Tears for Tebow

Tim Tebow, the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, was replaced this week as the team quarterback by certain hall-of-famer Peyton Manning. It’s something that happens every year to a number of teams but this is the first time it’s happened to a quarterback who is known more for the symbolism of his evangelical ways than the talent he possessed.

Is Tim Tebow a victim because of his religion?

A Los Angeles Times sportswriter thinks so. Although Bill Plaschke acknowledges that Tebow is the least accurate quarterback in football and acknowledges that a lot of smart NFL executives think he stinks, he insists Tebow is getting a raw deal:

I don’t want to face the truth that a quarterback can engineer four consecutive game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime and still get canned because he wasn’t pretty enough. I don’t want to believe that if this same quarterback makes religious gestures and references afterward, everyone forgets his victories and focuses on his beliefs.

Do you know that in the last five years, Peyton Manning has exactly one more playoff win than Tim Tebow? Just saying.

Plaschke said he wants “to believe that there is room not only for skill born of ability, but skill born of inspiration, and strength born of faith.” It’s a curious skill because there’s little proof that Tebow has NFL-level skill. There was the day he was drafted by the Broncos to be a backup quarterback, and there’s less so now.

It’s true, of course, the Broncos won 3 games in overtime. It’s also true that with the playoffs on the line, the Broncos — I’m sorry, Tim Tebow since football isn’t a team game in analyzing team results — lost four of the last five games they played. They beat the Steelers in the first game of the playoffs, then got smoked by the New England Patriots in a game that showed that some smart NFL executives are actually smart.

But writing on NPR’s “Monkey See” blog today, NPR’s Linda Holmes said the game of football needs someone the fans can love.

If you feel disenchanted with your team as an entity because you’re being treated shabbily in favor of zillionaires who don’t even really care about the game, it helps to at least have individual guys you admire for some reason. And if you have made that kind of investment in a seat — if you’ve practically taken out a second mortgage — the team had better give you something to feel good about, even if it’s not the win-loss record. A Tim Tebow, with his potential appeal to fans who admire his bearing in general and his public displays of his faith in particular — or substitute Drew Brees, or Aaron Rodgers, or obviously Peyton Manning — may become a better draw than even the team itself. Being a Cowboys fan (for example) is complicated when it feels like being a fan of a large, wealthy company that’s trying to take you for every dollar you have. Being a Tim Tebow fan or a Peyton Manning fan is easy if you believe the worst thing the guy is going to do is play badly.

The writer says “a team might reasonably prefer that you be loved by fans rather than feared by opponents.”

That’s an odd assertion that might get a good test. Tebow was dealt to the New York Jets this afternoon. Nothing — except, perhaps, a halfway-decent defense — could make a Patriots fan happier than the prospect of getting to play against a good guy with lousy talent.