Seems like everyone has a take on Tim Tebow. Both his faith as a follower of Jesus Christ and his unique way of playing and winning football games have made him a double pronged lightening rod for praise and criticism both on how he plays football and how he lives and expresses his faith. I have stayed out of the discussion for the most part but feel like it’s time to weigh in. I have been in fulltime ministry for over 30 years and also have more than 25 years being involved in football both as a player, the member of two high school coaching staffs, one of which won the Pennsylvania state championship in 1990, as well as pastor and friend to several NFL players and coaches. So right or wrong, I think I have a good perspective on the Tebow phenomenon.
First let’s talk about Tebow’s faith. He gets huge amounts of criticism for that faith. It seems to come in two forms. First there is the desire expressed by some that he tone down the verbal expressions of that faith. He opens every post-game interview with thanking his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then his teammates. He then goes on to answer the questions his is given. I have no doubt what so ever that when Tebow gives thanks to Jesus , he means it with all his heart, mind, and soul. But I also understand some people feeling like it has become a religious tradition and and that it is getting old. I also am convinced that for some the issue is that he is thanking Jesus Christ. For some folks that is just way too specific. If all he said was I want to thank “God” then there would be much less reaction. After all, a generic “God” is safe and a culturally accepted cliche’. But Tebow ratchets up the intensity by being specific about Jesus. Secondly, there is a subtle cynicism to the kind of work Tebow does overseas with orphans and other people in need. This criticism is a lot more guarded but still present. Some people seem to think it’s not genuine. Of course most every athlete who serves others gets that critique. Certainly some do it for the photo op. But having watched how Tebow very quietly goes about serving others, I have no doubt it is born out of a sincere desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
So do I think Tebow needs to tone down his faith? Not at all. Why? Well I could give you my reason as follower of Christ, but let me give it to you as a football coach. I would not want Tebow to change anything about how he conducts himself and his faith because you cannot separate Tim Tebow the Quarterback from Tim Tebow the Christ Follower. Like it or not, Tebow is in part the football player he is because of the Christ follower he is. His focus, confidence, resiliency, courage, and energy come in part from the relationship of Trust he has in Christ. You cannot compartmentalize a persons life as and act as if one part would be unaffected by the change in another. Tebow would no more be the competitor he is if you bisected him from his faith than Bret Favre would have been if you tried to bisect him from being a Louisiana country boy. All the pieces of who he is, including his faith make him the player he is.
But what about the football part of this. Scores of “experts” are convinced he can’t last, this is a temporary freak show, a lack of skill with catch up to him eventually. Clearly Tebow does not win pretty. He has an ugly throwing motion. His percentage of completions, under 50%, would get most quarterbacks benched. But as Steeler coach Mike Tomlin says, “football isn’t about style points, it’s about wins”. And Tebow is, if nothing else, a winner. Every once in a while players like that come along. They just seem to be able to win. Steeler Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is another great example of that. He never gets ranked with the Peyton Mannings or Tom Bradys of the football world. But he wins. Interestingly, some are starting to compare Tebow to Roethlisberger. In 25 years around football I have seen a number of players, who like Tebow would not get many style points, but they win. Part of how they do it is inspire something in the rest of the team. Their courage, confidence, energy, will, whatever, have a way of inspiring others on the team to raise their game and victories come. There is a huge psychology to team sports. Tebow is a guy you want on your team because of the impact he has on the mindset of the rest of the team. You can tell he has this impact just by the comments of some teammates. Denver has a different attitude since Tebow started taking snaps. They were on the verge of a disastrous season and now lead their division.
Personally I would love to see Tebow and Roethlisberger in the AFC Championship. Forget the pretty boys who score style points. Let me see some big tough quarterbacks who inspire something in others that raises their game and makes it a team win all the way around.
PLAYOFF UPDATE: Well I didn’t get to see Tebow and Big Ben in the AFC Championship. But I did get to see them in the playoffs against one another. Tebow did it again. Broncos win in overtime. Of course I would have preferred that Ben not be playing on one leg but that’s football. Tebow played what was the best game of his NFL career and he deserves all the props for that. With Ben and Troy our of the playoffs I am now officially hoping Tebow wins it all this year, if for no other reason that to make all the “experts” scratch their heads.