(Past) Time to weigh in on Tim Tebow

It’s amazing, really, what one pass can do. 
One pass against Pittsburgh, one play when the Steelers went all-out against the run and played the pass about as poorly as they could, has transformed Tim Tebow into a larger phenomenon than he already was. He set a record for mentions on Twitter, was mentioned 360 times in one hour of SportsCenter during the week and probably will set ratings records tonight when he plays New England in the playoffs.
It transformed the uber-Christian quarterback into a phenom’s phenom, when in reality he’d been a pretty lousy quarterback the final three games of the season.
After winning six in a row with Tebow,, Denver lost three games when they mattered most. In those games, Tebow completed 30-for-73 (41 percent) for 439 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. High schoolers have better numbers.
In the season finale, Denver stormed into the playoffs by losing to Kansas City as Tebow went 6-for-22 for 60 yards. Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace would do better.
In 11 starts, Tebow completed 46.5 percent of his passes.
He averaged 123.5 yards per game passing, last in the league. Which was exactly where his completion percentage ranked, last. His rating of 72.9 put him 27th, behind … Colt McCoy.
These are not nitpicking numbers to tear down a religious guy, but reality. Over time, numbers show what players are, and Tebow is simply not a very good passing quarterback.
That being said, he wins. He won six in a row, and in the playoff game against the Steelers he completed 10-of-21 for 316 yards (yes, the same 3:16 that most devout Christians refer to as the key passage in the Bible) with two touchdowns, including the electrifying one in overtime that transformed a quarterback. For the first time, the Broncos let Tebow throw downfield, and he came through.
Tebow defies all logic in some ways. He is easily the most polarizing good guy/good player in sports. Instead of being ambivalent or accepting of Tebow, people seem eager to hate him, make fun of him, mimic him (the “Tebow), or criticize him for his beliefs. It makes little sense. The guy plays football, and he’s a Christian who’s not afraid to express his beliefs. At last review of the Constitution, there’s really nothing wrong with that.
He also walks the walk. He has a charitable foundation, has done a lot to reach out in his communities, and he and his parents have done missionary work in the Philipines. Again, nothing wrong with that. In fact, in an age when folks criticize athletes for not being role models, Tebow does all he can to be one.
Perhaps it’s his story, which makes George Bailey’s seem like it came from Peanuts. When his mother was pregnant with him, doctors expected a stillborn baby and recommended an abortion. The Tebows refused, and here came Tim. He was home-schooled, and when he was in high school he moved into an apartment to play for a school that passed more — in one game he played an entire half and scored a 29-yard touchdown with a broken tibia. He eventually went to Florida, and despite great success was shockingly drafted in the first round by Denver.
His story has some kind of mystical/higher power elements to it, of course. And when he plays a game and throws for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per completion, well things get a little eerier. What he is is an intensely competitive player who’s not a great pure passer but is a guy who gives everything he has with what he has to win. The passing figures are not good, but they obscure his ability to run and score, and his ability to run an option/misdirection offense, which Denver has wisely used since he became the starter. The Broncos don’t try to put the round peg in the square hole, and Tebow makes it work. Again, not much not to like there.
He’s also an outward Christian who is not afraid to state his beliefs. That led to a reporter actually asking him when he was in college if he was a virgin, and it will lead to people wanting to tear him down. Tebow’s outward style — he was heard saying “thank you Lord” over and over when miked in a game — is a bit over the top and not the way everyone goes about it, but it’s also sincere.
The amazing thing is that had Oakland not lost its finale, the Broncos’ season-ending loss to the Steelers would have ended Denver’s season, and Tebow would have gone into the offseason barely holding on to his job. Seriously now … 60 yards.
Had Pittsburgh not gone into a sleep-induced state on defense, Tebow might have lost that game too. Point is he didn’t. And the Steelers did.
Neither happened, and now Denver has to be totally committed to Tebow for 2013.
There is every indication that today in New England Tebow will meet his match (not his maker). Tom Brady is too good, too talented, and Tebow will have trouble matching the approach of master defense builder Bill Belichick. Another result like the regular season, when Brady and the Patriots burst Tebow’s bubble with a 41-23 beat-down, seems as likely. There’s every reason for New England to be confident. But the one thing that’s usually true about players is that they maintain the same level of effort and production and results from level to level. Winners don’t become losers when they are drafted.
Tebow wins.
So it’s safe to say that though New England is confident, the Patriots also enters tonight’s game wary. Plenty wary. As well they should.