The following is the latest in the series of opinion articles by WUSA 9 Sports Anchor Dave Owens.
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Every time a story about Tim Tebow hits the wires I find myself thinking a few things. First, thank you lord for sending him somewhere besides Washington, D.C. Reporters here have enough problems trying to make stories out of weekly updates on RG3's knee or his wedding registry.
The second thing I think about is how lucky Tim Tebow is. This guy gets more television coverage than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Adrian Peterson, Griffin (maybe), Andrew Luck, Megatron, Vick, Romo, Eli...take a breath...ok, continue...Big Ben, Little Ben, and every other possible NFL storyline you could think of.
Ok, that was a little exaggerated but you get the point. I saw someone tweet how they felt bad for Tebow because the media is exposing him. Tebow should feel overjoyed.
His NFL shelf life is currently going into its fourth year. About three years longer than it should have lasted. Don't get me wrong, he was a fabulous college player, in fact, the best for a couple of years. From 2007 to 2009 he was the Sultan of Saturday's. The Baron of ball in the SEC and thus, the country. In my mind, Tebow's Heisman season of 2007 (55 total touchdowns) ranks as one of the best in collegiate history. He was magnificent!
But the college game is different than the pro game and we've seen that over and over and over and over. Especially when it comes to quarterbacks.
Tebow couldn't throw in college but he was a great athlete who could overcome any shortcomings by just being better than everybody else. But great athletes have dominated college sports for years only to be exposed at the pro level where everyone is a great athlete.
Tim Tebow is lucky, at least he got a chance to try. Others haven't been so fortunate. Think about the fabulous running quarterbacks who never got a chance in the pro ranks. Anyone remember Tommy Frazier? Nebraska's dual threat quarterback was multi-faceted greatness personified. A running back in quarterback's clothing for the Cornhuskers in the mid 90's. Lord knows he could run, and his passing skills were decent. Yet when it came time to take the next step. Crickets.
Critics will say there were health problems and they are correct. Frazier suffered from blood clots as a result of Crohn's disease but it wasn't enough to stop him from playing in Canada. He never played in the NFL.
West Virginia's Major Harris finished third and fifth respectively in two Heisman Trophy votes in the late 80's and never played a down in the NFL. He too had to eat Canadian bacon, just like Frazier.
Remember how dominant Charlie Ward was as a Florida State Seminole? Whew! The 1993 Heisman trophy winner was more classic QB than dual threat and still there were many who doubted he was worth a high draft pick. He never played a down in the NFL.
There are others: Turner Gill, Eric Crouch, Tony Rice, JC Watts, Pat White, etc. I know what you're thinking, different players, different timeframes and the game has changed. You're right and that's why Tebow is soooooo lucky.
He came along at a time when some minds were more open to trying different offensive schemes. He also, however, represented something less tangible and more uncomfortable to discuss.
Tebow, in my mind, was part media creation. In his college years television coverage tended to emphasize his love of the game, his intensity, his fire. How many times did cameras catch him on the sidelines in a dirt-soiled uniform imploring teammates to kick it in gear? An announcer would surely comment how Tebow's leadership skills were the driving force for the Gators. They were probably right. But other players cared, too. They might not have screamed it on sidelines, but they cared. TV execs were simply crafting Tebow's clean-cut, all-American, I'm gonna try harder than anyone, super pious image for a national viewing audience. The hell whether he could actually play quarterback, this was TV gold.
He also looked the part: White, physically fit, with a great smile. The John Wayne of football. He was easy to market and television took full advantage. Back then whether he knew it or not (he probably did), Tebow was being cast in a way that impacted viewers and often clouded analysis of his actual talents. That's ok in college because heck, it's college.
What I found amazing, however, was how lenient some professional analysts were when it came to Tebow's NFL skill set. Each year we sit around and listen to pundits nit-pick every morsel of a quarterback's game and rightfully so by the way. Yet when Tebow time came it was as if the grading scale had changed for some. The inability to throw all of a sudden became less of a hindrance and more of an opportunity for pro football GM's to open their minds to different offensive opportunities.
This is where it gets uncomfortable. One wonders how much race played in all this. The NFL's track record on issues of race is appalling. The paucity of minority head coaches is proof. The way the quarterback position has been treated and analyzed historically is just as appalling.
Black quarterbacks have always come under more scrutiny about their passing ability. Moreover, questions concerning their acumen are subtle yet ever present. That unfortunate bias carries over to the way quarterbacks are sometimes analyzed. Words like accuracy and poise are often code for intelligence, while athletic is often code for undisciplined and not trustworthy in the clutch.
Prior to last year's draft you sometimes heard these words used to describe RG3 and Andrew Luck. Griffin always the athletic one, Luck always the more NFL-ready one. Turns out they were both athletic, smart and NFL ready.
Whether subconscious or not, there is sometimes a tendancy by analysts to be more forgiving of a White quarterback's flaws than a Black quarterback's. Take Donovan McNabb for instance. Regardless of how you feel about his stint in Washington, he's a borderline Hall of Famer. But people forget there were questions about his accuracy and concerns about his pocket passing ability when he came out of Syracuse in the late 90's. So much so he felt compelled to participate in postseason college all-star games and the NFL Combine in an effort to ease scouts fears. A position change always seems to be a viable option when it comes to Black quarterbacks.
When it came to Tebow, you didn't hear that as much, in fact I heard some say Tebow should be given every opportunity to play quarterback first and foremost. Wow, somewhere guys like Harris and Gill and Frazier and Watts and even present day guys like Dennard Robinson must be wishing they had that kind of grading scale.
Tim Tebow is lucky. He's ridden a pretty substantial wave in the cycle of broadcast television, which is often a rollercoaster, continually subjective, and almost never fair.
That last part is important. It's not fair and it's not his fault. He didn't ask for this. By all accounts he's a decent person who wants to play ball. But make no mistake: he's being used. He's a fascinating, polarizing story. Athleticism, religion, lack of quarterback skills, race -- it's a perfect equation. Put it on television.
Negative pushback, however, comes with Tebow-mania as people get sick and tired of hearing about him. But television executives know that too is a story in itself.
Tim Tebow is nearing a time when his only option will be the CFL, which is where he probably should've been in the first place. He should be glad, however, that he got the chance to divert that direct path for a few years and make a little money along the way. So many others didn't get that chance.