The Washington Post

Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos’ leadership math

You can’t blame the Denver Broncos for hiring Peyton Manning. No matter how many games Tim Tebow won for the Broncos late in the fourth quarter, no matter how many tickets he sold thanks to Tebowmania, no matter how many selfless things he said or Bible verses he put on his eye black, the former Indianapolis Colts star is the better quarterback. When you have the opportunity to bring in a four-time MVP to replace someone who has talent but is no sure thing, you do it.

But now that Manning has landed in Denver, barring any unexpected obstacles, many expect Tebow to be traded. And despite last season’s Tebowmania, there’s not much excitement about his prospects. Former NFL general manager Charley Casserly told USA Today he’d “be surprised if [Tebow] went for much better than a fifth rounder.” Some sports pundits are saying they don’t think a single team will come calling.

Let’s hope that’s not the case. Tebow may not have the natural NFL passing arm or run what’s traditionally seen as an NFL offense. But he is without question a natural leader for any team looking for one. He helped to rally a struggling team around him to win seven of his first eight games as a starter. His wins may not have been pretty but he made them happen, often in the clutch. And he was an instant fan favorite who put people in stadium seats, which helped the bottom line.

That’s surely because they were grateful to see someone on the field who put team first and self second. Sports fans like to say they wish more professional athletes were just like that, showing leadership both on and off the field. They’re tired of the divas. They complain about the multi-zillion-dollar contracts that professional athletes manage to collect. Tebow’s missionary zeal and on-field praying may have been a turn-off for some; but in the end, it was hard not to root for someone who put his outsized faith in his team, seemed to will them to win and stayed true to who he is.

There’s bound to be a lot of talk in the coming days about the lack of sentimentality in the National Football League. With the Colts’ beloved quarterback being released from his contract and the phenom Tebow about to be traded, “it’s all business” will be on every sports buff’s lips. Good wholesome characters like Tim Tebow may be fan favorites, but leadership without traditional NFL physical traits is an investment few football executives are willing to make. Manning, to his great credit, has both.

But are team owners the only ones to blame? In the end, we all are just like our favorite teams’ management: We want to win. Until fans fill the seats—win or lose—for players like Tebow, team owners will go for the sure bets instead.

More from On Leadership:

The Knicks and the challenge of changing your ways

Drew Carey on soccer — and how to fire someone

How to be a bad boss

View Photo Gallery: Leadership experts share their picks with us for top leader of the year, from Hillary Clinton to Tim Tebow.

Like On Leadership? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter:

@post_lead | @jenamcgregor | @lily_cunningham

Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.



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