Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Tebow Postscript to the 2011 Season

The end to the Broncos' and Tim Tebow's season was only nominally surprising.

On the one hand, no one expected the Patriots' leaky D to bring it like they did; on the other hand, it's not like Fox and McCoy proved particularly adept at modifying their offensive schemes when defenses figured them out.

At the same time, for all the breathless "Tim Tebow vs. Tom Brady!" pregame hype, it's not like Tebow was responsible for Brady and the Pats offense putting up a bazillion points.

I'll stick with the bigger picture: Tebow led a team that was projected in August to win less than a half-dozen games (and predicted in early October to win half of THAT) to the playoffs and a thrilling first-round win over the defending conference champs. It was a smashing success of a season.

And that's why it's so frustrating to get the return of John Elway's underminey schtick yesterday, when he said that Tebow was the team's starting QB... heading into training camp.

For the record, of the 11 other 2011 NFL playoff teams, not a single one would say that their starting QB only has the job heading into training camp. For that matter, of the 20 other teams in the NFL, maybe a half-dozen (bottom-feeders) aren't already committed to a Week 1 starter for 2012.

Would it have been so hard for Elway to have said "Tim Tebow is our starting QB next season." (1) It should be true; he's earned it. (2) It's not like anyone will hold Elway to that in the event something goes horribly awry in training camp.

What you're left with is the feeling we all had after Week 7 or Week 8 or Week 9 or Week 10 or Week 11 (and on and on) -- that Elway isn't committed to Tebow. Not really, in any case. (We already knew Fox wasn't.)

I'll stand by my analysis from October: Staring at a lost season after that 1-4 start, Elway and Fox figured they would start Tebow, he would flail his way to one or two wins over the next 11 games and the team execs would have the air cover to cut Tebow loose. When Tebow won, the execs' plan was spoiled -- even as they tried to enjoy the ride through the playoffs (knowing full well it was creating a problem for them in the longer-term, if they didn't want Tebow).

If Elway and Fox don't see Tebow as the long-term starter, it is the height of disingenuousness for them to string everyone along. It is laughable that they would be so afraid of public reaction and/or media reaction -- let alone that Tebow would sign on elsewhere and have a good NFL career -- that they would leave their principles at the door and continue to claim to work with him if they really don't want to.

I suspect that they will simply collect the house money they won in 2011 and shift their original 2011 strategy to 2012 -- let Tebow start and hope he loses enough that they can justify benching him and, ultimately, letting him go.

The proof will be whether they refine the Tebow offense -- more sophistication, more counters to what defenses do to adapt, more variety of plays as Tebow improves in other areas. Let's remember that they got to the playoffs with an offense that barely scratched the surface of innovation. (Of course, Fox's own myth-making to the contrary, he's not an innovator.)

I don't believe Elway and Fox want to create something long-term and successful with Tebow, both because they don't believe he can pull it off and, without question, because they lack the gumption to try. I do believe that we're in for many many more months of conversations like this. And I do believe that with a commitment to innovation and to Tebow, the Broncos could be even more successful than this season's run into the NFL's Divisional Round.

-- Dan

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tim Tebow Wins

This has been an insane week for the Tim Tebow phenomenon -- the most insane week ever (and there have been plenty of weeks where I have said, "Wow, it's even crazier than ever.")

There were not one but two big musical parodies (the "St. Elmo's Fire" guy and Jimmy Fallon last night), the "Most Popular Athlete" poll and column after column after column (after column after column...)

It's probably appropriate that the biggest column of them all -- "Believing in Tim Tebow" by ESPN's Rick Reilly, on the front page of ESPN.com right now -- comes on the eve of tomorrow night's game. Essentially, Tim Tebow wins over Rick Reilly -- Reilly being a proxy for the legion of folks who don't buy into Tebow or think the whole thing is overblown. Money quote:
I've given up giving up on him. I'm a 100 percent believer. Not in his arm. Not in his skills. I believe in his heart, his there-will-definitely-be-a-pony-under-the-tree optimism, the way his love pours into people, right up to their eyeballs, until they believe they can master the hopeless comeback, too.
Reilly picked up on a longstanding TimTeblog theme: Tebow's goodness (through action) transcends religion -- Reilly doesn't mention Christianity at all, actually -- and speaks to an essential humanism that everyone can appreciate and be inspired by.

If you want a takeaway of the Tebow phenomenon -- before tomorrow night's game is played and we layer on whether he loses to the Patriots or advances one game from the Super Bowl -- it is that. And to the extent that the message gets across -- from Reilly and others (don't miss this op-ed column in the Orlando Sentinel by Tebow biographer Nathan Whitaker) -- all this Tebow hysteria is worth wading through.

I think that's what Tebow thinks, too -- you never know where someone will find that glimmer of inspiration. Maybe it's seeing a story about Tebow working with a sick kid, maybe it's hearing Tebow talk about working his hardest or being a great teammate. Maybe it's just watching one more improbable play.

But somewhere in that avalanche of media coverage, maybe you -- or anyone -- finds the thing that makes them think or act differently, for the better.

That's why I titled this post "Tim Tebow Wins." Because it has nothing to do with whether or not he wins tomorrow night -- although that's always more fun, and certainly if he didn't win the game last week, we wouldn't be having this week's hysteria. It has to do with his essential belief that winning that comes the way he lives his life and, equally important, from inspiring people -- Rick Reilly, whoever -- to be better people.

-- Dan

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tebow and That "Favorite Athlete" Poll

Tim Tebow's reaction to that ESPN poll released yesterday that had Tebow as America's most popular athlete in December:
"What's that tell me? It tells me they have a lot of crazy polls out there. I hope people see I'm real and genuine. I hope they see that I make a ton of mistakes but that I always get back up and try again."
Get more here.

Tebow Mania Round-Up for the Week

I mostly love Tebow tributes, but the "Tim Tebow's Fire" remake of "St. Elmo's Fire" (below) is really terrible. On to the rest of what I'm seeing:

*This "Tecmo Tebow" T-shirt, however, is awesome. Click the image to buy.

And here's the Tecmo recreation of the Tebow-to-Thomas TD pass:

*Surprise: Tebow was America's favorite athlete in December. (Just a hunch that he'll maintain the title in January.)

*Tebow on TV: You've probably seen the Tebow documentary "Everything In Between" -- covering his stretch between finishing at Florida and the night of the NFL Draft -- but you might not have seen the doc that ESPN did about his senior season at Nease H.S. Both are going to be re-aired on various ESPN channels on Friday and Saturday. Here's a schedule.

*Punditry: CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel praises Tebow's "corny enthusiasm." (It's part of the charm, frankly. As much as anything, because it's actually who he is.)

More as it shows up...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Submitted Without Comment

Remember that old song "St. Elmo's Fire?" The guy rewrote it -- and re-recorded it -- to call it "Tim Tebow's Fire." Just passing it along...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tebow Leads Broncos Past Steelers

It is a Tebow truism -- perhaps THE Tebow truism -- that just when you think that things with Tebow can't get any more unbelievable or crazy or hysterical or awesome or epic... they do.

This is the essence of faith in Tebow: No matter the circumstances, allow for even a smidgen of belief -- and you can feel free to believe all the way to 100%, but a smidgen will do -- and that belief, that faith in the guy, will be rewarded.

Right up until the end of the 4th quarter, I was pretty secure in the idea that a win or a loss in the game doesn't change the fundamentally incredible accomplishment of Tebow this season in helping a team everyone thought would be terrible get to the playoffs. A win is a bonus.

But then to have Tebow play his greatest game as a pro -- not just the career-high in yards passing (316!), but the verve and accuracy of the throws, plus the gutsy chain-moving runs -- against the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL, capped by that insane overtime-opening, game-winning 80-yard TD pass.

If you consider the moment and the players involved and the stakes, Tebow was responsible for nothing less than the greatest play of the NFL season, by any player, and one of the most memorable plays in NFL playoff history.

Let's do it again: Almost no one will give Tebow and the Broncos a chance against the Patriots next week in Foxboro. That's OK. The season is now not just a success but wildly beyond a success. If folks want to say "Tim Tebow can't beat the Patriots next week," OK.

Just remember: "Tim Tebow can't beat the Steelers in the playoffs."

-- Dan

Tebow Playoff Game Day: All Gravy?

Start with this: Of course we're rooting for Tim Tebow to lead the Broncos to a playoff win over the Steelers.

But that's not the point. The point is that what happens in this game won't define Tebow's season or his career. He's already done that, simply by leading the Broncos to the point where they are even IN the NFL Playoffs... there are 20 teams out there that would love the chance to lose during Wild Card Weekend, rather than be sitting at home.

And so we'll get a best shot. Hopefully, John Fox won't bungle the playbook and the strategy. Hopefully, the Steelers are a bit less cruelly effective on defense than usual.

Tebow tweeted out Hebrews 12:1-2, which features the "great cloud of witnesses" phrase. If that sounds familiar, it's because he used that same passage on his eye-black for his college finale at the Swamp in late-November versus FSU. The game featured 5 Tebow TDs (3 pass, 2 rush) in a huge Gators win. Thousands of fans came to the game wearing eye-black. (It was covered here, naturally.)

Two good reads for you, both from the Washington Post. First, a good overview of the Tebow philosophy. Second, a discussion about the evangelical differences between Tebow and Ben Roethlisberger.

Enjoy the game.

-- Dan

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

John Elway talking to Woody Paige about Tim Tebow:
"That's human nature, especially when you're young, to become more cautious. He had a tough week before (the Chiefs game) against Buffalo. The key thing for (Tebow) is to go out, put everything behind him, go through his progressions and pull the trigger."
My only question is whether Elway gave the same advice to John Fox, who has shown a risk-aversion ("cautious," to use Elway's word) on fourth-and-short that is more like timidity than "conservative."

The team has nothing to lose this weekend against the Steelers -- there is absolutely zero pressure to win. Hell, if they keep it close, it's as close a moral victory as you find in the NFL.

So here's hoping Elway is as concerned about his coach's decision-making in short-yardage situations where Tebow's mastery is complete as he is about Tebow's decision-making on 2nd- or 3rd-and-long.

(FWIW, I think they should go back to the style that got them into the playoffs: Run, run, run -- run some more, ideally with Tebow carrying the ball -- with a pass from time to time when the Steelers inevitably put 9 in the box.)

-- Dan

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tim Tebow Led the Broncos to the Playoffs

Tim Tebow led the Broncos to the NFL Playoffs.

Let's repeat that: Tim Tebow led the Broncos to the NFL Playoffs.

Go back to August and try that one out. Heck, go back to Week 7 and try that one out.

Let's be clear: No matter how Tebow and the Broncos enter the playoffs -- winning streak, losing streak, whatever -- they are entering the playoffs. They have out-performed 20 other teams, at least as it relates to the most important goal of the season.

The Broncos are going to get throttled next week by the Steelers? Who cares! Three other teams are going to lose in the first round of the playoffs, too. Four of the 12 playoff teams ALWAYS lose in the first round of the playoffs.

The point is that Tim Tebow led the Broncos into the playoffs. The playoffs! The Broncos! A team that, before the season, was expected to win maybe 4 or 5 games as a best-case scenario -- even fewer if Tebow was given the chance to start at QB. "But Tebow is going to get shellacked in the first round of the playoffs!" is the dumbest sports argument of the day. The most important words in that statement are "Tebow" and "playoffs."

Every NFL season is an exercise in expectations management. The overall parity means that most teams think they have a shot at making the playoffs -- their fans would be thrilled if that happened. A few elite teams are "Super Bowl title or bust." The Broncos' expectations -- expectations for Tebow -- were nothing short of "Suck enough to give Elway and Fox the permission to boot Tebow and draft a real QB." (That was the expectation as recently as midway through the Broncos' Tebowfied winning streak!)

The Broncos have -- and Tebow has -- exceeded expectations more than any other team (or player) in the NFL this season. That is -- excuse the blasphemy -- damn impressive... the exact opposite of the cynical chuckling we're seeing today about how the Broncos backed in or how they are going to get dismantled by the Steelers next week.

That's not the point. Not even close to the point.

-- Dan