is one of the worst in NFL history, but if the attitudinal change that it brings to the team on both sides of the football is the trade-off, then isn’t that worth something? Is Tebow’s effect on his teammates approach to the game part of the reason that the Denver defense is all of a sudden playing like the ’85 Bears? There’s no way for us to measure this impact and so we mostly have to take a wait and see approach with Tebow. I do know that I can’t wait to see how this thing plays out, and I really hope it results in Tim Tebow someday making a Pro Bowl for one statistic and one statistic only: winning.

Contact Geoff at geoff@popflyboys.com and follow him on Twitter @snglemarriedguy

Posted in: Featured, NFL