There wasn’t much reason to dislike Tim Tebow, who never pretended to be anything he wasn’t. Blame him for the Tebowing craze, if you will, but even that was worth a few laughs in a league that doesn’t always embrace fun.
There wasn’t much reason to like him as an NFL quarterback, either. Three teams tried their best to make use of his unique talents, but even Bill Belichick couldn’t find a way to turn him into a competent QB.
It’s hard to imagine anyone else trying, which means ESPN is going to have to find other programming to fill the hours that were spent endlessly debating Tebow’s every move. Maybe the network can give him a show of his own for the profits he helped it make during the past few years.
If it’s over for Tebow, well, maybe it’s for the best. Allows him to get on with his life, and allows us to avoid being bombarded with news and opinions on a quarterback who was never going to be more than a bit player in the league at best.
The NFL is a cold and unforgiving place. There’s no room for sentimentality, no place for a quarterback who can’t throw. Players are tossed onto the scrap heap with little regard to what they’ve done before or how well they’re liked.
A lot of people were rooting for some kind of miracle transformation in New England, given Belichick’s track record with reclamation projects. Surely, they thought, he would find some way to improve Tebow’s ungainly mechanics enough to win a spot as Tom Brady’s backup.
But even with owner Bob Kraft coming out earlier in the week to say he was rooting for Tebow to make the team, it wasn’t enough. Neither was Tebow’s best outing of the preseason on Thursday, when he completed 6 of 11 passes for 91 yards against the New York Giants.
History will tell us that Tebowmania peaked on a cold Sunday in Denver, when Tebow threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first snap of overtime on Jan. 8, 2012, and the Broncos upset the Pittsburgh Steelers, 29-23, in the opening round of the playoffs. Tebowing was suddenly the rage, and Tebow finally had some believers in his quest to become a starting quarterback in a league where passing is everything.
“He showed he’s a quarterback in the NFL,” Broncos running back Willis McGahee said afterward. “Case closed.”
The next week Tom Brady threw six touchdown passes and Tebow and the Broncos were completely outmatched by the Patriots in a 45-10 loss that ended their brief playoff run. Tebow was nothing short of awful, completing just nine passes and getting sacked five times.
John Elway couldn’t get Tebow out of town fast enough, and for some reason the Jets couldn’t wait to get him.
But even with Mark Sanchez self-destructing under center, Rex Ryan wasn’t going to give Tebow any playing time.
That the Patriots picked him up wasn’t a total shock, considering Belichick believes he can make a better football player out of anyone. That he didn’t even make it to the regular season with the Pats, though, was the final indication that Tebow just doesn’t have the skills to play in the league.
Tebow has no reason to be ashamed. He did everything he could to be a quarterback in the NFL, but it’s a position that requires a certain skill set. Tebow didn’t have the accuracy in his arm, and quarterbacks who run aren’t valued in the NFL unless they can throw, too.
What worked in college at Florida — where he won two national championships and a Heisman — didn’t work in the pros. Great guy, great effort, but a bad fit from the moment Denver took him with the 25th pick of the 2010 draft.
Tebow took the news of his release Saturday in the same stoic way he has taken all his disappointments in the NFL. He remained unbending, at least on Twitter, where he vowed to find another team willing to take yet another chance.
At some point, though, Tebow will have to face reality. If three different teams and three different coaches couldn’t turn him into an NFL quarterback, odds aren’t good any other team or coach can, either. It will be time to let go of the dream, and find something else to do in life.
Luckily for Tebow, he already has that something. He’s a missionary intent on spreading the word, and he’s a positive speaker who can make NFL quarterback money on the lecture circuit should he choose to do so. ESPN is so obsessed with him that he might even be hired as a TV analyst.
The regular season starts this week, and there are teams — Buffalo comes to mind — that could still really use a quarterback. And desperate teams (Jets?) sometimes do desperate things.
By now, though, even they should have figured out that Tebowmania has run its course.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press.