Tim Tebow's talent doesn't match his popularity with fans, says Simon Veness
Tim Tebow may have plenty of fans, but he's just not good enough for the NFL, says Simon Veness.
Last Updated: 30/05/13 3:34pm
He's arguably the most polarising figure in American sport (you could put up a good argument for LeBron James or Tiger Woods, but you would lose, on the basis that no-one really doubts the sporting prowess of either of the latter duo).
Poor Tim is currently sitting at home wondering if he has a future as a professional athlete or a celebrity appearance specialist (witness recent photos of him with Celebrity Apprentice winner Trace Adkins and US Olympic athlete Gabby Douglas) - and the well-spring of football interest appears to be rapidly drying up.
In assessing how we got to here last week, it became pretty clear some teams are reluctant to go anywhere near the ex-University of Florida megastar simply because of the enormous amount of media hoopla and fan frenzy that now dogs his every step.
And yet he was, after all, the Broncos' first-round pick in 2010, only to be unceremoniously left at the gridiron altar when John Elway was able to arrange a quarterback marriage with Peyton Manning, which no Tebow fan could really argue with (although plenty did rail against 'their hero' being shoved aside after leading the team into the Divisional Round of the 2011 play-offs).
Two subsequent suitors emerged quite quickly, though, with both Jacksonville and the Jets showing interest. Indeed, a move back to Florida seemed to make a lot of sense, and former Jaguars general manager Mike Mularkey admitted to having serious negotiations with Denver although, as we now know, the bright lights of the much-bigger-city proved a greater lure when the player was given his options.
Presumably the Jets DID have a plan for putting Tebow in their own precarious quarterback mix before he arrived because it soon became clear during the 2012 season that the plan, if it existed at all, had been thrown out with the MetLife Stadium trash.
Not only was head coach Rex Ryan reluctant to put Tiger Tim into any kind of option offence, he didn't even want to play him when all his other choices were either hopelessly strapped by injury or just plain hopeless.
When Ryan preferred untried third-stringer Greg McElroy ahead of the nominal No. 2, the writing was not only on the wall for Tebow but in indelible ink in letters 10ft high.
As the fallout for the Keystone Cops, sorry, the Jets woeful season settled in the green half of Gotham, it became clear the punt on the Denver cast-off was largely orchestrated by soon-to-be-ex-general manager Mike Tannenbaum and not the coaching staff. In hindsight, Tebow might have had more playing time staying at Mile High, or ANYWHERE other than under the eye of Ryan.
When the head coach finally gets around to his memoirs (and we can only long for that day, as it could potentially be the most entertaining inside story since Spike Milligan sat down to write about his army days), we will surely discover that only the deaths of every one of his offensive backfield would ever have persuaded him to put Tebow under centre.
Which brings us right up to date with the here-and-now, and a proper evaluation of where we go from here. It is pretty clear that even the mere mention of his name brings Tebow followers running from miles around, while the religious overtones of his character can be equally troubling (he is certainly not the first player to openly pray during a game and he won't be the last, so let's not fall into that trap).
A player's Christian beliefs are not the starting point for their starting ability. Just to be clear here, it is not Tebow's fault he is held up so fervently by some of his supporters as an example of the right religious 'message.' But, if the Almighty does have serious plans for Tim to spread the good word, why did He allow Manning to go to Denver? But I digress.
My sources here in Florida paint a rather different picture from the one most ardent fans would like to see. And it traces its outlines all the way back to his three largely triumphant seasons as the Gators' triggerman. Look at Florida's series of successes under Urban Meyer from 2005-10 and you see an absolute college super-power at work; high quality recruiting and coaching, an almost insane desire to succeed and an amazing pool of player talent.
Consider this little line-up of footballing precocity - at wide receiver, Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, Riley Cooper, Louis Murphy and David Nelson, all of them now solid NFL talents (and super-talents in the case of Harvin).
At running back, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, also now starring in the professional ranks. At tight end, New England's mighty Aaron Hernandez. And, on the offensive line, the likes of Marcus Gilbert, Maurice Hurt, Phil Trautwein, Mike Pouncey and his twin brother Maurkice. Every one now a regular performer in the National Football League.
(Are you seeing the connection yet?)
And that's BEFORE you consider the defensive side of the ball, where Brandon Spikes, Carlos Dunlap, Jermaine Cunningham, Joe Haden, Janoris Jenkins, Major Wright and Ahmad Black formed the core of a unit that would have struck fear into ANY opposing offence, let alone the rest of the SEC and the Oklahoma team they brutalised in the BCS National Championship at the end of the 2008 season.
At the centre of this mighty machine, the beating heart, if you like, was Tebow, a force majeure of the college football world; Heisman Trophy holder, motivator, winner. But, as pundits would point out, a deeply flawed passer and not particularly quick when it came to the running game.
"But he's a WINNER," cried his supporters. "But he's playing in a team that would probably scare half the NFL!" shouted back the nay-sayers.
And now, three years later, much of the dust of these two colliding forces of opinion has settled and the score is as follows: Tebow - Games started, 14; Games won, 8; Touchdowns, 19; Turnovers, 16; Completion percentage, 47.9%. Unimpressive stats at best for an NFL starter, and, on that last tell-tale figure, fairly woeful.
In fact, in only ONE start did he pass the 60% mark that is the usual stamp of quarterbacking success and, in 2011, he came in 34th (and last) in that category, behind John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson.
Consider that five of his eight wins with Denver came with scores of 18 (in overtime), 17, 17, 16 (overtime) and 13 (overtime) points, and you piece together less a picture of a 'winner' than a powerful defensive team walking a thin tightrope between success and failure. Can you spell fluke? If you did in 2011, it might just have been t-e-b-o-w.
None of this, of course, will be news to his legion of supporters, who simply insist he just needs a chance to be a Winner once more. Surely he deserves a place ahead of the likes of Jake Locker, Brandon Weeden, the ill-starred Mark Sanchez and the rumoured comeback of JaMarcus Russell?
Not good enough
Yet all the evidence suggests otherwise, that the NFL's talent evaluators have looked at what Tebow brings to the game and NONE of them think he is worth a roster spot. The sample size is still relatively small, but there is enough to go on (including a 2-for-8 game against Kansas City that the Chiefs probably still think they won to this day) for the inevitable conclusion.
Tim Tebow just isn't good enough at NFL level. And, tellingly, he hasn't made many friends within the game. Because, when the likes of coach-turned-pundit Tony Dungy and actor-turned-punchline Chuck Norris are the only significant names calling for him to be given another chance (and not any of his less-famous-but-more successful 2008 team-mates), you know he hasn't impressed a lot of people within the game.
And, if you really think in this win-at-all-costs age that EVERY team is going to pass up an opportunity to add a significant weapon to their ranks because they're worried about the media reaction, I can introduce you to a man selling bridges in the desert.
Yes, he would add fans (and interest) at the gate, but since when did a sell-out crowd equal anything in the 'W' column?
Tebow fans will, of course, blow this off as another slight on their hero, another 'unbeliever' who refuses to see the 'winning' talents on offer. But let me hear another argument other than the 'winner' variety; tell me about his ability to command the line of scrimmage, to look off defensive backs, read blitzes, throw a tight spiral into coverage, bulldoze his way past NFL defensive linemen or check down to his third or fourth read.
Trust me, I've been listening. And all I've heard to date is the sound of silence.