Two Sundays ago, Tim Tebow, the second-year Denver Broncos' quarterback, did the unthinkable. He led his team to victory over division rival Kansas City. Why was this remarkable? As the team's starter, Tebow attempted only eight passes. He completed only two for 69 yards and one touchdown. Teams in today's NFL can't win when their quarterback compiles those stats. But that's exactly what the Broncos did -- again.
Since Tebow became the team's field general on October 23, the Broncos have gone 4-1, putting them in playoff contention in an admittedly weak division. Three of those victories were by 3, 4, and 7 points, respectively. Games that close are the most difficult to win. The comebacks keep coming. This week, ESPN touted Tebow-mania. One of the network's analysts proclaimed himself a Tebowist. The Broncos just released veteran QB Kyle Orton, the team's' leading passer after 10 games, a huge show of confidence in their young quarterback.
Yet Tebow has also been the subject of harsh criticism, most notably from Broncos' legend John Elway, who quarterbacked the team to two Super Bowl championships in the 1990s. But ask yourself this. In this video of Tebow's extraordinary comeback against the Miami Dolphins -- as a backup, no less -- would the comeback be more credible had the quarterback been Elway himself, one of the greatest clutch QBs in NFL history?
I am by no means comparing Tebow to Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback. However, I do think they share certain intangibles: leadership, heart, a boyish passion to play the game they love, and an insatiable desire to win. One can't teach such traits. A player either has them or not, and the great ones do. Tebow is also humble.
We root for Tim Tebow because despite these traits, he hasn't had it easy over the past two years. Despite a storied college career that included two national championships and winning the Heisman Trophy (as a sophomore) at the University of Florida, NFL experts doubted him -- and still do. He's 6'3" and 245 lbs., they noted. (The NFL now lists him at 236.) Strong as a bull. His throwing mechanics needed to be fixed. They were correct, and Tebow has dedicated himself maniacally to doing so. Conventional wisdom said that he should be an NFL fullback, not running the show. He could have made such a change, but he will always be a quarterback. I suspect he'd sooner not play.
We root for Tim Tebow because he has now had to say four words to which almost all of us can relate: "Put me in, coach." Who hasn't at one point been too small or too big or not good enough to start? Who hasn't learned to play defense and take charges and do all the little things to get on the court? To satisfy our passion.
Even when he was in college, I thought football would be just a blip in Tebow's life. Far more important, for example, is his faith-based nonprofit, the Tim Tebow Foundation. The site is definitely worth a look. My guess is that Tebow's NFL career and the obvious benefits it brings -- wealth and fame, for example -- will be a springboard to greater things. The ministry? Politics? The possibilities are endless.
In the meantime, the NFL has done something special to Tim Tebow -- it has made him human.
We root for Tim Tebow because he's now one of us.
Follow Ben Kerschberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BenKerschberg