I recently caused a bit of a stir on my Facebook Wall and Twitter Sunday night when I stated after having watched the NY Jets’ preseason game vs. the Carolina Panthers “I’m sorry fans but Tim Tebow is PATHETIC as an NFL QB!”
When I look at Tim Tebow, I look at him through the lense of a football fan and I see a gifted football player while simultaneously seeing a deeply flawed quarterback (QB) who — on his best day — struggles to be average.
In seeing him this way I, like many others, am missing the point. Here’s why….
Before I make my case, let me throw a couple of facts and figures at you.
Tim Tebow’s Jets #15 jersey is amongst the top selling in the league, trailing only that of the Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning’s No. 18 jersey, which is the #1 seller and also Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III’s No. 10 jersey, which is the #2 best seller.
Tebow’s jersey outsells the likes of perennial Pro Bowlers and Super Bowl winning QBs like the New England Patriots Tom Brady, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans Saints Drew Brees. All of whom are universally considered to be amongst not only the top QBs in the game today, but the top QBs of the current era. Robert Griffin III (known as RG3), along with the man whose jersey sales immediately trail Tebow’s — Indianapolis Colts’ QB Andrew Luck — carry the destinction of being the #2 and #1 players drafted overall in the 2012 NFL draft respectively.
And then there’s Tebow.
Why? How is it that a QB who has not managed to complete more than 50% of his passes in a given season is held in such lofty company by fans all over the country? As a marketer, and a professional who taps into communities in order to build influence and advocacy for brands, I feel almost ashamed to be asking these questions.
The question isn’t “what is this happening?”, the real question is “why has it taken this long to happen????”
Tim Tebow has brought together the perfect storm of 3 of the most powerful influences in American culture at the moment:
In unlocking #1 and #3, he has brought together powerful tribes within our society and although I’m far from a fan of his, I think we may only be seeing the beginning of his appeal.
Let’s start wtih football. As pathetic of an NFL QB Tebow is, he was as accomplished and successful of a collegiate football QB as perhaps there has been in quite some time. According to Wikipedia:
He was the SEC’s all-time leader in career passing efficiency (170.8), completion percentage (67.1%), passing touchdown to interception ratio (5.5 to 1), rushing yards by a quarterback (2947), rushing touchdowns (any position) (57), and total touchdowns responsible for (145). Among many mentions in the NCAA Division-I record book, Tebow is ranked second in career passing efficiency, third in career yards per attempt (9.33), 8th in career rushing touchdowns, and also owns the record for most consecutive games in which he both threw at least one touchdown pass and scored at least one rushing touchdown (14).
Keep in mind, Tebow won the prestigeous Heisman Trophy once (in 2009) and the Maxwell Award twice (2007 and 2008). Keep also in mind that in many parts of the US, followers of collegiate football are far more loyal and ravenous than are followers of NFL professional football.
And then there was that improbable run Tebow led the Denver Broncos on last year to make the playoffs. Bad throws and all, starting with week 3 when Tebow relieved then starting QB Kyle Orton to lead the Broncos on a near comeback against the San Diego Chargers (a team led by a much better QB named Philip Rivers), Tebow helped lead the Broncos to win 7 of their next 8 games and to clinch a playoff spot!
Each week, Tebow fans would cheer him to victory. Each week, Tebow haters would wait for the bad QB play and overthrown receivers to catch up with him yet each week something bizarre or undexpected would happen. The other team would fumble at the WORST moment (Marion Barber and the Chicago Bears) or all of the sudden Tebow — who couldn’t hit the side of a barn the entire game — would go on a hot streak passing the ball in the last 3 minutes.
After week 3, I couldn’t explain it any longer. It was almost as if some higher power was helping from above, cuz Tebow stunk.
Finally, the hot streak stopped for the last 3 games to end the regular season. However when Tebow hit wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in overtime of a tied playoff game vs. the favored Pittsburgh Steelers for an 80 yard touchdown to win the game — the legend was truly born. He cemented his status as one of the most popular players in the most popular sport in the country.
Let’s get to the sex!
1. It does not hurt Tebow’s cause that he is blessed with movie star looks. 2. Tebow, deeply religious (we’ll get to that in a moment) is waiting until marriage and says he’s still a virgin at age 25. To be sure, Tebow is hardly the only hearthrob in professional football, yet even the likes of Tom Brady — who is married to super model Giselle Bundchen — doesn’t seem to have stirred anywhere near this kind mania.
And we can’t have sex without a little faith to wash it down!
During his colleagiate career, Tebow famously wore his faith all over his face. Literally! During game days he would write Bible verses under his eyes, on top of his eye black. The NCAA enacted a rule, to go in effect conveniently after Tebow’s playing days were over at the college level, banning all words, logos, numbers, or other symbols on players’ eye black beginning the next season. This rule is unofficially known as the “Tebow Rule”.
And then there’s “Tebowing”. Tebowing is a ritual started by Tebow where he gets onto one knee and prays. Tebowing became a phenomenon last year and the only thing good about it is that it seemed to have relieved most folks of the need to go spontaneously planking.
But however hokey Tebowing may be, his genuine acts of kindness are well-documented. From his visits to prisons to his humanitarian effortgs in Singapore through his Tebow Foundation, while many NFL fans disagree over whether or not they’d have him as their QB, few would object to having him in their living room or marry their own daughter for that matter. He’s about as solid as they come, once off a football field.
Perhaps it’s fitting that when the Denver Broncos realized they would be able to get prized free agent QB Peyton Manning after all, when presenting Tebow with the option of being traded to the New York Jets or the Jacksonville Jaguars — which is in the state of Florida, where he played college football and is is already a GOD — Tebow passed on the opportunity to go back to Florida in favor of coming to the Big Apple.
After all, they don’t have Madison Avenue in Jacksonville. And something tells me that this Tebow moment is only going to gather momentum, even after he decides to hang up the cleats and pursue movie stardom, modeling or make a 3.5 hour move south down the turnpike to a little town called Washington.
Who knows? He may choose all of the above!