Friday, June 14, 2013

The Tebow Myth

Tim Tebow isn’t an NFL-caliber quarterback; at least, that’s what they say. You know, them, they, the people who said Tom Brady was too small to be any good, Peyton Manning was a lot better than Eli, and Michael Vick was the first (or second) coming. Admittedly there’s a flipside to this myth. A large contingent of fans believe Tebow is the second coming (perhaps the literal one), though not without good reason (besides the mystical part anyway).

Tim Tebow is not just a successful college quarterback, he is one of the most successful college quarterbacks ever. In three seasons as the starter at the University of Florida, he won two National Championships, one Heisman, and 35 games (while only losing 6), threw for 83 touchdown passes (and only 15 interceptions) and 8,928 yards, and ran for 49 touchdowns and 2,478 yards. That resume isn’t evidence of excellence. It’s a declaration of dominance. Yet, despite this success, the tarnishing of Tebow began almost immediately upon the completion of his senior season.

He simply wasn’t good enough. His throwing mechanics were all wrong. He didn’t have the arm strength. He was better suited, due to his physicality and running ability, to be a tight end or running back of some kind. Never had a player been scouted and analyzed by so much of the American populace. Soon it seemed that almost every person was absolutely sure that Tebow would never be able to play quarterback in the NFL. That opinion became the unquestionable and irrefutable truth. Anyone who supported the former Gator from that point on wasn’t just a Tebow fan; he was a Tebowmaniac.

What happens while Tim Tebow is on the football field hasn’t mattered since he was in college, and that’s exactly why I’m glad he’s become a New England Patriot. The story here isn’t about Belichick’s willingness to take chances other coaches won’t or Tebow being persecuted by the mainstream media (sorry, right wing Christians). It’s about someone getting the chance he deserves and our respecting and appreciating the fact that he deserves it. The problem with The Tebow Myth isn’t the chasm of a divide between believers and nonbelievers; it’s that every single person is so damn sure her side is right before the man has been given a chance to prove himself.

Contrast Tebow’s career with Sam Bradford, the quarterback for the St. Louis Rams who won the Heisman the year after Tebow and was selected first in the 2010 Draft (24 spots ahead of Tebow). Bradford has started 42 of the possible 48 Rams games since being drafted. (He missed the other six due to a high ankle sprain.) Tebow has started 16 of the possible 48 games for his teams. Yes, you read that correctly—“teams.” While Bradford has settled in with the Rams, Tebow spent two seasons with the Denver Broncos and one with the New York Jets. While in Denver, Tebow started two playoff games and won one. Bradford’s Rams have yet to make the playoffs. Why then has he become the face of his franchise and Tebow is on his third team in four years?

My mere writing the previous paragraph pushes me into the outskirts of Tebowmania in the eyes of some. Unfortunately most people seem to think you can only fit into one of two categories, maniac or detractor. In actuality, I am neither. As with any player at the beginning of the season, I think Tebow still has a lot to prove, and since I’m an atheist I don’t exactly celebrate his Christianity. Still, in spite of all the pundits and psalms, I find a lot to admire in the quarterback that hasn’t-yet-been: his work ethic, his intelligence, his professionalism, and (as of this week as the latest Patriots Project following Dillion, Moss, Thomas, Haynesworth, Johnson, Lloyd, and Blount) what his potential success means.

Often it seems that the most difficult thing in today’s world is to be given a chance you deserve in spite of widespread opinion (for whatever reason) that you don’t deserve it. Worst of all, the most meaningless or unfounded claims can brand you simply because a large number of people repeat them. Modern politics is almost completely built upon this idea. Obama’s campaign branded itself with the simple slogans of “hope” and “change,” but how much of either has the President really offered since taking office? Entertainers live and die by this double edged sword. Ask M Night Shyamalan who transitioned from critical darling after The Sixth Sense to overrated hack since The Village. His recent film wasn’t even sold using his name and was still a critical and financial failure. He has become so unmarketable that I am stunned his movies continue to receive funding. That point is the low Tebow’s career sank to this offseason. There was legitimate question as to whether he would be on an NFL team in the Fall.

Whether you like the man or not, Tim Tebow has not gotten his fair shot in the NFL. It is not debatable that he has a lot of progress to make to be successful as a professional football player. The rookies that are ready to perform on that level are rare. Most are drafted, signed, and developed based on the potential to transform into such players. Tebow, despite what they say, has that potential—and the Patriots provide the perfect place for his transformation.

When the players and staff enter and exit Gillette Stadium there is a sign posted that reminds them of four principles that are important to being a Patriot. Two are: “Ignore the Noise” and “Don’t Believe or Fuel the Hype.” Myths are, more often than not, noise fueled by hype. Tebow is now training behind Belichick’s iron curtain with a contract built solely upon his performance as a prospect. Maybe he can finally transition into the man he could rather than the myth fueled by them, they. Ultimately it’s like Smash Mouth (yes, a supposed “one hit wonder”) said. “Them, they, who are they anyway? They’re just beating each other at being each other with nothing to say.”

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