National Football League
Time to believe in Tebow's passion
National Football League

Time to believe in Tebow's passion

Published Oct. 19, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

From: Jen Floyd Engel
To: Jason Whitlock, columnist
Cc: John Fox, John Elway, Doubting Sports Thomases Everywhere

Whitlock, I hate to come at you at a time like this when you must be hurting, your favorite current NFL quarterback, Donovan McNabb, benched again. This time for an unproven rookie, Christian Ponder, because what your man was throwing out made the Vikings abandon their playoff hopes a little more than a month into the season. Go figure. McNabb is the only quarterback in the history of ever who made Rex Grossman look like an upgrade.

Sorry. I need you to stop mourning McNabb’s failed career for a second and answer a question that has been gnawing at me ever since you gleefully joined the non-believers dissing Tim Tebow: Why? Why do you — the last remaining holdout in the Jeff George fan club — refuse to concede the league might be wrong about Tim Tebow?

You believe in hopeless causes, Jeff George and Donovan McNabb. Why not believe in the man who inspires hope in Denver and in sports fans who like their stars warm and fuzzy?


You knew I would be pissed. You called me out in your column.

Mel Kiper, Jimmy Johnson, Merril Hoge, the 24 NFL teams that passed on Tebow in the first round of the draft — really everybody in the NFL not named former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels — predicted epic fail for this guy.

You know what all of those people have in common?

They are wrong all the time about players. They dissect how a guy throws, how far he throws, what he looks like, what his throwing motion looks like, how fast he runs, how much he runs, what he looks like when he runs, his stats, his combine numbers and they forget how often these numbers are wrong, how often the can’t-miss guys do and how the Wes Welkers keep finding their way into prominence.

I do not know if Tebow is going to be a great quarterback.

What I do know is I am not willing to bet against him. He’s a winner. He’s inspiring. He has it, whatever it is. He played 10 days ago — his first NFL game action of 2011 — and he actually had the Denver Broncos looking like a team. It was not simply fist-pumping and underdog sentimentality that he brought. He moved the chains. The Broncos scored points with him on the field. He scored.

He earned Sunday’s start in Miami. Yet when Tony Dungy rightly praised Tebow, you dismissed it as catching “Tebow religion” and criticized us Tebow believers for believing “whatever the last entertaining thing we saw on the boob tube is infinitely better than whatever we saw before.”

Two types of opinions exist with regards to Tebow:

1) OK, start him because really, what does Denver have to lose? This hints at Tebow being awful with just enough bet hedging in case he really does have God on his side. Or, 2) He is going to fail because he’s not good. They believe so fervently in his failure they cannot accept anything to the contrary.

Arguing with this is impossible. The best argument is made by "Chariots of Fire."

Best sports movie ever, by the way. Better than "Rudy," "Hoosiers," "Rocky," "Bull Durham." It is my "Wire," in terms of loyalty.

"Chariots of Fire" is the story of the British Olympic track team leading up to the 1924 games, and more specifically, Scottish runner Eric Liddell — a very principled man of God and astonishingly fast sprinter with a lot of doubters.

Sound familiar?

Circumstances prevented him from running his usual 100-yard dash. He is in the 400. And just before the race, the American coach goes all Merril Hoge on him. He basically tells his runners not to worry about Liddell because the dude is not good enough. And now here is the part every single Tebow doubter needs to hear, to let sink in so they can understand why Tebow might defy every low expectation for him.

American runner Jackson Scholz: “Watch out for Liddell.”

Other American runner: “Coach says no problem.”

Scholz: “He’s got something to prove, something personal, something guys like coach will never understand in a million years.”

This. This is the thing everybody is missing about Tebow. The guy was not a pretty thrower at Florida, either. He won because he was a great athlete and a massively serious competitor. He won because of the great athletes around him and his ability to lead them. He won because he had guts and toughness. And, yes, he won because of his faith. The two cannot be disconnected. It is part of who he is.

Here’s where you say: “None of that matters in the NFL.”

Hahahaha. Everybody says this and everybody is wrong. McNabb is just the latest proof. Guys with all of the tangibles fail in this league, too. Ask your buddy Jeff George. The super talents fail because they lack lower guts, because they are weak, because they do not work hard enough, because they give up. They fail for hundreds of reasons. God-given ability does not make one a champion, just like having a little less of it does not preclude you from being one. Guys defy expectations all the time in this league.

What I do not understand is why criticism of Tebow always goes so fierce so quickly. Why anybody wouldn’t approach this Sunday with an open mind.

Tebow almost brought his team back, and you criticized the way he did it. You belittled his TD pass, dismissing it as a simple screen. Your column even disrespected his scramble for a score.

Tebow is about to get his first start and predictions he'll fail are flying everywhere. The predictions are tinged with the turning Gatorade into wine jokes and lines about him being a “Savior.” I have my theories on why. Christians are one of the last groups it is totally cool to go all in on.

Christians. And white dudes.

What I am trying to say to you and the doubters is my pastor is right. There is a right side and a wrong side of almost every debate, and I fear for your sports soul that you are coming down on the wrong side of the Tebow one — with the heretics, the mean-spirited and Merril Hoge.

You are listening to the American coach. You need to be listening to Scholz.

Because in men of principle like Tebow, there is something driving them that those without it cannot quite understand and to dismiss its ability to have an impact on whatever field, in whatever game is being played, is naïve.

In "Chariots of Fire," Scholz walked up to Liddell right before the 400 and handed him a piece of paper with a verse from 1 Samuel 2:30: “He who honors Me, I will honor.” Liddell won, of course, grasping the note in his hand the entire way around the track.

He was not the most talented. He was the most driven.

This is why Jeff George failed. And why Tim Tebow might not.

And so in this time of deep sadness for you, I will leave you only with this:

Blessed are those who believe without seeing.



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