On Monday, Tim Tebow’s employer in his new industry trotted out a feature aimed at getting him another chance in his former industry.
Many in the media industry didn’t like it. The various criticisms and complaints have been collected by the folks at SportsBusiness Daily.
ESPN televised a three-minute, thirty-eight second feature regarding the efforts of the former NFL quarterback, with the help of former NFL quarterback and current ESPN colleague Trent Dilfer to become a current NFL quarterback again, notwithstanding his current employment at ESPN. Dubbed by some as a conflict of interest, the effort actually conflicts with ESPN’s interests in keeping Tebow on its roster of analysts. If, after all, Tebow becomes an NFL quarterback again, he won’t be available to work for the network.
“I’ve been able to understand over the course of the last four or five months what it means to have mechanics, what it means to have footwork, what it means to be able to control your body,” Tebow says during the piece, without addressing why he hadn’t been able to understand in nearly a decade before that of pro and college football these key aspects of the position he plays.
It’s been an ongoing theme throughout his NFL career. Before the 2010 draft, Tebow spent weeks working on improving his mechanics. And his mechanics were indeed fixed, as long as he had the ability to concentrate on them. Thrust into the stress of game action and forced to retreat to muscle memory, Tebow consistently reverted to his slow-motion Byron Leftwich catapult delivery.
Still, he won’t give up. And that’s the message ESPN really wants to convey. Wearing an unintentionally ironic T-shirt that reads “I am set free,” Tebow goes through off-field and on-field workouts while talking passionately about his extreme motivation to get back to the NFL.
That’s fine, but the NFL already has moved on from Tebow. The Broncos traded him after a run to the final eight. The Jets cut him after a worse-than-lackluster year. The Patriots eventually gave him a chance to save some face, surely due to the presence of former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels on the coaching staff. But even with McDaniels in his corner, the Patriots didn’t regard Tebow as good enough to be one of the eight weekly inactive players and an insurance policy against quarterback injury.
Even now, as 24 teams can add extra players via “futures” contracts, it’s not Tim Tebow who is being signed but quarterbacks like Trent Edwards and E.J. Kinne.
So it’s over (unless McDaniels gets the Browns job and the front office lets him bring Tebowmania to town, which is highly unlikely). But ESPN and Dilfer are helping Tebow continue to prop up a dream that has come and gone, and Tebow continues to be Bruce Willis in every scene of The Sixth Sense except the first one and the last.
As it relates to Tebow, ESPN’s motivations are obvious. They surely don’t fear losing him to the NFL because they know it’s not happening. Instead, it’s a way to make their newest high-profile hire, who remains one of the most polarizing figures in sport, sympathetic, inspirational, and ultimately likeable.
Let’s also not overlook what the feature does for Dilfer. Presumed by many to be the in-house successor to Jon Gruden, Dilfer’s role as quarterbacks coach helps give him the credibility to slide into both the Monday Night Football booth and the Quarterback Camp feature that precedes each draft. While Gruden isn’t leaving this year, it’s just a matter of time before he returns to coaching.
So it’s a win-win for ESPN, especially since everyone knows that Tebow’s effort to get back to the NFL eventually will lose.
Everyone, that is, except Tebow.