The Tim Tebow Circus
Posted May 3, 2013
When I was a kid, I used to love it when the circus came to town. The clowns, the white tigers, the cotton candy, the high-wire daredevils and the Flying Wallendas were all a part of my youth. Then I grew up and the smell hit me.
I mean, that is one aggressive, beastly odor, and it sticks with you long after you leave the arena. Later in life I discovered that the proprietors weren't always the nicest to the elephants, and it soured me even more.
Somewhere in there, there has to be a euphemism for what Tim Tebow brings to a football team, and even if they take the elephant out of the room, I'm not sure an NFL team is going to bite on giving him a third crack at making it in the league.
College and professional football look a lot alike to the untrained eye. They're both played on fields with identical dimensions (120 x 53.33 yards). Well, not in Canada. Their field is longer and wider, maybe because of all the wide open tundra. They're both beautifully green. Well, not in Boise, ID and Cheney, WA, where those universities have chosen blue and offensively bright red as the field color of choice.
But what I'm really getting at is that the games look the same. They both have 11 players on either side of the ball, both allow four downs to gain 10 yards and both use the same system of scoring – again, save for our friends to the north who favor one fewer down, one more player and include a "single," or "rouge," officially, when a ball is kicked or punted into the end zone without being brought out successfully. Seriously, it's confusing.
Maybe for the duration of this, we should just agree that all references to professional football will exclude thoughts of the Canadian Football League, where for several years two franchises used the nickname "Roughriders" in spite of the fact that the CFL contained fewer than half as many franchises as the National Football League.
Now, where were we before the distractions set in….? Oh, yeah, football. The college and pro games appear to be identical, but nothing could be further from the truth. Similarly to how much Trigonometry differs from Geometry. They're both maths, they're both "ometry" but the former is vastly more difficult than the latter much like the professional game is so much harder than college football.
That brings us to Tim Tebow. A great college football player. A winner. A leader. Everything you could ask for in a college quarterback of a national championship program. What Tebow did at the University of Florida was incredible. He led the Gators to the 2008 National Championship, won a Heisman Trophy and compiled a 35-6 record as a starting quarterback.
However, let's not act like Tebow invented the art of winning. Tommie Frazier did the same thing at Nebraska a decade earlier. Frazier led the Cornhuskers to a 33-3 record while their starting quarterback, overcoming injuries and illness to win a pair of national titles and four Big 8 championships. Along the way, Frazier was also chosen the bowl MVP three times and was named one of the Top Ten college players of the 20th century by Sport Magazine.
Before Tebow, Ohio State's Craig Krenzel was a great leader, bringing a national championship back to Columbus in one of his two years as a starting quarterback. He piloted the Buckeyes to a 25-2 record as a starter with the highlight being the BCS Title game upset of Miami – with the help of some friendly referees.
However, unlike Tebow, Frazier and Krenzel weren't first round draft picks. In fact, Frazier wasn't drafted at all. And though Frazier's professional career was derailed very early by Crohn's disease, his skills didn't necessarily translate to the style of football played in the NFL. Krenzel, drafted in the 5th round by the Bears, simply wasn't good enough. Maybe they just didn't have enough of a fan following. Even Andre Ware, who threw for 4,700 yards and 45 touchdowns as a senior at Houston in the 1990s, was an NFL bust as a quarterback.
The games are just too different.
The coaching is better, the players are better and the schemes are far more sophisticated to simply assume that what you did on Saturday is going to automatically translate to Sunday. So when considering Tebow a "winner," understand that he didn't invent the concept.
It will forever remain a mystery that Tebow was drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos. But it really was a testament to his character as a person and his confidence in himself that he was able to convince otherwise smart people that those qualities were more important than the ability to read NFL defenses and deliver the football accurately, and consistently enough, to be a successful starting quarterback.
Tebow has started 17 games in his NFL career. In those 17 games, he has a record of 10-7. While "winning" in nature, that is hardly eye-popping. In those 17 games, Tebow has completed more than 50 percent of his passes exactly three times.
Twenty five years ago, 50 percent was sort of an acceptable number. Today, even Mark Sanchez completes passes at a higher rate. Tebow just isn't good enough to be a quarterback in the NFL. It's also open for debate as to whether or not he can play another position effectively enough to help a team, but that's a discussion for another time.
Now, we finally get back to the circus which, to date, for Tim, has been both a blessing and a curse. So, much of Tebow's legend was due to the way he represented and shared his strong, Christian faith. He played hard, competed with intensity, represented his family and his university with class on and off the field and with an evangelical tint. He had followers that went way beyond the normal college football fans. Tebow was a movement more so than a mover of the chains.
All you need to know is that in spite of at least a dozen teams not being completely settled at the quarterback position heading into last season, none were willing to give Tebow a legitimate chance to compete for the starting job. Even the team Tebow took to the playoffs and led to a dramatic overtime win, the Broncos, were so aggressive in their pursuit of Peyton Manning you wonder what would have happened had Eli's brother chosen the 49ers instead.
Back under the big top, inside the three rings. The rabid fan following. The media crush. The ESPN-created, cottage industry of Te-bating, thanks to Skip Bayless, that struck a chord with his legion of followers. In the beginning, that was an asset to Tim.
Now Tebow is a distraction. In fact, he's treading in punchline waters in the wake of his release from the Jets last month when teams in the CFL and the Indoor Football League each offered him the chance to compete for a back-up position. In the case of the IFL's Omaha Beef, T-Bone clearly was not interested in "steaking" a claim to one of their "Grade A" roster spots.
Or maybe he just didn't need the $75 per game they were offering. Then came the latest insult, courtesy a Florida-based company that produces a protective covering for home windows in the path of severe storms. They offered Tebow $30,000 to spend an afternoon throwing footballs at their protective window covers so as to vouch for their security.
Tim Tebow's career as an NFL quarterback is almost certainly over. Even though he has now said publicly that he's willing to sit and learn behind an established star, you wonder if any team is going to run the risk of bringing Tebow into their locker room and willingly invite the potential chaos that is sure to follow.
It might not be Tim's fault, but it's hard to imagine any team inviting the circus to come to their house when there are probably a dozen players who have a better chance to play the single toughest position in sports.
And most of them were winners, too.