Everybody has an opinion on Tim Tebow. From ESPN talking heads to water cooler conversationalists to old friends swearing vendettas, everybody is talking Tebow. Following the Broncos’ big Wild Card Round win over the defending AFC Champion Steelers on Sunday, the argument has reached a fever pitch.
With Denver moving on to a Divisional Round playoff game in New England this weekend, the Tebow haters will need to dig deep to find new complaints. It will be exhausting, but the will to hate Tim Tebow is strong. As a refresher, let’s take a therapeutic journey through Tebow anti-fandom…
You would think that Tebow’s first 300 yard throwing day – including an 80 yard game-winning toss on the first play of overtime – would silence Timmy’s many haters. Tebow’s defenders expected to spend today basking in their supreme rightness for having stuck by the erratic quarterback with the winning touch through a couple of tough games. Any other quarterback with a more traditional approach would be getting nothing but kudos right now for his otherworldly leadership and poise.
But, hark! What’s that I hear? He only completed ten passes? Tim Tebow pitched a few into the dirt? His completion percentage was sub-.500? So what if the Steelers were without superb free safety Ryan Clark? Did Pittsburgh forget to send an 11th man onto the field to replace him?
The criticisms now border on ridiculous, and the hating can now best be termed ridicule. Haters gotta hate, and that’s the name of the game for now. Because Tebow draws so much public attention off the field, everybody feels obligated to manufacture an opinion of his on-field play. And the easiest opinion to have is that this quarterback doesn’t do it “right”. The knee-jerk reaction is that Tim Tebow does not look like the gunslinger QB’s we’ve been trained to worship.
What is so astounding is that this knee-jerk reaction has lasted for three months.
Make no mistake – this is not a complaint. The Pittsburgh Steelers bought into the anti-hype and played arrogant defense. Hall of Fame Defensive Coordinator Dick Lebeau must have listened to a little too much talk radio last week, because he bit hard on the notion that Tim Tebow could not beat single press coverage on his receivers. Every pregame chorus of ex-players echoed each other; stack the box and take away the run and the Broncos are done before the halftime break.
Obviously Tebow did beat the coverage. Against the league’s best passing defense Tim Tebow beat the coverage repeatedly, and the Steelers failed to make adjustments even heading into overtime. Demaryius Thomas had the game of his life recording 200+ yards on just four catches. The Broncos played home run football and mashed their way to victory. So what’s left to say?
Apparently there is plenty of room left for criticism. Because in this hyper-analytical era of sports, just winning isn’t enough. And because “football insiders” simply refuse to acknowledge that Tim Tebow is not playing their game.
When Drew Brees is putting up 466 yards in a playoff pitch, it’s easy to foster a skewed perspective. When the ideal for success is throwing the ball 43 times per game, then a ten-completion effort by Tim Tebow looks paltry by comparison. But why is this suddenly the only way to play? The only way to win?
Let’s dig a little deeper for some much-needed perspective…
The Detroit Lions only rushed the ball 10 times against the Saints on Saturday in New Orleans and they lost badly. The contest was close until the fourth quarter, and the Lions actually led throughout the first half. But without clock-sapping run plays to limit the scope of the game New Orleans was allowed to run 81 offensive plays to the Lions’ 53. The imbalance led to a 15-minute difference in time of possession in the Saints’ favor. That’s a whole extra quarter of offense for New Orleans!
Now where is the criticism of Detroit coaches and players for their over-commitment to throwing the ball? Is it possible for the Broncos to run the ball “too much” and win?
In Denver on Sunday the Broncos ran the ball 34 times on 55 offensive plays. The Steelers rushed 23 times on 68 offensive plays. Yet the difference in time of possession was just 2:01. The Broncos were more efficient as an offense, outgaining the Steelers 447 yards to 400. The average Denver pass play went for 15 yards versus 6.1 for Big Ben and the Steelers. Tebow threw for 72 more yards in half as many attempts. The Broncos and Tim Tebow (125.6 passer rating) outplayed the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger (75.9 passer rating) hands down.
More importantly, though, the Denver Broncos’ coordinators and coaches put together a better game plan than their Pittsburgh counterparts. That game plan only required Timmy to complete 10 magnificent throws for an upset victory. Now, with Tebow doing exactly what was asked of him and winning a playoff game, what is left to hate?
Is it his insistence on communicating with the almighty on national TV? What’s that got to do with his game, and why is it his problem that his faith makes others uncomfortable?
Is it the way he thanks God for the strength to play football at the highest level and come away with a win? What is so offensive about a good man carrying the strength of his convictions onto a football field? Would you rather root for Ben Roethlisberger and his disgusting history of forcing himself on women? Would you rather root for an assassin like James Harrison who plays to take his opponents out of games?
In the end, the Tim Tebow Hater phenomenon is an exercise in self-loathing. Tebow is too good, as a man and as a player. Tim is a constant reminder of how good each of us could be. He is the sum of his convictions and it makes lesser men froth with jealous rage. His passionate, sincere belief reminds us where we have failed to follow our own convictions. He is an example of true heroism in a culture that worships false heroes. And that is the source of the hatred. And Tim Tebow just weathers the storm.
So before all you Tebow Haters spend another precious week of life spitting on a righteous man, take a moment in the mirror to ponder just what about Tim Tebow makes you so uncomfortable. Remember that while you are doing that, Tim Tebow is challenging the established mold for NFL passers on the field and he is challenging the mold for NFL players off the field. Whether you wish to follow his faith or not is not important. He is an example of a very successful man, and we should all strive to carry the full force of our own righteous beliefs (religious or otherwise) with us wherever we go.
Now I’ve got to get going. I’ve been driving this Tebow bandwagon for a few months and its due for a tune up. While we’ve got it in the shop, I think we’ll add a few thousand extra square feet of carrying capacity. You know… just in case some haters come around.