Why can’t Tebow play quarterback?

The biggest lie circulating about Tim Tebow is not that he is selfish. It is that he cannot play.

Says who? Jets coach Rex Ryan? ESPN talker Merril Hoge?

One is at the helm of the biggest hot mess going in the NFL at the moment, and the other has a thing for Tebow that feels almost uncomfortable. Hoge uses whatever Tebow does, from jogging shirtless to eating a hamburger from a non-grass-fed cow, as an opportunity to bash him as a failure without an ounce of football talent.

Hoge went all in on this recently, actually calling Tebow a “phony” because of talk he had asked out of a couple of Wildcat plays against San Diego and — insert gasp — asked to play quarterback. Like all things Tebow, this story has been blown into a bunch of reproducing 24-hour news cycles with little actual focus on facts.

“I never said, ‘Hey, I don’t want to do anything or I won’t do anything,’ ” Tebow said. “That wasn’t the talk at all. (Ryan) knows that, and everybody on this team knows that. I’d never not done something if I was asked, and I think that’s what’s disappointing about the whole situation, people saying, ‘You quit,’ or ‘You didn’t do this.’ It was not it at all. It was just me asking to get an opportunity to play the position I love.”

And this, somehow, is being used to call Tebow selfish.

A quick word on what I know to be true about being tagged selfish. The word tends to get thrown around when you are infringing on what another person has or what he wants to have. I also have no doubt Tebow is selfish. Almost every great athlete has some form of selfishness. One of the most selfish individuals I ever covered, Michael Irvin, was also one of the best players, teammates and leaders.

He demanded the ball. He always wanted more. He believed in himself.

He also went across the middle. He went to the really hard places on the field where he knew he was going to get hit. He came down with almost everything thrown in his direction. He was one of the last guys to leave the practice field. He helped younger guys.

Now the question about Tebow is whether he has football greatness in him to justify wanting to play quarterback. Or maybe that is not the question at all. Almost every defense I have read about Tebow rightly focuses on how the Jets screwed him while throwing in a disclaimer about how everybody knows he cannot play.

Again I ask: Says who?

The last time we saw Tebow on a football field for any real amount of time was in the 2012 playoffs — when he led the Denver Broncos to a win against Pittsburgh and a loss to New England. He did this despite Denver having no real use for him and only grudgingly using him.

@merrilhoge Any bronco fan still think they would be better with Tebow? I’ve not heard much noise lately? Curious??

@joshduhamel hey merril. Josh Duhamel here. Wondering why you’re such a jealous bitch about Tebow? He’s 10x the player you were.

What does it say about the state of the Tebow discourse that Josh Duhamel, the hot actor who’s married to the non-ex-princess Fergie, is the voice of reason in this football discussion?

Almost nobody thinks the Broncos are better off with Tebow instead of Peyton Manning. Almost everybody agrees the Jets screwed Tebow.

They traded for him apparently for a press conference. They had no intention of playing him at quarterback, or really at all. He was supposed to sit there and be pretty. And now people — Hoge, et al — are acting like Tebow is wrong for being disappointed at being treated like football arm candy and for saying so.

He believes he can play quarterback in the NFL. And while Tebow is not Peyton or Tom Brady or even Joe Flacco, he can make a decent case that he deserves a chance ahead of Mark Sanchez. And I am not convinced Tebow cannot play quarterback in this league.

I know, I know, Hoge has seen film.

We all have seen Tebow throw, his struggles.

What I also know was I covered a Cowboys team where coach Bill Parcells tapped Quincy Carter ahead of Chad Hutchinson despite the latter having the prettier throwing motion. What Hutchinson lacked was intangibles, and that mattered to Parcells. He got a QCar-led Cowboys team to the playoffs.

Neither was a great quarterback. That is not the point. The point is that no quarterback can succeed when coaches do not believe in him, especially not a singular talent like Tebow.

He believes he can play in this league. This does not make him selfish.

Hoge and Co. do not believe he can play. And that does not make it so.