Written by Editor YoungArnold
When asked who is the most controversial figure in the National Football League, there are a plethora of answers, all of which are arguably correct. Usually, judging by past fines, dirty plays, trade requests, or even jail time, any one of Plaxico Burress, Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Ndomakong Suh, James Harrison, Hines Ward, Carson Palmer, Chad OchoCincoJohnson, could all arguably be the correct answer to that question. Every single person mentioned there has been a catalyst for controversy largely due to negative press. Burress shot himself in the leg and did a stint in prison for gun possession Ray Lewis was acquitted of murder charges back in 2000, a year before being the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV. James Harrison contemplated retirement rather than adjust to the player safety guidelines advocated by Commissioner Roger Goddell. Michael Vick, well we all know what happened there.
However, the most controversial figure in the game today has “earned” his status through nothing negative. He hasn’t shot himself, or anybody else for that matter. He wasn’t the alleged wheelman in a murder, and he certainly has never done time at Leavenworth on federal dog fighting charges. He’s never been fined or suspended by the Commissioner. Hell, by his own accord the guy’s still a virgin. By all accounts, he’s the walking definition of doing things the right way off the field in terms of Roger Goddell’s vision of player conduct. And yet, he’s been the scorn of football fans across the country. I’m talking about “football Jesus” himself, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
I can certainly see why so many people hate the guy. From his time at the University of Florida, where he won two BCS National Championships and a Heisman Trophy, he’s been the scorn of football fans. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I think it started with his now-famous rah-rah speech following a stunning home loss to Mississippi in 2008:
“I’m sorry. I’m extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida’s never done here. But I promise you one thing: a lot of good will come out of this. You have never seen any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of this season and you’ll never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of this season, and you’ll never see a team play harder than we will the rest of this season. God Bless.”
That speech is now etched forever on a plaque outside the University of Florida’s football offices.
I think the scorn against Tebow comes from his incredibly outward religious beliefs, which he mentions constantly. He is constantly praising the Lord for his athletic abilities and his gifts, and he’s thanking God constantly in every interview he’s given. In college, when guys like Reggie Bush were using their eye black to give shoutouts to their home area code, Tebow wrote “John 3:16”, or any other Bible verse. Most of the time, he’s mentioned God before even his own teammates. Just tonight during the pre-game show prior to his Broncos taking on the Jets, Tebow thanked God for Eric Decker getting open on a long touchdown pass.
This constant “goody-goodyness”, for lack of a better term, can easily be off-putting. Always being thankful to a higher power in an environment where most superstar athletes are all about themselves should be a welcome change of pace, but it isn’t. For whatever reason, many people are extremely annoyed by it. I know I am, because like many I thought that Tebow was trying to employ his beliefs onto anybody who’d listen, and since star athletes garner tons of attention, he was doing it seemingly non-stop. I guess the 24-hour news generation we live in today may be partially to blame for that, but the scorn against Tebow goes deeper than just his Christian faith.
The fact that Tebow is a starting quarterback is baffling to most people. At Florida, he ran an option offense his athleticism was seemingly tailor-made for. Many draft pundits thought Tebow, due mainly to his size and outright desire, would be an NFL project who could pan out to be a solid tight end/fullback/halfback, not unlike the San Diego Chargers’ Jacob Hester. When Denver took him late in the first round in 2009, people were baffled. He may have had the arm strength, but definitely not the accuracy nor precision needed of a prototypical NFL quarterback.
Fast forward to today. Tebow is the focus of the NFL. After years of all the pundits laughing at the thought of an option offense working in the NFL, the Broncos are doing just that with Tebow at the helm. Tebow won a game last week despite completing just two passes. TWO! Triple option offenses at the collegiate level complete more passes than that in games. It’s remarkable to think that an NFL team could run what essentially is the triple option in this day-and-age, against the biggest and fastest athletes in the game. And yet, it worked.
I think the Tebow rage, for all its positives and negatives, is good for the game, even if it can’t be defined. It’s no question that the attention garnered on him is grossly oversaturated, but it’s a hell of a lot better than what when on with Michael Vick, or Plaxico Burress, or the latest NFL star getting arrested for DUI or domestic assault. On the field, the Tebow rage will only continue and grow as long as he plays. A lot of people are just stunned, baffled, even sickened by the fact that Tebow has won with this offense. Maybe because it’s not the high-scoring ‘run & gun’ style perfected by Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. Maybe because on the surface it seems so simple to stop, yet nobody has. Maybe the Jets will draft the blueprint tonight, maybe they won’t, but I know I’ll be tuned in intently to find out. That damn Tebow… just won’t go away.