Tim Tebow appeared in a Super Bowl commercial before he even played a snap in the NFL. And, in a manner fitting of Tebow, the spot—in which Tebow’s pro-life mother tells the story of how Tebow was her “miracle baby” and directed viewers to a Christian group’s website—sparked a controversy, with women’s groups asking CBS not to air the ad. CBS aired it, the spot turned out to be innocuous and a little corny, and the controversy soon passed.
On Monday, Kyle Orton was officially named the starter for the Denver Broncos, beating out both Tebow and Brady Quinn for the role. Adding fuel to the fire was coach John Fox’s decision to not name Tebow or Quinn as his No. 2. It began another Tebow-centric controversy that had passions running high on both sides—one camp made the argument that both Orton and Brady Quinn had been the far superior quarterbacks so far this preseason and deserve to be ahead of Tebow on the depth charts. The other camp pointed to Tebow’s continued success—he led Florida to two BCS titles and won the Heisman Trophy—and his performances in the last three games of 2010, when Denver handed him the starting role and Tebow responded with seven total touchdowns (against three interceptions), averaging 283 yards of total offense per game. The latter camp, obviously, believes Tebow is capable of much greater things if he is just given a chance. The former camp pretty much hates him. “NFL quarterback controversies usually produce passion, but Tebow is a surprisingly polarizing figure for a guy who’s done very little to make anyone dislike him,” the Denver Post’s Dave Krieger writes. “The most popular player on the roster, the guy dominating the commercial breaks, has been the third-best quarterback in Broncos camp. It’s awkward. It’s divisive. And there’s no getting around it: For the Broncos it’s a problem.”
Speculation ran rampant on Monday that the Broncos could either trade or release Tebow instead of keeping him as their No. 3, assuming Quinn beats him out. “Some people love him. Some hate him,” Kevin Nogle of The PhinSider writes, while advocating for a Tebow trade to Miami. “It doesn’t seem like there are a whole lot of people in the middle.” One person firmly on the side of “hate him” is Merril Hoge, a former NFL fullback who now works as an analyst for ESPN. When the Tebow-Orton competition for starter was still going strong a few weeks ago, Hoge tore into Tebow (the player, not the person, he pointed out) on Twitter for not having the tools to make it as a professional quarterback. “College credentials do not transfer to NFL,” Hoge tweeted, in one of several anti-Tebow missives that are much funnier to read if you imagine the Hulk wrote them. “Raw raw [sic] speeches do not work! You must poses [sic] a skill set to play! Tebow struggle [sic] with accuracy!” Tebow actually sent Hoge a reply that just read “Hey Merril…..‘ppreciate that,” but a massive amount of supporters already had his back, including LeBron James, who took an indirect swipe at Hoge for his playing career and suggested he encourage Tebow and wish him well “instead of hating!!” Undaunted, Hoge went back on ESPN Monday after the Orton announcement to re-iterate his belief that Tebow is not a good quarterback and has poor mechanics, advocating his release. This caused a sea of newly minted Hoge bashers, including one Twitter follower of his who said that all the vinegar spit in Tebow’s direction was destroying the goodwill he accrued with his Tecmo Bowl performances.
At the end of the day, whether Tebow is Denver’s No. 3 or Buffalo’s No. 2, there will still be crowds lined up firmly on either side of him, bashing his motion or praising his work ethic. And it’s all surrounding a game. The Miami Herald’s Dan LeBetard puts it all in perspective and explains, indirectly, why it’s so good to have football back from the lockout. “A backup quarterback on a 3-13 team who has started three games is one of the most polarizing figures in America’s most popular sport?” LeBetard asks. “Hey, why not?”
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