QB in Focus: Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow is the NFL’s most polarising figure. Ridiculed by purists that scoff at his ability – or inability in their eyes – to throw or play quarterback in the NFL, the deeply religious, soon-to-be 28-year-old is revered by millions of supporters who would love nothing more than to see him prove the doubters wrong. Regardless of what he does, Tebow is headline news – and yet he has started just 14 games as a professional. Even this off-season, when he was signed as a camp quarterback by the Philadelphia Eagles despite spending the previous two years in ESPN’s broadcasting booth, Tebow’s name adorned more column inches than most. So how does he create such intrigue? Gridiron breaks down his career to date.

Sweeping Into The Swamp

After starring in high school, Tebow commits to the University of Florida under the tutelage of exceptional coach Urban Meyer. The southpaw quarterback backs up Chris Leak in his first season, 2006, yet still plays a major part in the Gators’ BCS National Championship triumph. Used as a situational weapon throughout the season, he ends as the team’s second most prolific runner. Tebow’s impact is best summed up in the national championship, when he rushes and throws for touchdowns against Ohio State as Florida win college football’s biggest prize with a comprehensive 41-14 victory over the Buckeyes.

Hunting The Heisman

Despite doubts over his throwing ability, Tebow is handed the starting job in 2007 and immediately embarks upon an excellent season. He breaks a host of records when throwing for 32 touchdowns and rushing for another 23, subsequently becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. Having led Florida to a 9-4 record that year, he enjoys team success the following season when helping seal a second National Championship in three years – which is sealed with a 24-14 win over the Oklahoma Sooners. Forgoing the NFL Draft, Tebow produces another fine campaign in his senior year, the Gators just missing out on the National Championship game and finishing 13-1.

Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer

The Buckin’ Bronco

Even though Tebow ends his college career as the SEC’s all-time leader in passing efficiency (170.8), rushing touchdowns (57) and total touchdowns (145) – and has the second-best completion percentage 0f 66.4 – doubts remain over his throwing ability at the highest level. An elongated motion among other factors mean, despite being one of the finest college players in history, he is considered a probable mid-to-late-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels does not see things that way, trading up to select Tebow 25th overall.

Stumping The Steel Curtain

After playing sparingly in a series of dead-rubbers towards the end of his opening professional season, Tebow finds himself down the depth chart under new coach John Fox in 2011. However, with Kyle Orton struggling as the Broncos start 1-4 and a public campaign for the second-year quarterback to start growing by the minute, Tebow is given his opportunity. He grasps it and, helped by a reinvigorated defense and running back Willis McGahee, leads Denver to an 8-8 record and play-off berth. He remains a polarising figure – some poor play had been offset by a remarkable ability to raise his game in clutch moments – but produces his best performance in the post-season. Up against the league’s number-one defense, Tebow throws for 316 yards – including a game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the first play of overtime – as the Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23. Versus the New England Patriots in the divisional round, Denver’s journey ends with a 45-10 loss.

Tim Tebow

Passed Over For Peyton

Broncos general manager John Elway, having never seemed fully committed to his fledgling quarterback, sees a route out of ‘Tebow Mania’ when future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning hits the market. Elway, whose place at Canton is already secure, relates to the long-time Indianapolis Colt, persuading him to turn away a host of other offers and join Denver. With Manning in place, Tebow is surplus to requirements and made available for a trade. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets show an interest, with Tebow surprisingly turning down his hometown team to join Gang Green.

Jetting Nowhere

Many expect Tebow to eventually take the starting job from the increasingly beleaguered Mark Sanchez in New York. However, a farce ensues; the subsequent ‘quarterback controversy’ is poorly managed by offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and head coach Rex Ryan. Tebow, whose best moments come as a punt protector on special teams, is not given an opportunity to succeed at quarterback and throws just eight passes as a Jet. His indignation is completed by being overlooked to start against the San Diego Chargers when Ryan has finally benched the hapless Sanchez, Greg McElroy getting the nod.

Tim Tebow

Last-Chance Saloon?

New Jets general manager John Idzik does not fancy keeping the ‘Tebow Circus’ around and unsurprisingly cuts the popular quarterback. Interest in Tebow is more difficult to find than the previous year; even Jacksonville, where the fans idolise their favourite son, do not offer a home. With stories about Canadian or even Arena Football teams being uninterested increasingly hitting the press, Tebow spends training camp with the New England Patriots but fails to make the 53-man roster and subsequently joins ESPN as an analyst.

Soaring In Philly?

With his NFL career seemingly in the rear-view mirror, Tebow – who had been seeing Tom Brady’s quarterback guru Tom House during his NFL exodus – is unexpectedly given a tryout by the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite adding Sam Bradford in a trade with the St. Louis Rams, the NFC East outfit take a punt and sign Tebow for camp.

This is an edited version of an article that appeared in Issue I of Gridiron Magazine. To subscribe to the magazine, and enter the draw to win a trip to the AFC or NFC Championship Game, click here.

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