This past Lord’s Day, Tim Tebow had a message for the world. He cribbed it from a well-known letter from the Apostle Paul to his friends in Christ.
“Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you,” Tebow tweeted. He even cited his source: Ephesians 4:32.
Forgiveness was a great theme for Tebow to strike hours before he joined the Philadelphia Eagles. The signing, first reported by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, marks the second time in less than a decade that a flailing quarterback has come to the City of Brotherly Love in need of some brotherly love.
Philly is, after all, a city of second chances: the place William Penn, a Quaker refugee from the Church of England, fled after facing religious persecution; the territory that Founding Father Ben Franklin lit out for after escaping his abusive half-brother in Boston; where David Bowie made the classic record “Young Americans” after killing his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust; the place Sylvester Stallone — an actor with a partially paralyzed face who did softcore porn before he was nominated for two Oscars — made the home of perennial loser Rocky Balboa; and the city where criminal QB Michael Vick started a new life.
And just like it helped Vick, maybe Philadelphia can help Tebow.
Tebow, of course, wants a very different kind of redemption than former Eagle Vick. Before he served time in prison for charges related to illegal dogfighting, Vick was a star for the Atlanta Falcons — “an explosive dual threat, a video game hero come to life,” as the New York Daily News modestly put it. Vick was in the middle of a 10-year, $130 million contract when he pleaded guilty in a U.S. district court, was suspended by the NFL and traded a playbook for a prison cell. His talent wasn’t in question; his ability to function as a law-abiding citizen was.
“You were instrumental in promoting, funding and facilitating this cruel and inhumane sporting activity,” a judge told Vick before sentencing him to 23 months behind bars. “I’m not convinced you’ve fully accepted responsibility.”
Tebow, meanwhile, is ready to take responsibility for every human soul on God’s green Earth. He says Jesus “has a special plan for each person”; he talks about playing for the glory of the almighty. Heck, the guy even has a verb: Starting in 2010 with Tebow’s initial stint with the Denver Broncos, praying after a sports victory came to be called “Tebowing.”
Fans love the piety. But they’d love a better football player more.
“Not since Michael Vick has the prospect of a new quarterback joining the Eagles created such a stir,” wrote Nick Fierro of Allentown’s the Morning Call. “But in Tim Tebow’s case, the nervous fan base went to DEFCON 1 within minutes … The man simply is not an NFL quarterback. Everybody knows that.”
The gamble the Eagles took on Vick when they signed him in 2009 paid off — for Vick. Though he eventually signed a six-year, $100 million contract with the Birds, he brought them no Super Bowl rings and played in just one postseason game. (The Eagles lost, but Vick was still named “Comeback Player of the Year.”) The team was praised by President Obama for giving Vick a second chance, but the beneficiary of their goodwill was plagued by injuries. He jetted off to the New York Jets last year — a lesser player, but a redeemed man.
Now, it’s Tebow’s turn. He’s already been washed in the blood. But can an inconsistent 27-year-old ex-commentator — one whose very public faith makes him a target as much as an inspiration — help save a team with chronic quarterback problems that, lest anyone forget, has never won a Super Bowl?
“Tebow is also exactly like any street free agent that hasn’t played a regular season snap since 2012,” Gregg Rosenthal of Around the NFL wrote. “The burden of proving he’s an NFL player is entirely on him.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the news outlet that first reported Tebow’s signing.