It’s no surprise Tim Tebow gained a reputation as a great teammate because he’s a great person.
He’s friendly, respectful and always ready to accommodate media and fans.
He’s a man of faith who actually appears to practice what he preaches.
Tebow is the NFL’s gold standard for generosity.
He brings hope to children suffering from illness and injury through his foundation. He even flies some of these kids and their families to games to enjoy the NFL experience as his personal guest. The Walter Payton Humanitarian Award should be renamed in his honor.
But his is the last jersey you’d want to see hanging in the locker next to yours if you’re an average NFL quarterback. Just ask Kyle Orton, who finished 2011 with a Total QBR of 49.8, compared to Tebow’s 29.9. Yet, conventional wisdom claims Tebow had the better year because he was the signal caller when Denver strung together one of the luckiest streaks in history.
He’s the last guy you’d want to pass block for because of his unpredictable pocket antics. Just ask Ryan Clady, who had his worst year as a pro trying to protect the skittish quarterback only to return to All-Pro status guarding Peyton Manning’s blind side.
He’s the last guy you’d want to run routes for, hustling to beat defenders play after play only to watch the ball sail over your head or get drilled into the turf. Just ask Brandon Lloyd, who demanded—and received— a trade immediately after Tebow got the starting nod in Denver.
He’s the last guy you’d want to kick for because you know that late drive is going to stall and the fate of the game will rest on your shoulders. Just ask Matt Prater, who kicked seven game-tying or game-winning field goals in the fourth quarter or overtime—three from over 50 yards.
He’s the last guy you’d want to punt for: Denver’s 31.4 percent third-down conversion rate was the third worst in the league. Just ask Britton Colquitt, who led the league with 112 punts in 2011 versus 72 in 2012. Considering the paycheck cashes the same either way, would you rather earn your money 7 times a game for Tebow or 4.5 times a game for Manning?
He’s the last guy you’d want to play defense for. How much rest can you really get on the sideline when your offense fails to convert on 3rd down over nine times a game? Tebow offered his defense only one two-score or larger lead in “his” eight victories—half of which required overtime to secure. An offense that ineffective transfers an unsustainable amount of pressure to the defense.
He’s the last guy you’d want to coach, reportedly scoring dead last on the Wonderlic test among his QB peers in the 2010 Draft. Just ask Josh McDaniels, who traded up into the first round to snag Tebow only to leave him on the bench even when his head coaching days in Denver were numbered. What did McDaniels see in practice to prevent him from deploying his secret weapon in a time of need?
He’s the last guy a general manager would want to sign for reasons other than his performance on the field. Just ask Jacksonville Jaguars’ GM, David Caldwell. He squashed the Tebow rumors as soon as he got the job. Maybe he noticed New York Jets’ GM Mike Tannenbaum lost his job just days earlier due—in part—to the Tebow trade.
So the only part left of any organization that would welcome Tebow is the ownership and fan base, neither of which spends much time in the locker room. Owners want him because Tebow has a rabid following that will increase attendance and buy all sorts of Tebow-related merchandise. His No. 15 jersey led all player sales for the Broncos and the Jets during his tenure with each franchise.
Fans love him because he’s an excellent role model for themselves and their kids. He’s a benevolent super hero with no signs falling from society’s lofty pedestal.
But Tebow will not be embraced among his NFL peers until he applies the humility of his personal life to his professional one. He can’t keep strolling into new cities reciting his desire to compete for the starting quarterback’s job when his skill set merits the personal protector on punt team.
Until then Tebow will remain an exceptional human being and a terrible teammate, polarizing locker rooms as one of the most paradoxical characters of our generation.