On those two or three occasions per year when the folks at GQ decide to chime in on football, my initial reaction is (to borrow a phrase from Brandon Jacobs) “stay cute and shut up.” Most of the time, however, there’s something in there worth repeating.
Especially when the author is our good friend Michael Silver. Who has rarely been called “cute” and who even more rarely shuts up.
Silver has compiled an “oral history” of Tim Tebow. Since I’m finally forcing myself to trudge through the clumsy, narrative-challenged oral history of ESPN, I was prepared to ping-pong from quote to quote in the hopes of trying to find something instructive and/or entertaining from the broader item.
The new quotes loosely track Tebow’s first almost-full season as a starter. Here are the ones that stuck out. For those of you who received your “I read the 750 pages of the ESPN book and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” T-shirts, it’ll be a snap (relatively speaking) to breeze through the whole thing.
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has the most insightful comment of anyone. (Yes, that’s the first time that specific sentence has ever been uttered in all of human history.) “You know what the coolest part about the whole thing is?” Allen says. “And the reason people hate it? Because it’s showing that the conventional wisdom of coaches isn’t really necessary. You know, coaches always think they have the winning theory: ‘Our way is the right way! Blah blah blah!’ Well, here’s a dude that they basically had to scrap the whole offense for and go back to running a college [system]. And they have been successful with it. Sometimes people think the game is more difficult than it is. If you find something that works, go with it. And I don’t really think it has to be a nine-syllable frickin’ play.”
ESPN’s Trent Dilfer wades gingerly, until the last part, into the murky waters of the religious aspect of Tebowmania. “I don’t have a problem with what Tim Tebow’s doing with [his outspoken Christianity]. I’ve seen him try to articulate why he has the belief and why he believes the things he does, in a very easy way to understand. He’s not the guy, when the cameras are put in his face, saying, you know, ‘Praise to God, because he supernaturally let that ball hit my receiver!’ You know what I mean? But he’s up-front with it, and he makes many people uncomfortable. I do have a problem with what the Christian community is doing with his faith, that they are almost becoming a cult following. I think it’s an ‘us’ problem, not a ‘him’ problem.”
Dilfer ultimately is right. Tebow never has tried to suggest that there’s an Angels in the Outfield component to his success. But others — and there are many, and they are zealous — firmly believe that something more than human is making good things happen for Tebow and the Broncos. (Except, of course, when they play the Patriots.)
It doesn’t help that guys like Kurt Warner are trying to make the Tebow story into a real-life David-and-Goliath tale. “To me, it’s a biblical story,” Warner explains. “That’s what the Bible’s full of: ordinary guys who are able to accomplish extraordinary things, not by their own strength and might but by God’s hands coming with them. And I think it’s very similar to my story and what people took from me going from a grocery-store clerk to a Super Bowl champion.”
The difference between Warner and Tebow is that Warner ultimately got a chance to demonstrate his abilities as a high-level passer. Tebow is succeeding without those skills, and he’s desperately trying to establish them in order to keep his job. That’s what V.P. of football operations John Elway wants to see.
“I get encouraged when I see him working within the system and throwing on time, with good feet. That, to me, is where he’s getting better,” Elway says. “Consistency and accuracy is gonna come when he gets consistent with his feet. It’s like a pitcher: The front foot comes down on the same spot every single time. He’s just never really worked on that.”
Former teammate Brandon Lloyd, when asked what Tebow needs to do to become an elite passer on Monday’s PFT Live, had a slightly different focus. “I think that what he needs to do is what every quarterback does,” Lloyd said. “It’s about the classroom when it comes to being a quarterback. Understanding how defenses are covering the offense versus the plays and routes that are being run is over half the battle, because then you can have that anticipation and that timing and then you’re not guessing where you’re throwing the ball. . . . It’s the ability to understand what the defense is doing when you’re going under center on that particular play and understanding the grand scheme of what they’re trying to do to stop you.”
Regardless of what Tebow needs to do to get there, Elway knows that, if Tebow can, everyone in the organization will benefit.
“He has changed the culture of that locker room. The way he handles his life, the way he is with people, the way he is with media — everybody wants to fight over what he is on the football field, but for the NFL, for the Denver Broncos, he’s perfect,” Elway says. “He’s a great kid. You know, people want him to be successful. And so do I. Everybody in this building does, too. If he’s the guy that can be our guy for ten, fifteen years, that’s a hell of a deal for us.”
Elway should rethink calling it a “hell” of a deal. Unless, of course, the only way Tebow can ever get to where he needs to be entails doing a deal with the devil. And/or Don Draper.