Will The Real Tim Tebow Please Stand Up?

Broncos QB Tim Tebow embodies an NFL enigma: clutch, yet statistically awful.

He is quite possibly the most polarizing figure in the National Football League.

Broncos QB Tim Tebow has been characterized as many things: a devout religious man. The kind of guy any girl would take home to their parents. A man with the kind of infectiously positive attitude and self-confidence that is easy to rally around. And a professional football player that has absolutely no business playing the quarterback position. Though, lately, it is the latter that has been the subject of fervent debate.

Ever since he was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Tim Tebow has gotten an exorbitant amount of attention for his all-around game. While some assumed that he would not, or could not, succeed as an NFL quarterback, opting instead for a fullback/H-back position player, there have been some that have vehemently defended his role as a quarterback in the big leagues. One pundit, in particular, has not backed down in his defense of Tebow – and if you watch ESPN’s First Take every morning, I’ll give you two guesses as to who I am referring to.

Hint: it’s NOT Lil’ Wayne.

In any case, these two opposing viewpoints somehow met head-on in yesterday’s Broncos-Dolphins game. Whether it was time for a change, incumbent QB starter Kyle Orton’s ineffectiveness, or pressure from Broncos fans and Tebow fans alike, head coach John Fox pulled the trigger and gave Tebow starting duties in Miami. Tebow supporters and detractors were finally going to get an indication, for all intents and purposes, to see who was “right”.

Unfortunately, for everyone, Tebow proved them both right. Or wrong, depending on how anyone saw his display on Sunday.

… What?

Against the 0-5 Dolphins, who had allowed 276 passing yards per game heading into Sunday’s game, the spotlight was squarely on Tebow. Thousands of fans donned Tebow jerseys in support of their favorite son, having spent his entire college career upstate, in Gainesville. Ultimately, when it was time for him to step up, down 15-0, Tebow went 9-for-12 passing, 121 yards and 2 TDs, while running in the game-tying two-point conversion. His will, passion and leadership was in full display, as he led his team to an 18-15 overtime victory. Tebow supporters can point to this game as proof positive that he is a winner, and the unquestioned starter of the Denver Broncos.

However, that isn’t the whole story: Tebow finished 13-for-27, with 161 yards and 2 touchdowns, including 65 yards on the ground. But, if you take away his final two drives of regulation, which began in the final five minutes of the game, his play was absolutely atrocious. Furthermore, by all accounts, his stats backed up his play: a mere four completions out of 15 attempts for 40 yards. In 55 minutes of play. He literally averaged one completion for 10 yards, every fourteen minutes of game time. By the latter half of the fourth quarter, Tebow detractors were practically doing a victory lap – he didn’t just look like he didn’t belong on the field as the Broncos starting quarterback; he looked like he didn’t belong on the field, period.

Then, he got the ball back with five minutes left in the game, and the rest is history.

And, now, supporters, detractors and pundits alike are all right back to where they started with Tim Tebow. Lest we forget, the Miami Dolphins are a winless squad, with the 19th ranked defense in the league. This wasn’t the San Francisco 49ers’ or the Baltimore Ravens’ defense that the Broncos were up against. They only had a 15-point lead to which the Broncos could come back from, thanks to a couple lucky breaks. If Tebow had played this bad against a competent NFL team, there was little Tebow would have been able to do to look legitimate, let alone come back to win.

Then again, Tebow doesn’t have much to work with – after all, his best weapon, Brandon Lloyd, was dealt away before this year’s trade deadline. He was throwing to players like TE Daniel Fells, who came out of UC Davis. While I am not trying to put down my alma mater, let’s be honest – UC Davis isn’t a central hub for future NFL stars. With the odds, and the pundits, stacked against him, he found a way to win. If it was any other quarterback, the pressure and the scrutiny would be debilitating. It speaks to Tebow’s enormous intestinal fortitude.

Alas, Tim Tebow continues to be a gridiron enigma. While it is impossible to ignore his absolute incompetence under center at times, it is also impossible to ignore his results: he just wins. So, who is the real Tim Tebow? The quarterback who doesn’t look like he can hit the broad side of a barn? Or the quarterback who can lead his team through sheer will, determination and intangibles to victory?

At the moment, it looks, oddly enough, that he is both. Fortunately for Tebow supporters, statistics alone don’t win games. Unfortunately, however, sheer will, alone, doesn’t win games, either. What is so maddening about Tebow, for the objective viewer, is that they are in the same boat as head coach John Fox and GM John Elway: They have no idea what they have in him. Can they win? Definitely. Maybe. All I can say is this: In the continuing struggle between detractors and supporters of one Tim Tebow, Sunday’s game muddled the argument more than ever.

Until the real Tim Tebow reveals himself … Let the debate continue.

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One comment

  1. Hermes

    Is it possible that an off the charts “clutch gene” is more important than the ability to play the game? LeBron has no clutch in him, but he’s the “best player” in the NBA, scoring almost at will until the 4th quarter. Mariano Rivera is the guy you want at the end of the game, but not the guy you want before the 8th inning.

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