Re-Examining a Legacy: Tim Tebow

Thomas McGrathContributor IJanuary 2, 2010

Over his career, I have been a big Tim Tebow critic. I have also been a big Tebow supporter. 

The reason is that Tebow falls into the category of a guy who gets judged in extreme ways. For most people, Tim Tebow is either the greatest college football player ever, or a really overrated fullback who takes direct snaps. Realistically, neither depict him accurately. 

For starters, Tebow was not the greatest college football player to ever play. He wasn't not even the best quarterback. He didn't have the talent of Vince Young, he wasn't the winner that Tommie Frazier was, and he won't have the NFL career of Peyton Manning. 

The truth is that Tebow was overrated in many areas. He was a great leader, but he only won one championship as a starter, he never played on an undefeated team and he played with elite players around him. He was never a great passer. As the game against Alabama showed, much of Tebow's passing statistics were a result of open recievers.  When he was forced to stay in the pocket and find second and third receivers, he struggled. 

His passing statistics also regressed over the years as other schools found ways to better contain his running game without stuffing the box (allowing for open donfield recievers). His running ability is also a little overrated. He never had breakaway speed, he didn't create big plays and many of his touchdowns were from only a couple yards in. Not that there isn't merit in those touchdowns, but most quarterbacks don't get the chance to do that down on the goalline.

Finally, Tebow isn't Mr. Perfect. ESPN's coverage of him in his last two years was overblown, and even Florida fans are probably sick of hearing about Tebow performing cirumcisions. Indeed, the legend of Tim Tebow was too often the focus instead of the player himself.

That said, Tebow was one of the greatest college football football players to ever play.  He wasn't the most dominating or talented quarterback I've ever seen, but he was the most determined. He lead his class to the best four year record in SEC history, he played on two championship teams, and he ascended the Florida program to the top of college football. What he did for Florida football over the four years he was there is unsurpassed by any player in recent memory. 

He wasn't untalented either. The scouting services ranked his as a five star prospect for a reason. He was mobile, he had a good arm, and he was a matchup nitemare. He may not have been the physical specimen of a Young or a Pryor, but his dual threat abilities lead to as many defensive breakdowns as those two combined. His sophomore season was one of the most astounding seasons in the history of the game. 

More significantly, he revolutionized the quarterback position. Perhaps the most fitting way to acknowledge this is to use Bobby Bowden's comparison of Tebow to Bronco Nagurski (a fullback and defensive tackle). Until Tebow, nobody had ever compared a quarterback to Nagurski.  

Finally, often lost in people's disdain over Time Tebows media coverage is the man himself. Whether you care about his missionary trips, whether you are christian, or whether you believe that he and the google girl were "just acquaintances," Tebow was the ultimate embassador to the game. He was honest, soft-spoken, humble, and was the essence of what NCAA looks for in their athletes. As a friend once told me, "every parent wishes they could have a Tim Tebow." Every coach does, too.

As you can see, Tebow is a complex figure. I can debate myself about his legacy. As I watched the Sugar Bowl tonight, however, I was finally able to sit back and appreciate him. 

Throughout his career, people have spent so much time defending him or villifying him that they forgot to apreciate him (I was one of these). Whether he was all ESPN cracked him up to be or not, Tebow was a special player and had a special impact on the game of college football. As fans we need to remember and recognize that; Tim Tebow's don't come along very often.