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Making Sense of Tebowmania

By: Aaron Watson

Here is what Tim Tebow isn’t: a polished passer capable of making quick decisions or reading a defense like Brady or Brees.

Here is what Tim Tebow is: an incredible leader, runner and motivator who doesn’t make costly mistakes and is growing as a passer each week.

He didn’t ask for the hype. He doesn’t write the hundreds of stories each week about his heroics. He’s just trying to win football games for a team that, if we’re being honest, is mediocre at best. Yet for some reason the publicity he has generated just “trying his hardest to win” has made him a target for voracious criticism and overzealous praise that no other young player in the league seems to see.

But I guess it is fitting to have the Mile High Messiah being crucified for being different.

Nevermind that he is outplaying the oft injured Sam Bradford, last year’s #1 overall pick. Or former high picks Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco, Blaine Gabbert, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen and Christian Ponder. While those players continue to struggle week after week, it is Tebow who gets blasted by the pundits who seem to forget he is young, winning, and surrounded by a cast of players no one else wanted. And did I mention this is the same team that won 2 games last year?

I guess having too many fans is a cardinal sin in the NFL.

Does he get too much credit for his last minute heroics that have caused his team to move from 1-4 to first place in the AFC West? Sure. Has the defense made some great plays? Absolutely. But to say his 7-2 record is simply due to the defense and kicker is to forget how awful this team was in the first 5 games with Kyle Orton. And when Brady and Stafford carve up that defense with ease it should serve a reminder that this is simply an average team.

I honestly believe that if Tebow wasn’t so popular, he wouldn’t be as vilified. But as his ardent fans base continues to grow, his detractors feel the need to knock him down as many notches as they possibly can, regardless of how fair and honest their criticism. They see Tebowmaniacs going overboard in their support and thus feel the need to go overboard in their condemnation. There is no middle ground.

No one seems to accept the obvious. The team is average. The quarterback is young and has a steep learning curve. And the team is overachieving.

If the criticism was fair then Tebow’s detractors should be vilifying Sam Bradford for stumbling through an atrocious season. And if the support was fair then people would be lining up to receive Andy Dalton’s autograph and talking about how God must be a Bengals fan (that would be ironic).

But they are not. Because this isn’t about football anymore. It’s about him. It’s about a young man’s aura attracting a fan based that is simply unwarranted based on his production. And that just pisses off armchair quarterbacks who know he can’t be successful… ever. They’ve played enough Madden and fantasy football to know what a good quarterback looks like.

So to you pissed off armchair quarterbacks, I have a brief message:

Let the fans in Denver have their moment. If he can’t play, as you seem convinced, then the madness will end after 2 or 3 seasons like it does with all other young QB’s and you will have your moment of glory. And if you can’t do that, then at least be fair in your criticism instead of being just as irrational as the fans who think he deserves all the credit.  You don’t need to buy in, and you can be critical. Just give him the same deference you seem inclined to give every young quarterback not named Tebow.

And then when his legend fades off into the sunset one inaccurate pass after another, you can smile and look the rest of us in the eye and say, “I told you so.”

Or maybe, just maybe, he proves you wrong.

Aaron Watson saw his NFL career cut short when his pee wee coaches informed him he wasn’t very good. So he turned his attention to writing, studying journalism in college while blogging for several sporting blogs since 2005. He and his wife currently live in Richmond, VA, one of the worst sports towns in America despite the short lived hype during the Final Four. When he is not at the local sports bar pursuading the owners to put the Buccaneer or Gator game on the big screen, Aaron serves as the Director of Staff Development for TeenPact Leadership Schools, a non-profit training teens to impact their nation through government, business and ultimate frisbee. He has also stayed in Tim Tebow’s house.

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