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The Reason Why Tim Tebow Is Legit
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Another Sunday, another improbable comeback victory for Tim Tebow and his Denver Broncos. This one involved scoring ten points in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter to force the game into overtime, with the last three coming on a 59 yard field goal. Then in overtime, just as the Bears reached field goal territory, their defense forced a fumble and thereby put the ball in their young star's hands. A few plays and another field goal later, the Broncos were celebrating their sixth consecutive victory.

And so the legend of Tebow grows. On the field, his style continues to baffle analysts and defies traditional football metrics. He misses pass after pass, then late in the game, he flips a switch and suddenly becomes unstoppable. Off the field, he talks openly about his Christian faith and refuses to insult his opponents (even those who mock his on-the-field praying). He's candid and absurdly humble, leading many to suspect he's a fake. After watching several Tebow performances and post-game interviews, one might be inclined to write him off as under-qualified and inauthentic, and there are certainly many who have reached exactly this conclusion.

However, they are wrong. The reason this conclusion is incorrect is simple: Tim Tebow has won his locker room. This phrase gets thrown around so often and imprecisely that it is easy to overlook the important implications it carries. But first, consider the evidence. The reason Tebow is always in a position to engineer a comeback is that his defense keeps games close. They force turnovers at critical points in the game (last week, the interception of a Christian Ponder pass in the final minute of the game led to the game-winning field goal). On offense, his teammates play hard every down, sell their routes, and block. They speak highly of their quarterback and don't express frustration with his obvious shortcomings.

This might seem like the way one would expect professionals to conduct themselves, but that is simply not the case in the NFL. There are so many egos and even more eccentric personalities; corralling all of these into a coherent unit is a remarkable feat of coaching and leadership. Players often quit on coaches or quarterbacks when they are unhappy or uninspired. If one is skeptical about the validity of this claim, he needs not look further than other AFC West teams like the Raiders or Chargers to find brazen examples. Moreover, the list of subtle things or minor insults that can lead to such behavior is quite lengthy. So now consider what the reaction to a phony choir boy who regularly misses open receivers and fails to generate scoring drives in the first three quarters would most likely be?

Rather than being inspired to step up their game, the defense would likely resent the added pressure of compensating for an anemic offense. Receivers might tire of trying to catch poorly thrown balls and stop completing their routes. Players would criticize underperforming teammates, either openly or anonymously. But as discussed above, the reaction has been the exact opposite. This can only mean one thing: though the cards were obviously stacked against him, Tim Tebow has won over his teammates. And this matters. Because his teammates are the ones who see him at his best and at his worst. They interact with him in the huddle and in the locker room. They witness his work ethic. Therefore, more than the sports media or the millions of armchair analysts, they understand the man.

Their daily interactions with Tebow have led to a bond of some sort, and while the rest of us are not privy to the basis for their decision to embrace him, we are left with the evidence that they indeed respect him. The refusal of Tebow's teammates to quit on a game or play in dejected fashion after a few miserable quarters speaks volumes. Those who are deaf to this growing roar can continue to fixate on his many flaws, but they are missing the point. Tebow is special. While his current streak will surely end, perhaps sooner than later at the hands of Tom Brady and the Patriots next week, his ability to rally the Broncos and what this says about him is evidence that he will have success beyond this streak. And if he happens to learn how to throw sometime along the way, watch out!


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