First thought upon hearing that a survey named Tim Tebow the country’s most desirable neighbor: Ah, finally, Ned Flanders for the next generation.
“What’s that, neighbor Simpson, you want me to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers? Okely-dokely-do!”
It makes sense: Tebow has no noisy kids and we presume he doesn’t throw loud, all-night parties. He wouldn’t put the squeeze on you for a loan or tap into your wireless.
Face it, the guy’s qualifications as a neighbor were never in question. But his suitability as quarterback for an NFL franchise? Now that was a long shot.
And the fact that he has led the Denver Broncos into the divisional playoff round this weekend against New England is the most dramatic development of the NFL season.
It has made compelling theater, and would be great water-cooler fodder if there were still people employed in offices that supplied free water.
Sunday’s 29-23 overtime win over Pittsburgh was the highest-rated wild-card round game in 24 seasons (42 million viewers). And his game-winning touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas sparked a record 9,420 tweets per second, according to Twitter.
Imagine what the ratings and tweetage will be when Tebow and the Broncos take on Tom Brady’s Patriots this Saturday evening.
No matter the polarizing debate, Tebow has been terrific for the NFL.
Because his quarterbacking skill-set is unconventional, and his expressions of Christian faith so persistent, Tebow has faced doubters and detractors since his college career at Florida.
But in the notorious lock-step, group-think environment that is the NFL, Tebow has broken molds and disrupted the status quo.
It would be easy to say that he has proved his detractors wrong, but in most ways, he’s been almost exactly what anybody has said – positive and negative – and still been successful.
Those who knock him for being an inaccurate passer with flawed and inconsistent mechanics are absolutely right. He shouldn’t be an NFL quarterback to the same degree bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly.
Those in the opposing camp – who praise his athleticism, competitiveness and toughness – also are absolutely right.
But those descriptions deserve modifiers that fully capture what he’s accomplished. He’s been stunningly athletic, infectiously competitive, and so tough as to be, apparently, indestructible.
The Act One setup was the Broncos’ 1-4 start with quarterback Kyle Orton. Tebow was entering his second season after being a low first-round pick.
Tebow was drafted – by a previous Broncos regime – in the hope he could be reshaped into a conventional NFL quarterback. But it was new coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who realized the key was to reshape their conventional NFL offense to fit Tebow as a quarterback.
By deciding to dump Orton and go to a collegiate option-style offense, the Broncos began pressuring defenses in new ways, and Tebow’s flair for dramatic fourth-quarter rallies inspired a six-game winning streak.
Three losses at the end of the regular season dimmed the Tebow fervor a bit, and caused the favored Steelers to go to Denver with a perfectly logical game plan: Jam the line with defenders and trust that Tebow couldn’t pass well enough to win the game.
Against the league’s No. 1 pass defense, Tebow netted 316 yards with just 10 completions for two touchdowns while also running for a score.
He threw some passes into the dirt and some wobbled in the air like a Nerf ball. But others were perfect in timing, placement and velocity, making it his best day as an NFL passer.
The win was a collaborative function of Thomas’ 204 receiving yards, the Denver defense and offensive line, and the staff’s scheme – not to mention some key Steelers injuries.
But at the game’s core, the Steelers dared Tebow to beat them. And he did.
Afterward, Tebow first thanked his lord and savior, as is his custom.
I’ve known devout athletes who come to sense that the efficacy of their testament is enhanced by selective placement.
But Tebow seems to be powered by his beliefs, and he certainly has earned his place on the platform.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com