AN OPEN LETTER TO TIM TEBOW
Congratulations on turning the Denver Broncos from a losing team to a winning team. And, on behalf of a blogosphere and media that are inordinately focused on you, please accept our apology.
Like many, I’m not convinced that you ever will be a great NFL quarterback. The foundation skill of a quarterback is the ability to consistently throw an accurate pass, and that appears to be your greatest weakness (at least in comparison to the NFL’s better quarterbacks). Let’s face it. Your passing has not been great, even in several of your wins.
However, it’s shameful that you have become such a lightning rod for criticism. Most young quarterbacks struggle with accuracy. ESPN’s Merrill Hodge and CBS’s Boomer Esiason, to name just two, have criticized you particularly bluntly. Hodge has ripped you several times. One of his quips: “It’s embarrassing to think the Broncos could win with Tebow.” Esiason said of you: “He can’t play. He can’t throw… He’s not an NFL quarterback right now.” Yet no other young quarterback incurs this kind of harsh criticism on national television. Other young quarterbacks are treated like, well, young quarterbacks.
Whatever your weaknesses, clearly your team is better off with you at quarterback than Kyle Orton (the man you replaced). At least up to now, your option-plays and scrambling have compensated for your deficits as a classic pocket-passer. Most important, your below-average team has gone 5-1 since you’ve taken over. Will that continue? Probably not. But your team would not have gone 5-1 over the last six games if your predecessor remained at quarterback.
So, if you’ve improved your team, why are so many people taking so many shots at you? First, you are a former- Heisman Trophy Winner (awarded to College Football’s top player) and some extra attention will inevitably follow any winner of that award. But the larger reason for all the attention comes from an infatuation many have with your personal life. For better or worse, you became a lightning rod a couple of years ago when a pro-life commercial featuring you aired during the Super Bowl. And since then, you have continued to be linked with conservative Christian causes.
Most recently, former NFL Quarterback Jake Plummer said this about you: “I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ, then I think I’ll like him a little better. I don’t hate him because of that, I just would rather not have to hear that every single time he takes a good snap or makes a good handoff.” Plummer spoke what many have been afraid to say: They wish you’d shelve what they perceive as your aggressive Christian-conservatism. Many find your frequent and fervent expressions of faith uncomfortable.
The intersection of sport, religion, and politics has long been uneasy. Today, we remember Mohammad Ali favorably, but we gloss over that the fact that he was the most hated man in American sports in the 1960s for his embrace of Islam and refusal to serve in Vietnam. In some ways, Tim, you’ve become the funhouse-mirror version of Ali—as much of a lightning rod, but from the opposite side of the political spectrum.
America learned to love Ali. He was the greatest fighter of his era and his political and religious views became more comfortable with repeated exposure. Similarly, America has split over you, Tim. But the nation will love you, if you become a great quarterback. I have my doubts about whether this can happen, but I sincerely wish you the best of luck. Your religious and political views are far from mine, but you seem like a decent, hard-working young man and, to the best of my knowledge, you’ve never harmed anyone on or off the football field.
More than anything, I think we should just stop talking about you so much. From now on, I will just enjoy watching your improbable winning streak and unorthodox twist on NFL quarterbacking.