If this works, if Tim Tebow keeps winning games, keeps getting better, keeps forcing John Elway and John Fox to consider an alternative quarterback route to the Super Bowl, it won’t be some impossible-to-believe miracle, an act of a higher power.
Tim Tebow is not a religious symbol. He’s a shrine to the power of a strong, committed, passionate two-parent upbringing. Tebow’s birth — a product of his mother’s faith and refusal to listen to doctors advising her to abort — might very well have been a religious miracle. Tebow’s performance on the football field is testament to Bob and Pam Tebow and what they instilled in their youngest child.
At this moment, no one knows whether the Tebow experiment Elway and Fox have been pressured into undertaking will result in anything more sustainable than Tennessee’s Vince Young experience or Atlanta’s Michael Vick roller coaster.
What should be dawning on us — especially those of us who greeted Tebow’s Broncos career with skepticism — is that, thanks to a rock-solid, two-parent upbringing, Tebow is quite different from Young and Vick in terms of mental and emotional makeup. Those differences raise the real possibility that Tebow is the athletic-freak quarterback an NFL franchise should embrace with a revolutionary offensive approach.
What do I mean?
NFL quarterback is a 24/7-365-day job that Vick and Young were unprepared for coming out of college. NFL quarterback is a position best played by young men who were raised by strong fathers. Quarterback is the ultimate leadership position. You have to be taught how to lead. You have to be taught how to prepare.
Vick and Young, athletic freaks on par with Tebow, do not have Tebow’s nuclear-family foundation. Vick and Young entered the league emotionally immature and with a set of values inconsistent with the values that lead to consistent, strong QB play. You can wing it in college and get by on sheer athleticism and talent. You can’t do that at the quarterback position in the NFL.
Tebow is the first super-athletic quarterback we’ve seen who also has the discipline to prepare as if he’s Peyton Manning. That’s a huge advantage. Tebow is winning because he curtails his mental errors. He’s thrown one interception and lost two fumbles since taking over as the starter this season. Denver’s winning formula is basic and old school. The Broncos stop the run, run the football and win the turnover battle. Young threw 30 interceptions in his first two seasons. Vick accounted for 53 turnovers in his last three seasons in Atlanta.
You can’t build a revolutionary offense around a quarterback who lacks the discipline or maturity to prepare. The Houston Oilers tried the run-and-shoot because they had Warren Moon, who was in his early 30s at the time.
Can Tebow withstand the beating he’ll absorb running the football? He’s 236 pounds and spends enough time in the weight room to be as yoked as a fullback.
Unlike Tebow worshippers, I’ve had no problem with Fox’s and Elway’s handling of Tebow. They didn’t draft him. He doesn’t fit their image of a Super Bowl quarterback. The Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer, and general manager Ozzie Newsome thought so little of Dilfer the Ravens acquired Elvis Grbac. The NFL is a tough, transparent business. It’s also a copycat league. There is evidence from 40-plus years of history that you win the Super Bowl with classic, pocket-passing quarterbacks. Can’t blame Fox and Elway for wanting one.
What we can blame them for starting today in the aftermath of Denver’s fifth straight victory, a 35-32 shootout with the Vikings, is a reluctance to even consider the possibility that Tebow might be a game-changer, a new invention, reason to reevaluate traditional thought.
Tim Tebow might be Magic Johnson. Before Magic, no one imagined that a point guard could be 6-feet-9, not all that athletic and a mediocre jump shooter. Skeptics thought Magic might eventually move to the frontcourt. He became the gold standard at point guard, a five-time NBA champion, a three-time MVP and one of the five greatest players of all time.
Magic was a force of nature. He loved the game and the competition. He improved every aspect of his game and revolutionized point-guard play. He dumped his first coach and teamed with Pat Riley to build the “Showtime” Lakers, a dynasty that reflected Magic’s flamboyant personality, willingness to prepare and style of play.
Is Tebow the next Magic? It’s unlikely. But I now want to find out. I want to see the Broncos build an offense that caters to Tebow’s unique set of skills. If that’s an NFL version of the spread, then find an offensive coordinator familiar with the strategy and implement it.
As it relates to Tebow’s on-field performance, we should quit focusing on his “Tebowing” and spend more time celebrating his two-parent upbringing. Bob and Pam Tebow are far more responsible for Denver’s winning streak than any higher power.