“He can’t play. He can’t throw. What [former Broncos coach] Josh McDaniels saw in him, God only knows. Maybe God does know — because the rest of us don’t.”
— Boomer Esiason on CBS
It’s time we all come around on Tim Tebow and admit the truth: The Mile High Messiah hasn’t been sent here to forgive us of all our sins. Rather, he has been sent here to deliver us from the evil of network analysts, from omnipotent football observers who believe there is one way to play quarterback in the NFL: their way.
The most amazing aspect of the emotions surrounding people’s feelings about Tebow has nothing to do with his Christian evangelism. Religion has always been a third rail in American discourse.
Quarterbacks, though, were supposed to be safe cocktail-party chatter.
Uh-uh. No more.
Safer to talk capital punishment and stem cells with your neighbor on the Metro than state your opinion on whether Tebow can be a legitimate NFL quarterback.
He has studio analysts behaving like exposed Pharisees in their vehemence over whether someone who completes less than 50 percent of his passes can lead a team to a Super Bowl. (Frankly, if Tebow really wants to win converts, forget loaves and fishes; just deliver us from Merril Hoge, that human Windsor knot.)
Really, is NFL quarterback such a significant job that they can come in only one shape and style? Why does this possibly bother anyone so much?
The kid wins when it matters. Period.
Yes, I think it’s frightening that, in a poll released this week, 43 percent of Americans say they believe divine intervention plays a part in Tebow’s success. And when any warped segment of society uses an NFL quarterback’s performance to validate their own belief system — Tebow wins, the Christian right kneels; he loses, agnostic and atheists everywhere high-five to nth power — it’s downright disturbing.
Make no mistake. Tebow’s public displays of his devotion to his faith foster the issue. And we, the media, also need to take responsibility for the fervor surrounding the Denver Broncos quarterback. Every TV director shouting through their cameramen’s earpieces — “Damn it, Bob, he’s kneeling again, get that close-up now!” — have thrown religion in our faces more than the guy actually bowing to his higher power.
But a faith-based person convinced their path should be your path and a knee-jerk American media are not new.
Quarterback zealots are.
Here’s why I have suddenly begun to root for Tebow: His performances have devalued every NFL analyst who tried to devalue him. He hasn’t raised uncomfortable feelings about how far an athlete should go in promoting his religious beliefs as much as he has raised real questions about the homogenization of the quarterback position.
What all the Radical Marino-ites forget is their way is not a sure path to the Lombardi Trophy. I mean, ask Marino.
When it’s a quarterback’s turn to stand before the pearly gates of Canton, St. John (Unitas) and St. Joseph (Montana) will ask, “What have you done?” Not, “How did you do it?’”
Tebow is showing the small-minded NFL there’s more than one path to playoff salvation.
Every victory is a stand against the myopic, drop-back purists who weekly predict doom for a read-option quarterback who is a better runner than passer. Every time Tebow wins — however ugly it might be — it carves another hole in conventional logic regarding how the position should be played to be successful.
All these quarterback zealots need to learn this: To think your way is the only way is not merely close-minded; it’s being an NFL elitist. And in the little world of sport it’s as annoying as someone who arrogantly believes they have followed a deeper, richer spiritual path than the poor, lost souls orbiting their universe.
You want fanaticism? I would argue the unabated passion over his critics’ certainty of his eventual failure makes us root against them almost more than we root for Tebow. I love how they raise the bar each week. It began with, “He’ll never be a starter,” and became, “He can’t lead a team to the playoffs.” Now it’s morphed into “He’ll never lead a team to the Super Bowl,” which means he already has done enough to enter into the same conversation we are having about Tony Romo.
Bottom line, I am no longer torn between rooting for Tebow against the Forces of Darkness — mainly because Bill Belichick has a string of early playoff defeats already.
I’m fully on board. Not because I believe a quarterback for the Broncos is seated at the right hand of the Father. No, because Tebow is indeed doing his best to save the world from a virulent strain of a dangerous religion, one usually practiced in well-lit television studios. It’s called evangelical Unitas-ism, and its acolytes need to be more accepting of all forms of quarterbacking. Or go away.
If Tim Tebow keeps shutting them up, God bless him.
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.