You probably won’t find a bigger questioner when it comes to the validity of Tim Tebow as an NFL quarterback than me. I’ve said from his first snap in the league that he wasn’t going to make it in professional football as a starting quarterback. And yet, last night, I found myself making an argument for Tebow. Not in directly praising him, but in my defense of Cam Newton.
Tebow and Newton are two quarterbacks that come from very similar circumstances, and have very similar issues. Both came out of the SEC, where they won Heisman Trophies, and national championships with their respective schools. They both have issues with their mechanics, footwork, and accuracy. They both have great running skills, and can take a game over with their legs. And both men have the indomitable will to win. But right there is where the similarities end, and the road begins to fork.
While Tebow has taken unbelievable abuse and ridicule for his game, Newton has received unparallelled praise and accolades. Where Newton is considered a project with an unlimited ceiling, Tebow is considered unfixable, and should stick to blocking for punt coverage.
If you look at their 2011 stats, it almost seems like those assessments should be reversed.
Tebow: 11 starts, 7-4 rec., 1729 yards, 12 td passes, 6 int., 660 rushing yds, 6 rushing tds, 6 fourth-quarter comebacks & game winning drives.
Newton: 16 starts, 6-10 rec., 4051 yards, 21 td passes, 17 int., 706 rushing yds, 14 rushing tds, 1 fourth-quarter comeback & game winning drive.
For Tebow’s efforts, he was shown the door in Denver and sent to the New York Jets to back up the struggling Mark Sanchez. Cam Newton got endorsement deals with Under Armour and Gatorade.
Now obviously Tebow didn’t put up some of the gaudy numbers that Newton did, but they played in much different offenses and with different personnel surrounding them. And while Newton and the Carolina Panthers missed the playoffs by a long shot, Tebow and the Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and then lost to the eventual AFC Champion New England Patriots.
My point is this. Why are two quarterbacks who have such similar skills and flaws being treated so differently by fans and the media? It would seem that Tebow is being set-up to fail, while Newton is being given the keys to the kingdom.
I can only think of one reason. Cam Newton is easier for the American public to accept. He fits in with our culture and with what we think pro athletes should be. He’s got that “it” factor when it comes to putting the media on his side, even when things got as ugly as they did during the investigation into alleged NCAA violations surrounding his father.
Outside of the conservative Christian group (and possibly some Broncos fans), Tim Tebow really has to work hard to get people on his side. His strong faith, and blatant way of expressing it, tends to rub some folks the wrong way. His motives and actions are frequently questioned, and his interviews have become viral video fodder for his haters to poke even more fun at him.
It seems much easier to doubt Tebow, and look for a fall from grace than it does Newton.
Last night I found myself falling into that very trap. When one of my colleagues pointed out the obvious flaws in Newton’s game, I simply brushed it off saying that “his mechanics could be coached and refined”. But yet, last season I was one of the biggest doubters in Tebow’s ability to ever change his horrible throwing motion and footwork.
So of these two quarterbacks, which one – if either – will actually become successful in the NFL? And which one of my two faces is correct? The one that doubts Tebow, or the one that supports Newton? Perhaps a lot of fans and members of media need to ask themselves the same questions. I know I’ll be contemplating it for a while. I’ll let you know if I ever come up with an answer.
For now, I think I’ll just let it breathe, and give both these exceptional athletes their due, and their chance to make it.