DENVER (BP)–Despite criticism of his play by football analysts and possible relegation to third-string status, Denver Broncos second-year quarterback Tim Tebow has maintained a positive outlook and says his faith in the Lord has given him strength.
“Others who say I won’t make it are wrong,” Tebow said in a Denver Post article in early August. “They don’t know what I’m capable of and what’s inside me. My family and my friends have been bothered by what’s gone on, and I tell them to pay no attention to it. I’m relying as always on my faith.”
Tebow, the first-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2010, opens his 2011 NFL season tonight (Sept. 12) when Denver faces Oakland, as the team’s backup quarterback behind starter Kyle Orton. Prior to the start of training camp, some speculated that the Broncos might trade Orton and that Tebow would be in the mix for the starting job.
But his training camp performance failed to impress the team, and Tebow may end up as the team’s third-string quarterback behind Brady Quinn. An Aug. 30 story in the Denver Post said that “nobody outside of Broncos headquarters knows whether Tebow or Quinn is Orton’s top backup.” Head coach John Fox “hasn’t announced that and likely won’t before the opener,” the paper reported. As of this morning (Sept. 12), the Broncos had made no official announcement about Tebow or Quinn’s status.
Several media critics have been vocal about their lack of confidence in Tebow’s ability.
“He can’t play. He can’t throw,” CBS Sports analyst Boomer Esiason said, as quoted in USA Today. “I’m not here to insult him. The reality is he was a great college football player, maybe the greatest college football player of his time. But he’s not an NFL quarterback right now. Just because he’s God-fearing, and a great person off the field, and was a winner with the team that had the best athletes in college football, doesn’t mean his game is going to translate to the NFL.”
ESPN analyst and former NFL running back Merril Hoge wrote on Twitter that it was “embarrassing” to think the Broncos could win with Tebow as quarterback. And ESPN columnist Rick Reilly said Tebow was a “nice kid, sincere as a first kiss, but he’s not ready yet, might never be ready. Somebody alert the Filipino missionaries. If he doesn’t improve, he might be among them sooner than we thought.”
Some have come to Tebow’s defense. CBS Sports analyst Randy Cross said Tebow is being unfairly hammered because of his Christian faith.
“People, especially the media, root against him because of what he stands for,” Cross said, as quoted in USA Today. “My personal belief is there are people in the media, people in the stands, who are predisposed to see a guy like that fail…. Just because he’s so public about the way he feels.”
Jim Shaddix, senior pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, said Tebow has consistently spoken for Christ, even “when worldly distractions seem to get the most air time.”
“His words and actions have demonstrated that the ultimate goal of life is calling attention to Christ and not seeking relief from life’s challenges, push-backs and attacks,” Shaddix said. “Tebow knows that your relationship with Christ doesn’t determine whether or not you’re successful in the NFL, nor does a successful NFL career determine your faithfulness to Christ.”
If Tebow succeeds in the NFL, Shaddix said he’ll use the platform to glorify God. If he doesn’t make it in the NFL, “he’ll find another platform to accomplish the same thing. That’s what he lives for.”
Tebow, a member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., has remained upbeat.
“I just have fun, you know, playing football,” Tebow said in an ESPN story. “I love doing that, and so when I get an opportunity, just play. It feels good. And I love doing it, so you know I’m not really down, no.”
In a Denver Post story, Tebow said the criticism would only serve as fuel and “more motivation to work even harder and become even stronger.”
“I’ll practice as good as I can, but I know that I play even better, with the qualities I have — leadership, my ability to make something happen in games, winning,” Tebow said. “And I know there are a lot of people who believe in me as a player and a person, and I don’t want to let them down.”
Tim Ellsworth is editor of BPSports (www.BPSports.net) and director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.