It's too bad the Jets picked Monday to cut Tim Tebow. I wish he'd been around to comment on the Jason Collins story.
Maybe that's weird. Nobody wants to hear from any other (as my friend and colleague Mike Tanier put it) fourth-string quarterback on the big issue of the sports day. But Tim Tebow is still interesting to me, even as what he does on the field interests fewer and fewer NFL teams. Tebow has made it to that place only certain famous people reach: He's overrated and underrated at the same time.
Lord help me, I sort of agree with Skip Bayless on something: I think the guy can still play.
Just 15 months ago, he beat the Steelers in the playoffs with an 80-yard TD pass on the first play of overtime. The Broncos upgraded to Peyton Manning, which was understandable. The Jets traded for him, which was not. The Jets had no plan or purpose for him other than creating buzz in the tabloids. Tebow looked worse as a Jet than he did as a Bronco, which shouldn't be a surprise, seeing that Mark Sanchez looks worse now than he did as a rookie. Good luck with that Jet developmental system, Geno Smith.
NFL teams have created Wildcat packages for running backs and built entire schemes around read-option QBs such as Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III. Tebow is not nearly as good as Cam or RGIII -- either as a passer or a runner. But he looked good enough with Denver that two types of teams should consider him:
1) A deep team (New England? Green Bay?) that doesn't need a QB soon and can take the time to develop Tebow and find out what he's capable of.
2) A terrible team (Cleveland? Arizona?) that could use him right away as a change-of-pace guy. Jacksonville is the obvious choice: Tebow is a hero there from his time at Florida. The Jags haven't had a winning season since 2007, Blaine Gabbert is their quarterback, and the upper deck at their stadium is populated by tarps. And they refuse to try something different, with the one player they know will draw fans in Jacksonville? That's bad football and bad marketing. (Coincidentally, "Bad Football and Bad Marketing" is the Jags' team slogan.)
I'm not saying Tebow will beat out Aaron Rodgers or vault the Jags into the playoffs. My buddy Tanier says Tebow stinks, and Mike knows the NFL better than I know anything. So I know this is unstable footing. But I still think Tim Tebow, in the right situation, could draw a paycheck as an NFL quarterback and earn it.
So, he's underrated.
Here's how he's overrated: Forget all the talk about whether Tebow belongs on an NFL roster. Tebow has legions of fans wondering why he's not an NFL starter.
The deepest part of the Tebow fanbase comes from Christians who have come to see him as a symbol for what a believer can achieve. Tebow encouraged this -- when you put "John 3:16" on your eyeblack the night you win the national title, you're looking to connect God and victory. It only follows that a lot of his fans believe he's destined for greatness, and some think the NFL, for whatever reason, is holding him back. (My thought: Now that Al Davis is gone, most bad decisions in the NFL come from stupidity instead of spite.)
There's another strain of Tebow fans: Those who worship at the Church of the Intangible. Yes, his passes are so wobbly and off-line that you wonder if he's throwing with the wrong hand. But he made all those comebacks in Denver! He's magic in the huddle! He just wins games! Tebow is the scrappy second baseman of football: His stats don't measure up, but he chatters in the dugout and looks great in a rally cap, so we call him a winner.
Tebow's only comment Monday was a tweet of Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Of course, one thing about sports is that we all lean on our own understanding. The understanding of a lot of football experts is that Tim Tebow doesn't belong in the NFL. The understanding of a lot of fans is that he can deliver a team to the playoffs. My understanding is somewhere in between. Maybe there's a straight path for Tebow in there. It's just hard to see one right now.
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