April 11, 2013
Colorado Springs is preparing to welcome football’s orphan.
Yes, we’re talking about Tim Tebow, one of our nation’s most prominent and adored sports heroes. Alas, this same Tebow is unwanted by every team in the National Football League.
This is not an exaggeration. The New York Jets, current owners of Tebow’s contract, would be thrilled to part with him for, say, a seventh-round pick, but no team has offered this bargain price for a former first-round pick who doubles as one of the highest achievers in college football history. And to add to his lure, Tebow is guaranteed to sell tickets.
Tebow arrives in Colorado Springs at a strange, discouraging time in his career. He speaks Saturday night at The Broadmoor in a benefit for Colorado Springs Christian School.
He remains hugely popular, and this is not a shallow popularity. His fans are close to rabid – no, they’re just plain rabid – in their devotion. Say something remotely mean about Timmy, and legions of his followers will announce their wish for plagues to invade your life. Trust me on this one.
He is so close to having everything required for stardom. He’s fast, mighty, elusive and determined. He’s a charismatic leader. He’s one of the best runners to ever play quarterback.
But Tebow’s thorn in the flesh pollutes all his other gifts. This thorn appears ready to sabotage his NFL career.
That thorn is his erratic left arm.
If Tebow could develop into a mediocre passer, and we’re talking NFL standards here, he would become a superstar. This is an age of multitask quarterbacks, of the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick and the Chiefs' Alex Smith and the Eagles' Michael Vick.
But Tebow has a long journey to mediocre. In his final three losses as starter for the Broncos in 2011, he completed 28 of 78 passes with five interceptions and one touchdown. Yes, I realize there was that spectacular 316-yard playoff outburst against Pittsburgh thrown in the middle of those defeats, but it was obvious defensive coordinators knew how to silence Tebow.
He’s on the verge of vanishing from the NFL. The Jets didn’t want him last season and refused to give him a chance to shine. This Jets' treatment is sad, but it’s even sadder no other team wants him, either.
For the true believers in all things Tebow, he’s a victim of persecution. NFL teams harbor a vendetta against him, partially because of his strong Christian faith. To his most devoted fans, Tebow can do no wrong. He’s a modern apostle and a future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Forget all those discouraging numbers, his followers say.
Tebow says this, too.
“Oh, man, ya’ll have a lot of different statistics,” Tebow said toward the end of his days with the Broncos. “It’s all about wins and losses.”
To the rest of us, Tebow is a sad tale. Nearly everyone I’ve talked with admires his modesty, his toughness, his resilience and his ability to deliver drama and touchdowns in the final minutes of games.
But there’s also that thorny left arm, which often flings passes that resemble wounded vultures. And those are some of his better throws.
There is no NFL conspiracy against Tebow. There is recognition of reality. Many sensational college quarterbacks have encountered the intricate, violent defenders of the NFL and never quite found a route to success.
Tebow appears ready to join Terry Baker, John Huarte, Gary Beban, Pat Sullivan, Andre Ware, Gino Torretta, Danny Wuerffel and Matt Leinart (among others) as Heisman Trophy winners who stumbled their way to quick NFL exits.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m rooting for Tebow.
Even while I’m doubting him.
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