I normally don't blog about sports, but this particular issue is of note simply because for some it transcends sports. Last week, the Denver Broncos elected to sign Peyton Manning, the star free agent quarterback from the Indianapolis Colts. For anyone with even an elementary understanding of NFL football, you know that Peyton Manning is a name that is larger than life. He is considered by many to not only be one of the best quarterbacks today, but one of the greatest all-time. So, naturally, Manning's choice to sign with the Broncos has created an electricity of excitement throughout the football world.
But the Broncos didn't just sign Manning. To make room for their new star, Denver also decided to trade away their most popular player, Tim Tebow. For some, the disappointment of losing Tebow could not be overcome even by the signing of a living legend. After all, Tebow was fast becoming a fixture in the Denver community.
Let me just say right from the beginning that I LOVE Tim Tebow. I love what he did in Denver last season. I cannot remember watching a more enjoyable season of Bronco football in the past decade. Virtually every game came right down to the wire. Watching Tim Tebow struggle for 3 1/2 quarters only to lead his team to a miraculous final minute comeback was the stuff of Hollywood scripts. And even though I have never been that big of a Bronco fan, I can honestly say that Tim Tebow made me a quasi-convert. What can I say, I'm a sucker for the underdog.
But this isn't the only reason that I love Tim Tebow. I love Tim Tebow because he is arguably the best role model in professional athletics today. Regardless of his passing percentage or his difficulty running a pro offense, nobody can argue that Tim Tebow is one of the kindest, hardest working, and moral athletes in all of professional sports, and in a world full of promiscuous, selfish and narcissistic prick athletes and celebrities, Tim Tebow is a welcomed breath of fresh air. Those who hate Tebow for the man he is are either selfish, diluted or just downright bitter at heart. Reviling Tebow for his public demonstrations of faith reveals more about the character of the critic than it does about Tebow himself. Tim Tebow is the epitome of a class act.
Let's face it, the NFL (like any professional sports league) is a business; a business that is concerned with one thing: making money. And nothing rings in the dollar signs more than winning. Winning is the only thing that matters in professional sports. Now, people may argue that there is more to life than winning (and I would agree 100%) but the fact remains that players, coaches, managers and owners are paid VERY good money to do one thing: win. And though Tim Tebow is a proven fighter, the Denver Broncos were more than justified to trade him away this week. And just how were they justified? The answer is simple: For all of his class, character, work ethic, leadership, grit and tenacity, Tim Tebow is still no Peyton Manning.
I have read and watched the responses from a number of people this week, who have expressed their disappointment at the Broncos for trading away Tim Tebow. Many have insinuated that Tebow's Christian beliefs are the motivation behind such a course of action. Even America's favorite crazy man with a bully pulpit (no, not Glenn Beck), Pat Roberston has suggested that the Broncos traded away Tebow for his Christian beliefs, and that he (and other Christians) would like to see Peyton Manning get hurt or fail (because nothing reveals one's Christian beliefs more than wanting bad things for those you dislike. Screw the whole "love your enemy", "turn the other cheek" thing).
In fairness, I agree with many of my Christian friends when they point out that Tebow is often the brunt of many a low-blow joke against his religion. I have read many ridiculous commentaries in sports columns, blogs and Facebook posts, all knocking Tebow for being a man of faith (as if that is something to be ashamed of). Heck, I have even had a little fun at Tebow's expense. And though there will always be those who poke fun at Tebow for his beliefs, I find it absolutely ridiculous to read the words of those who believe that the Denver Broncos were somehow motivated (whether consciously or sub-conscientiously) to trade Tebow out of religious bigotry.
As they say on ESPN, Monday Night Countdown, "C'mon man!"
There are two major reasons why this argument is laughable:
Reason # 1.) Tim Tebow isn't the only devout Christian on the Denver Broncos.
I couldn't find a ton of information on the topic (nor did I look that hard) but from even the minor research I did, I was able to discover that at least 9 other players on the Denver Broncos are vocal, self-proclaimed Christians: Britton Colquit, Elvis Dumervil, Andre Goodman, Caleb Hanie (who was just signed), Tracy Porter, Demaryius Thomas, Willis McGahee (has hinted at it) and Tony Hillis. I am sure there are others on the team who would consider themselves to be Christians but I haven't seen any evidence of it, so I didn't want to include them here. In addition it has been star safety Brian Dawkins, not Tim Tebow, who has led team Bible study groups for the past couple of seasons, and has vocalized his Christian beliefs as well.
Obviously Tebow has been a focal point for attention due in part to his very vocal expression of personal faith, but again, Tebow is far from the first athlete to take such a stance. Not long ago it was Kurt Warner who garnered attention for his personal beliefs. Before him, we can recall Karl Lewis or Evander Holyfield expressing their gratitude to Jesus Christ for all of their athletic success. Heck, even Lou Gehrig paid homage to the Christian god for his illustrious baseball career. The point is this: Tim Tebow isn't the first athlete to express his Christian faith in the public arena, nor was it the reason that the Denver Broncos chose to trade him away. Denver is literally obsessed with finding somebody to replace the great John Elway, and they don't believe they have found that "heir apparent" in Tim Tebow. Replacing quarterbacks has been the basic M.O. for the Denver Broncos over the past 12 seasons. Since John Elway's departure, the Denver Broncos have had ten different starting QB's:
Kyle OrtonClearly the "Christianity" of a player has had little impact when it comes to the Broncos parting ways with one of their past QB's. Maybe they are being overly-picky about who plays QB for their team but that is a separate issue. Denver just wants consistency at the quarterback position. Had Tebow passed for 4,000 yards and 35 TD's, I have no doubt that the organization would not have even considered signing Manning, nor would they care about him paying public homage to Jesus, Allah, or even chili cheese fries.
Reason # 2.) It's Peyton Friggin' Manning!
Yes, I realize that Peyton Manning's greatest days may very well be behind him but I think it is safe to say that an aging Manning is far superior to a young Tebow. And yes, Manning's injury may be worse than advertised but isn't every NFL player one hit away from ending their career? All things considered, Peyton Manning is more than worth all of the risk. Case in point:
-- Manning has won 4 MVP awards, more than any other player in NFL history. Tebow hasn't even been in contention for the award.***One impressive stat that Tebow owns from last season: six 4th quarter comeback wins! That is a very impressive and important stat. But do you know who did it even more than that? Peyton Manning. He did it 7 times in 2009. The most ever in a single season.
-- Manning has led his team to 2 Super Bowls, winning once and also taking home the game's MVP award. Tebow hasn't come close...yet.
-- Manning has thrown for over 4,000 yards in a season ,11 different times, more than any other QB ever. Tebow has never come close to a 4,000 yard season.
-- Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in 63 games (tied for most ever). Tebow has thrown for over 300 yards only once.
-- Manning reached the milestone of 50,000 passing yards faster than any other QB in history. Who out there really thinks that Tebow will reach 50,000? Ever?
-- Manning is 3rd all-time in TD passes, behind only Dan Marino and Brett Favre. Tebow has a mere 17 TD passes in his career.
It should be obvious to anyone with even an elementary understanding of football that Peyton Manning is a MUCH better QB than Tim Tebow. Of course, Tebow is younger and may very well blossom into an amazing player in his own right, but in the here and now, Peyton Manning is as elite as it gets. There are only a few teams that would pass on such a player (Green Bay, New Orleans, New England, Pittsburgh), but they are teams that already have an elite QB. Manning is a steal for the Broncos. Sure, it is possible that the Broncos will eventually regret having signed Manning and traded away Tebow. Manning could get hurt, he could suck, or he could choke, while Tebow could go on to lead the Jets to Super Bowl immortality. All players are prospects, which is just a fancy way of saying a gamble. Manning is a gamble, but he's a SMART gamble. With 14 seasons of successful, predictable and productive results, Manning is a safer and more secure bet than Tebow. It really is that simple. If I were a coach, I would happily put all of my money down on Peyton Manning before I did Tim Tebow. It's nothing personal, it's just the smart bet, and this is why the Denver Broncos did what they did.
In conclusion, I will always be a Tim Tebow fan. I wish him nothing but the best in New York. In fact, I would LOVE to see him prove all of his critics wrong and make Denver choke on their decision to trade him away. That would be a wonderful storybook ending for his career, and would anger his detractors to no end. But in the here and now, without the blessing of hindsight, Peyton Manning is the CLEAR choice. If Denver is truly wanting a quarterback to replace John Elway, Peyton Manning certainly fits that bill (heck, you could argue that Manning is even better than Elway).
So, let me say THANK YOU to Mr. Timothy Richard Tebow for all of the memories! Thank you for rekindling my interest in Bronco football. Thank you for a fantastic and enjoyable season! Thank you for never giving up. Thank you for all of the hard work. Thank you for your leadership. But most importantly, THANK YOU for being the man you are. Thank you for being a class act when you had every reason to bite back at your critics. Thank you for your example. Thank you for your charity. Thank you for being a great role model. This is especially meaningful to me, as I am the father of two young boys, and hope that they will choose role models like you instead of the other less-than-positive idiot celebrities out there today. In short, thank you for EVERYTHING. I wish you nothing but the best in New York. May you go out there and prove EVERYONE (including me) wrong.
Now, bring on PETYON MANNING!!!!