Thinking (And Not Believing) About The Future Of Tim Tebow

You might believe a lot of things about Tim Tebow. Spencer Hall would like to ask what you know, though.

I think New York will be bored by Tim Tebow's likely average and event-free football career. The odds are strongly in favor of this: quarterbacks average about 4.5 years in the National Football League, and going into year three, this means Tebow should pass the statistical average for midpoint quarterback life sometime around Week 7 of the 2012 season. If he suffers some kind of football-appropriate midlife crisis, you will know why.

The boredom wager depends in large part on Mark Sanchez keeping his starting job, another likelihood given familiarity with the team's systems and his ability to sometimes complete passes. (Not that Sanchez's 56.7 percent completion rate will make anyone confuse him for Aaron Rodgers, but it still outpaces Tim Tebow's 46.5 percent.) The team's chemistry is reportedly awful. Upsetting it even further by putting in a single-wing specialist with a spotty arm for anything but short yardage situations would be Rex Ryan skipping happily into his own suicide machine. I imagine this happening to some jolly fat guy music.

SONGS REX RYAN WOULD DO A JOLLY TWO-STEP INTO THE SUICIDE BOOTH TO:

  1. "Knights of Cydonia," Muse
  2. "What's Your Fantasy?" Ludacris
  3. "Lust For Life," Iggy Pop
  4. "Blitzkrieg Bop," Ramones
  5. "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," Lou Rawls

Adulthood works like this. Zero credit is advanced from one day to the next, and should not be. Tim Tebow remains one of my favorite college football players ever, and he could have been that without ever making a speech, saying a word or ever writing anything on his eyeblack.

He was not a bright football player, mind you, but rather a dumb, unstoppable water buffalo of a quarterback. Tackling him was one option, but confusing him worked a lot better, something Nick Saban and his staff figured out after Tebow singlehandedly beat them in the 2008 SEC Championship Game. (The sequel in 2009 was Alabama hanging a plastic grocery bag on the door of his barn, and Tebow happily stampeded himself into a frenzy in response.)


NFL Expert Brad Wells on the Tebow trade.

You can be successful as a dumb quarterback, but you have to have at least one kind of intelligence to succeed. Dan Marino's Wonderlic was dismal, but being the kind of dumb that only throws to open receivers with a nanosecond-long windup and release works, too.

Brett Favre clearly falls into the idiot savant category. Ben Roethlisberger once collided headfirst with a car in a motorcycle accident without a helmet, and the first question after establishing that he was fine was not, "but how's his head?" Ben Roethlisberger is not very smart, and he does not have to be because he is a bridge troll who can run a 4.75 and throw the ball 60 yards before you can crack a proper fart.

BEST DUMB GENIUS QUARTERBACKS IN THE HISTORY OF THE NFL

  1. Brett Favre
  2. Steve McNair
  3. Dan Marino
  4. Ben Roethlisberger
  5. Trent Dilfer (Super Bowl!)

The Jets' new second-string acquisition is none of these. His release is still a glorified shoulder dislocation. His ability to read defenses has improved little from his college days, and his timer for when to stop scrambling still seems set on "collegiate" mode. Two of these things can improve with time and patience. One is hard-wired, and despite tweaking, will never improve.

The rest is repeating variations of his exalted character, saying he's a winner, and then repeating these ad nauseam. Both are demonstrably true to some degree. At 8-6 as a starter, Tebow does have a winning record at quarterback, small sample sizes be damned. He is also, by all accounts, a very good person who visits sick children, does charity work, and most importantly for the media, has a golden smile. Reporters, by the way, crave smiles. They are to modern sports reporters what having all your teeth was to voters in the 19th century: a point of envy and admiration indicating superior life skills and virtue. (Tim Tebow, for the record, has splendid dental health.)

THINGS THAT GOT YOU ELECTED INSTANTLY IN 19TH CENTURY AMERICA

  1. Having teeth
  2. No mange on scalp
  3. Sideburns
  4. Surviving until your 45th year
  5. Beating a tax collector to death on stage

The basics about him as an athlete on the field have changed little since he was drafted. This brings us to everything else surrounding Tim Tebow: the mystic aura of winnerdom he has, the ginned-up debate surrounding his mystic powers of man-up-ability in clutch situations, and the resulting counterstrike against the Tebow Traveling Revival Show and Lifetime Movie of The Week.

Athletes have varying degrees of adhesion. Someone like Tom Brady is Teflon-ready: bland in comment, superb in performance and devoid of any granted public personality. He is an $800 espresso machine of an athlete: expensive, perfect, efficient. You get what you pay for, but it's not going to do anything other than what it does.

Tebow is a messier subject, a stickier surface for projected meaning. He attracts the sports fan who believes, against all evidence and track record, that heart alone matters against intelligence, talent ceilings and context. These things are believed first, and then thought, and then attached to a hope that becomes deeply personal. His attachment with evangelicals is bottomless, and with good reason. They adore him for the same reason I love Willie Nelson: shared values, a common feeling with his background and policy agreements on substance abuse and sex. Like sports, it's a matter of team loyalty and identity politics. In a lot of cases, those are one and the same.

This cycle works the same way for those who despise him, but even more so now that he's had some part in the small success of a playoff team. They believe first, and then move to knowing without hitting so much as a speed bump of contrasting evidence along the way. Like really persistent atheists, they practice a faith, too.

THINGS I THINK BASED ON SUPERSTITION AND FAITH WITH NO EVIDENCE TO BACK THEM UP AND NO SUPPORTING ARGUMENTS WHATSOEVER

  1. Stretching is useless.
  2. Alabamians are not to be trusted with anything ever for any reason.
  3. Walking across graves is bad and has some kind of vague spiritual repercussions.
  4. Clear liquor will not give you a hangover (despite much evidence to the contrary.)
  5. Getting scratched by a tree with Dutch Elm Disease will give you Dutch Elm Disease, too.

The truth is that -- in what will be year three -- no one knows that it will not work. I think Tim Tebow could be a superb tight end, H-back or fullback. He could probably be a passable linebacker given time. If he wanted to throw the world a curveball, he could probably become a professional rugby player of some serious value. I think he will get an NFL pension by playing in the league for five years, and will probably spend the rest of his life being a reasonably good person somewhere. I am certain he will marry someone attractive (because he is rich) and make burly children (because he is burly).

These are things I think based on things I know about the subject of Tim Tebow. I believe nothing about him, but that is not about sports. That's a matter of belief, and of theology, and of things without box scores. Football is not a theology. If Tim Tebow exists on the football field, it will not require prayer, hope or faith to prove it. He will be right there between the lines, and as irrefutable as gravity itself.

That's something I hope to see, if only because I think Rex Ryan winning a Super Bowl would be the best bender since Barry Switzer running up a six-figure room service liquor bill during preparations for Super Bowl XXX. Ryan might eat an endangered species to celebrate a Super Bowl. This would most likely be a batter-fried chunk of Great Barrier Reef he purchased for the occasion. He would hail it as "f---in' delicious." Skepticism is fine, but never, ever let it kill dreams as glorious as these.

ENDANGERED SPECIES I WOULD EAT IF I HAD TO EAT AN ENDANGERED SPECIES TO SURVIVE

  1. Wild Water Buffalo
  2. Volcano Rabbit
  3. Great White Shark
  4. Golden Hamster
  5. African Wild Ass

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