Tim Tebow is getting screwed, and the kid doesn’t deserve it.
Now let me say hastily I am not a Tebow fan, and it’s not because he used football to sell his religion.
Kurt Warner did that. Jon Kitna. Danny Kanell. June Jones. Reggie White. There’s an almost endless supply of great football players (and coaches, e.g., Tony Dungee, Bobby Bowden) who have used their football fame to push religion down people’s throats. And I think that is eminently fair. There’s no one holding a gun to my head making me listen to their interviews and press conferences. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m getting with those guys. I know what Tebow’s going to say if you hand him a mike. It’s my problem if I listen to it. My TV clicker works just fine.
No, I was anti-Tebow because he used his religion to sell football.
Specifically, he used his religion to finagle himself a position as a starting NFL quarterback, one of the most elite jobs on this planet.
He didn’t deserve the abbreviated shot he got in Denver. He got it by using his rabid popularity with a certain set of not terribly knowledgeable football fans and his bond with the secretive Christian sub-culture that runs many NFL organizations.
It was wrong of him to do that. Remember, he took someone else’s money. Someone far more talented slid down the draft board and got paid less because Tebow’s buddy Josh McDaniels moved him up. He took someone’s job. There are only so many spots on an NFL roster. Someone didn’t make the teams in Denver and New York because he did. Somewhere, right now, someone is stacking groceries because of Tebow. And worst of all, he pretty much ruined, or allowed his supporters to ruin, the careers of two decent journeymen quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez and Kyle Orton. One of those probably deserved it, but the other surely didn’t.
But now Tebow is getting wronged, and the wrong being done him is just as great as the wrong he did. It’s worse. Tebow is a not terribly sharp twenty-something. Yeah, he made a mistake, but he’s a kid. He did what any cocky kid would do. He got a job he didn’t deserve, looked in the mirror, and convinced himself he did. Every one of us has convinced ourselves we deserved something that we really didn’t.
He didn’t deserve his half-shot, but once he got it he put his heart and soul into it. He worked hard. He did everything anyone asked of him, right down to playing on special teams.
The people screwing him over are not foolish and cocky young men. They are foolish and callous old men. When those cynical old men traded for Tebow, listed him as their number two quarterback, and then refused to play him, jumping over him to the third string quarterback, they killed whatever career this kid might have had. They didn’t even let him play a half in the meaningless last game of the year, when he could have auditioned for another job. They left him there, on the sidelines, trying to smile and be a good guy while he got screwed in front of a national TV audience. Now everyone in the league knows that the Jets pretty much believe that anybody—third string QB, shell-shocked starter, waterboy, some guy out of the stands, an ancient Bret Favre–anybody has a better chance of being an NFL quarterback than Tim Tebow, and no other team will touch him.
Now, I think this may be true. I don’t think Tebow would be a good quarterback. I think you need to be able to throw quickly and accurately to be a quarterback, and I doubt his ability to do that. But I wanted to see it play out on the field. I wanted to see him get annihilated by a three hundred pound lineman with no compassion and quick feet, not by a three hundred pound coach with no courage and a foot fetish.
Nor is anyone else jumping up to make this right. Maybe the coach that originally selected him, McDaniels, will step up, but it’s very doubtful his boss, the notoriously unsentimental Bill Belichick will allow this gesture of kindness. (Remember, this is a guy who once cut a player the night before the Superbowl.) Maybe he will get a shot in the CFL or some other league and find his way back like Warren Moon or Warner. But probably not. He’s probably headed to be a grad assistant at Ohio State or coach at some Christian high school.
OK, Tebow has a boatload of money. He has the family business, evangelism, to go back to. He’s not that bad off in normal human terms. Yes, he’s got some sexual issues that need to be worked out, but he’s better off than 99% of the young men his age. Still, he didn’t get what he deserved in NY. He didn’t get a chance.