Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why Are So Many Afraid of Tim Tebow?

Great column on Tebow yesterday, by the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins:

So why does Tebow’s expression of faith make people so silly-crazy? Why do they care what he does?

Because he emphasizes the aspect of his talent that is given, not earned.

And that makes people nervous.
She continues:
Belittle Tebow if you must. But the trouble with shouting down Tebow’s religion, never mind the sheer offensiveness, is the same trouble with shouting down any other form of inspired expression. Do that, and you also shout down mystery, possibility, surprise. And some perfectly good questions. You drown out an awful lot that’s of interest, whether you agree with it or not.
So much commentary about Tebow -- whether related to football or religion -- is done with a bludgeon, not with nuance (let alone intelligence or thoughtfulness -- see Bill Maher). This is a great take on what so many seem to feel is a hyper-complicated topic.

Happy new year, everyone. Thanks for your continued support of TimTeblog.com.

-- Dan

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tim Tebow: Marvel Super-Hero

But when is the comic book coming out?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tebow Mania Enters Week 17

After two weeks of losses, that Tebandwagon has cleared out a bit, hasn't it? The haters get to have their fun. The die-hards stick around, regardless. We'd all rather have wins and big performances -- it's only narrow consolation that fairweather bandwagoneers have moved along to other things.

And yet here is the testament to the mid-season run: Even after two straight losses, Tim Tebow and the Broncos are still in a massively commanding position -- win this weekend vs. the Chiefs, and the Broncos are in the playoffs. And even if Denver loses, if the Raiders lose, too, the Broncos still win the division and host a first-round playoff game.

Let's keep all of this in perspective: If you told NFL pundits (or even Broncos fans) in August that the Broncos would be in position to earn their way into the playoffs and a division title in Week 17, you would have been laughed at. The guffaws would have been even more pronounced if you had brought up this scenario in early October, when the team was 1-4 -- when even John Fox and John Elway figured that inserting Tim Tebow as the starter would only position the team more favorably to pick a QB at the top of the NFL Draft in April 2012.

Then Tebow and the team flipped the script. They won. And won again. And won again. And kept winning, right up until they put themselves in a spot to control their own destiny for a playoff spot (and even have a halfway decent chance to make the playoffs even if they lose).

Somewhere along the way -- as Tebowmania got larger and larger -- the experts and bandwagon fans completely lost sight of where this team was before the season started (or a month into it). The expectation was NEVER that this team was going to win a Super Bowl this season. Heck, the expectation was NEVER that this team was even going to make the playoffs, let alone win the division. Most folks figured that it was a 6- or 7-win team... at BEST.

Instead, Tim Tebow and the defense and Matt Prater have led the fans on the best kind of ride -- the unexpected run into playoff contention by a team everyone else had written off.

Tebow fans figured that he would give the team a puncher's chance -- if only HE was given the chance (and given the chance within an offense that played to his strengths... let's not even get into how/why Fox went away from the successful run-based offense last week) -- the team would have that chance. And that's why you've enjoyed this one so much.

Confounding expectations has defined the Tebow experience in the NFL, ever since his final play at Florida, when the NFL "experts" immediately pounced that he could never be a first-round pick, never be an NFL starter, never be a successful QB in the league... never lead his team to the playoffs (let alone lead them to the playoffs in only his second year).

As we look back on 2011, "Tebowmania" became one of the top stories of the year -- it has been the biggest story in the NFL this season (even bigger than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers -- that doesn't change, no matter what happens next Sunday.

No one can take away the magical run that put the team in a position to simply win a game in the final week of the season to clinch a division title and a spot in the NFL Playoffs.

-- Dan

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Yorker Calls Tebow "Year's Best Sports Story"

The New Yorker's terrific sportswriter Ben McGrath tabs Tim Tebow as the year's best sports story:
Certainly Tebow-mania offers plenty of crossover fodder for the non-sports-obsessed. You don’t need to be a connoisseur of quarterback throwing mechanics to find debates over Tebow’s conspicuous religiosity of interest, or to marvel over the fact that teen-agers on Long Island have apparently been suspended from school for imitating a silly made-for-TV pose. But that’s all just context. What’s great about Tebow is the live-action performance: maddening, baffling, and, just often enough, jaw-dropping. In an era where passing statistics have been inflating to Bondsian levels, Tebow has brought his team to the brink of the playoffs with a style that might as well have come from the dead-ball era. Is it luck? Divine intervention? Here’s to watching and cursing and shaking our heads in disbelief in 2012.
McGrath isn't wrong. (And at the risk of indulging in a bit of #tebowcant, if you look back to last January -- heck, last August -- not many beyond this site's readership would have considered Tebow to be a "story of 2011" nominee. But anyone who has followed Tebow over the past half-decade would know that is the moment precisely to figure it would be Tebow's year.)

-- Dan

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

John Elway Supports Tim Tebow (For Now)

"Tim Tebow's not going anywhere. I mean, he's going to be a Bronco and we're going to do everything we can and hopefully he's that guy."

-- John Elway, who just weeks ago was entirely ready to bench Tebow (and ultimately jettison him in the offseason) if a few breaks didn't go the Broncos' way and those Ws became Ls.

Hard to tell if Elway is sincere or just resigned -- maybe a little bit of both -- but he clearly learned from his mistake of a few weeks ago that there's no point in publicly doing anything but supporting Tebow, even if privately he doesn't.

(If that sounds conspiratorial -- even cynical -- it's because Elway himself made it so clear just last month how he felt about Tebow. Pardon if I don't swallow Elway's line whole.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tim Tebow and Kelly Faughnan, Part 2

Lot of attention today for Jeff Darlington's NFL.com piece about Tim Tebow reconnecting with Kelly Faughnan. I went back into the TimTeblog archives and found this post from 12/11/09, when the Tebow-Faughnan story first came out. Here's my money quote:
I swear, this is what drives me nuts about folks who claim to "hate" Tebow: When you read about that, how in the world can you hate him? I guarantee you that taking Kelly to the show meant more to him than winning an award. Way more.

We can talk all about "Triumphalist Tebow" when he wins or "Tragic Tebow" when he loses (or even "Teary Tebow," from the past week), but here is my favorite:

"Typical Tebow."

And sometimes that's for when he bulls into the end-zone. Sometimes that's for when he tries to incite the crowd. But, most times, it's when he is working in the community and doing things exactly like he did last night.
"Typical Tebow." Ha. I had forgotten I had coined that. Check out the whole post for more details. It's just funny sometimes to see these "new" conclusions about Tebow that we were talking about years ago.

(Don't get me wrong: It was an important angle from yesterday's game to be given a wide audience -- as with Tebow-Faughnan I, it offers more insight into Tebow than anything he does on the field.)

-- Dan

Tebow, Broncos Fall Short vs. Patriots

A few thoughts:

*You can already tell this morning that Tebowmania has settled down a bit following the loss. This is a good thing.

*Tebow played well. The turnovers killed the Broncos -- Tebow contributed to that, and I think based on his postgame statements, he is naturally frustrated at himself for that.

*John Fox is still totally underminey. (See his "broad side of a barn" postgame quote.) And his decision-making remains so iffy -- knowing the game would be a shootout and having gouged the Patriots' run defense, why not go for it early on 4th-and-1 down near the Pats' end zone? Also, the Pats' coaching staff made plenty of adjustments after the 1st quarter -- Fox seemed befuddled about doing the same thing. (He seems content to blame the players/turnovers.)

*The Broncos still control their own fate as it relates to the playoffs. They meet Buffalo next week, in yet another match-up with a team that had the chance (and need) to draft Tebow but passed. The thing to focus on is that a playoff season represents a huge triumph for Tebow and the Broncos.

*Tebow being Tebow: A fantastic postgame story. Tebow doesn't do these things for the publicity -- he does them because they are the right thing to do... because it inspires Kelly Faughnan and maybe inspires other people to do the right thing, too.

*This was not a litmus test. Let me say that again: This was not a litmus test. Not for a coaching braintrust that figured that 6-10 was going to be a really successful season and that fully expected (and perhaps rooted for) Tebow to fail. There is not much shame in losing to the No. 1 team in the conference (even if there is a bit of shame in all the turnovers).

-- Dan

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday Tebow Link Round-Up

*The New York Post's Steve Serby has a good Q&A with Tebow. I like that Tebow admires Steve McNair.

*Deadspin's Drew Magary is a hater... sort of... but a hater of Tebow hysteria more than Tebow. (Salty language warning.)

*ESPN's Rick Reilly compares Tebow and Tom Brady. Eleventybillion people will click on it.

*Fathead launched a "Tebowing" edition. Currently, Tebow accounts for about 80% of Fathead's business.

*Yes, yes, thank you for all the emails: I've heard -- "Tebrew" beer.

*FoxSports.com launched an all-Tebow section. Hmm, that sounds like a GREAT idea.

So far, this week's best Tebow contribution (besides the SI cover) has been the Seinfeld-Tebow mash-up.

Tebow x Seinfeld



(via ESPN.com)

The Real Lesson of Tebow: Work Hard(est)

With the explosion of Tebowmania over the past few weeks -- beyond even the craziest stuff from Tebow's final year at Florida -- a few sportswriters have started to recognize the nuance of the Tebow story. Yes, many still bludgeon us with "Tebow! Religion! Throwing motion! The hysteria!"

But then you get reporting like this, from Yahoo's Les Carpenter, which digs into Tebow's real secret -- the universal lesson of Tebow that transcends fans and haters, that transcends whatever religious beliefs you might hold: Hard work.

Not just hard work, but (in Tebow's case) working harder than anyone else, which really translates to: Try your hardest. You cannot expect to work as hard as Tim Tebow; what you can expect is to work as hard as you can (then try a little harder).

Click that link for a great read.

-- Dan

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Most interesting Tebow Quote from NFL "Sound FX"

When people conflate football and religion as it relates to Tim Tebow, there is a lot of talk that somehow Tebow is praying for God to help him at the expense of others. But there was a very telling quote that the NFL microphones picked up. After the Bears got the ball on the onside kick, it appeared that the game was as good as over. Tebow was kneeling on the sidelines and said:
"Dear Jesus, I need you. Please come through for me. No matter what, win or lose Lord, give me the strength to honor you."
Now, was Tebow rooting for the chance to get the ball back and lead his team to a game-tying (or game-winning) score? Absolutely. But note that he accepts the reality that the game could go either way -- win or lose -- and all he asks for is the strength to manage the situation, whatever it might be.

This speaks to the line of Tebology that says his Christianity -- while public and evangelical -- is intensely personal. It has everything to do with finding the inner strength to live his life purposefully and nothing to do with mere wins and losses (although wins are obviously more fun).

I'll try to get video clips -- or links to video on NFL.com -- when it's available. It was an excellent and rare view of Tebow in the mid-game situation. UPDATE: Here you go!

(One other remarkable moment captured by the mics: When Barber fumbled in OT and the Broncos got the ball, it seemed like every Broncos player was totally flipping out. Tebow took the field quietly singing a hymn, as usual a little off-key.)

-- Dan

Tebow Mic'ed Up: NFL Network 9:30 PM ET

Must-see: The NFL footage of Tebow from the Bears game on Sunday -- the league had him mic'ed up, and tonight at 9:30 ET they'll show the clips. Good preview from the DenPost's Klis here.

Tim Tebow on This Week's SI Cover

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Today's Tebow Must-Read

I think that after this many years, I've got a pretty well-defined lens with which I view Tebow and the Tebow phenomenon through, and I think a lot of you share that lens (or at least respect my considered view). It's very rare that I see that perspective reflected in the media -- mostly, it's a lot of simplistic screeching. But when I see a take that resonates with me, it's an affirmation that we're not the crazy ones.

Anyway, this take by Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel hits on a lot of the things that we talk about here: That Tebow's outward expressions of faith are not nearly as proscriptive as the critics and drop-by pundits would have you think -- and that there is a humanist message in Tebow.

A few quotes from the column:
This is the beauty and brilliance of Tim Tebow. He puts his faith on display, but never seems to get too direct about it. He shrugs off criticism. He even jokes about it. He is unfailingly polite, accepting of doubters and moderate in his proclamations.
And:

There is no question that Tebow’s faith has played a role in his success. It’s a part of him. It’s what works for him. It’s what drives him. It’s what provides the confidence to overcome all odds – be it in the fourth quarter or in offseason preparation. All the great ones have that and Tebow derives his from his religion.

That’s a powerful message and, it appears, the one that Tim Tebow wants put out there.

This is what works for me, he is saying. This is how I do it. This is what has shaped me as both a successful player on the field and an undoubtedly polite and respectful person off of it.

If you want to give it a shot, then come join me.

And he pretty much leaves it at that. You don’t have to be religious at all to enjoy Tim Tebow the football player, the role model or the well-meaning star.

"You don’t have to be religious at all to enjoy Tim Tebow the football player, the role model or the well-meaning star." That sums it up.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hoge Finally Gets It About Tebow

Merril Hoge was the loudest critic of Tim Tebow in the media -- and, from his place on the set at ESPN, certainly the most visible. This morning, on the radio, he came around:
“You have a certain skill set. Will you work hard on that skill set and will you give it all you have? You can look in the mirror [and say], ‘I gave it all I had, and I don’t have anything to be ashamed about or embarrassed by.’ That to me is what I see in the Denver Broncos and in Tim Tebow. I’ve been wrong on a lot of levels, and I’ve become now a huge fan in watching not only the Broncos play but Tim Tebow play.”
Read more key parts of the transcript over at OnlyGators. The key idea: Hoge has been converted.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tim Tebow: Best Win Yet?

Throughout this win streak and 7-1 record as a starter, I don't think I've ever seen Tim Tebow as giddy as he was following Matt Prater's overtime kick to lift the Broncos past the Bears. It was fun to see. What a win -- the most improbable of his 8 as a starter? Yes. But down 10-0 with 3 minutes to go, I actually figured the Broncos would win -- I simply couldn't envision how. Who can? A couple mental blunders by the Bears' Marion Barber were key, but the point, as always, is this: W.

"Tim Tebow's Gospel of Optimism"

Frank Bruni on Tim Tebow in the Op-Ed page of today's New York Times, in what will be the most talked-about opinion column of the weekend, sports or otherwise:
He reminds us that strength comes in many forms and some people have what can be described only as a gift for winning, which isn’t synonymous with any spreadsheet inventory of what it supposedly takes to win.

This gift usually involves hope, confidence and a special composure, all of which keep a person in the game long enough, with enough energy and stability, so that a fickle entity known as luck might break his or her way. For Tebow that state of mind comes from his particular relationship with his chosen God and is a matter of religion. For someone else it might be understood and experienced as the power of positive thinking, and is a matter of psychology. Either way it boils down to stubborn optimism and bequeaths a spark. A swagger. An edge.

Longtime Teblog readers know that I feel very strongly about the more humanist message anyone can take from the Tebow phenomenon. Bruni captures it nicely (and on the biggest platform possible).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tebow's "Through My Eyes": Young Readers' Edition

In time for the holidays, there is a "Young Readers' Edition" of "Through My Eyes" that came out this week. The publishers are running a promotion where you can win Tebow-related prizes. Just wanted to pass that along, in case you're interested. Check it out here.

Tim Tebow: Challenging NFL Orthodoxy

Kudos to ESPN.com's Jeffri Chadiha for approaching the Tebow story from an angle that few have: That Tebow is challenging NFL strategic orthodoxies about what an offense should be.

(It still nudges a bit too close to giving John Fox far more credit than he deserves -- where was Fox's brilliant insight into NFL inefficiencies and Tebow's capabilities this past summer so it could start Week 1? -- but the point is a good one: NFL coaches aren't nearly clever or bold enough.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Looking Back at TebowCenter

Certainly fun if you like all things Tebow. I found the No. 1 entry on the Top 10 list to be a little random -- you can see the official (pre-NFL) Tebow Top 10 list on the right, but I think his No. 1 moment will always be "The Promise." It is one of the Top 3 most iconic moments in college football history, along with Doug Flutie's Hail Mary and Vince Young's game-winning waltz into the end zone in the national title game after the '05 season.

And, per XV's Angel Gonzalez, the #SCTEBOW hashtag was No. 1 worldwide on Twitter between 2 and 3 p.m. Would you expect anything less?

Tim Tebow: The Movie Trailer

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

SportsCenter Becomes TebowCenter

Set your DVRs: From 2-3 p.m. ET Wednesday, SportsCenter will become TebowCenter, with a full one-hour special covering all things Tim Tebow. Hey, I'm available to chime in...

Frankly, this sounds kind of clever -- and it's very cool if you like Tebow. But needless to say, it's the kind of thing that will drive his haters nuts. And yet they'll watch!

(Speaking of watching, I'll be shocked if the NFL doesn't move the Pats-Broncos game a week from Sunday from CBS in the afternoon to NBC in the evening. The game has the potential to be the most-watched regular-season football game of the year, if not the past decade. The league maximizes the audience by running it on Sunday night.)

Chuck Klosterman on Tim Tebow

Give it a read. Interesting, nuanced theory. We'll discuss later this week.

Bill Cosby on Tim Tebow, Denver

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tim Tebow and the Mere Threat of Tebow

It's not enough to say "Tim Tebow does it again." It's more like "again and again and again and again and again..."

As you've come to expect here, I'll leave the breathless gushing to others. Beyond the novelty of Tebow winning in a shootout (defying the "Tim Tebow can't win a shootout" conventional "wisdom"), I want to focus on one very specific element of yesterday's win:

Tebow ran the ball four times.

Or, should I say, ONLY four times. (Really, only three, if you take away that last knee to set up the game-winning field goal.)

This completely defied the conventional wisdom of the Broncos as this "option-only" one-dimensional team -- or Tebow as an "option-only" one-dimensional QB.

No, what struck me most was that the mere THREAT that Tebow might run -- the threat itself -- became an integral part of the offense. Last week's 22 carries carried over as a strategic feint.

Now, maybe the opportunity to run wasn't there. Or maybe the offense just took what the defense gave it. But the gap between 22 carries a week ago and 3 yesterday is stark.

Put another way: Because the defense had to be so aware of Tebow as a threat to keep it himself and run, new opportunities emerged for Tebow to make plays in other ways (like passing).

We saw this at Florida -- the almost-patented Tebow "play-action to himself," where he would take the snap, scoot a half-step toward the line as if he was running, reverse himself backward and find an open receiver.

Yesterday wasn't quite that simplistic, but the effect -- Tebow could run, therefore you have to play him as if he will run -- is totally disruptive.

And it is disruptive without Tebow actually running. I'm fascinated by this, and you could see that when you paired that threat with some slick passing, the effects were tangible.

The Bears -- playing without Jay Cutler or Matt Forte on offense -- are next, in Denver next Sunday afternoon. That should be a win. After that? A Sunday night game against the Patriots that will be more watched than any NFL game this season. Even if the Broncos lose that game -- and they will be heavy underdogs, even at home, even riding a crazy win streak -- they will still be perfectly positioned to run (or pass) right into the playoffs.

Meanwhile, just when you think Tebowmania can't get any bigger, it does. That, itself, is a hallmark of the Tebow phenomenon.

-- Dan

Oh, last point: For my money, Tebow's time-buying sideline scramble that became a TD pass to Thomas was his finest single moment as a pro.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tim Tebow IS Having a Great Season

This analysis from Deadspin's Jack Dickey captures a lot of what I was thinking yesterday as I read the troll-ish column from ESPN's Bryant and the very interesting counter from FoxSports.com's Kriegel. If you adjust for Tebow's impact on a "per-touch" rather than "per-pass-attempt" basis, he is having not just a fine season, but a very very good one.

That doesn't even include his impact on Willis McGahee, the fact that his limited turnovers and clock-eating drives keep the defense rested, improving its already-terrific efficiency.

Is it a backlash to the backlash? Or, at this point, a backlash to the backlash to the backlash to the backlash?

-- D.S.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tim Tebow Loves to Run the Ball

"Why not? I'm not going to hide from it."

-- Tim Tebow, after being questioned about his record-setting 22 carries last Sunday against the Chargers.

Exactly.

It's not an anomaly -- it's the strategy.
It's what Tebow does well -- why wouldn't you focus on that?
It's what will keep this team rolling along.

One of the most notable things about Tebow is his consistency -- personal, professional, whatever. He has a clarity of his sense of self, and what John Fox (and most football pundits) didn't realize is that all the coaches have to do is simply extend that clarity onto the football field.

It's not that Tebow changed. It's that the coaches stopped hiding from it.

-- Dan

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tebow On Inaugural Cover of NFL Magazine

Unsurprisingly -- although perhaps a surprise to NFL folks if you asked them back in August -- Tim Tebow is going to be on the cover of the first-ever issue of NFL Magazine, which comes out next week. Here's the cover: