It is no secret that Tebow needs to improve his passing skills. Therefore, it is not hard to assume that this is the main reason John Elway, Broncos executive and NFL passing legend, is less than enamored with the young quarterback. But is there something more? Is the underlying distaste more centered around Tebow’s approach towards life in general?
For example, last December during the height of Tebowmania, the Broncos had their largest challenge of the season, a match up against the Superbowl-bound New England Patriots. Going into the game, hopes were never higher for Denver, and the contest was viewed as a real litmus test for post-season prospects. The Broncos were humiliated and limped away with a nationally televised 41-23 beat down.
The things that separate professional athletes from the rest of us are not just centered on physical ability. It is the relentless drive to prepare and compete and the unquenchable desire to win. Most of us at some point will decide to try something different or to sleep in, but athletes who make it to the professional ranks will jump out of bed to do the same thing until the day their knees tell them to cut it out. After a loss like the one described above, elite athletes have been known to be driven to do everything from smashing up the locker with a bat to staying up all night watching game film. But when asked how his faith help him with the loss, Tebow gave the following response:
“God is still God. I still have a relationship with Christ, and a loss doesn’t change anything. Win or lose, everything is still the same. What matters is the girl I’m about to see, Kelly Faughnan. If I can inspire hope in someone, then it’s still a good day.”
Now while admirable without question, that is the last thing an elite competitor like John Elway expects to hear. Elway wants to hear anger and frustration. He wants to hear vows never to let it happen again. That is what Elway would do, and quite frankly that is what just about every other elite athlete we have ever known would do. But not Tebow.
And this is where the unique dichotomy of Tebow reveals itself. In a world where work ethic and preparation are prized, Tebow is a leader. In a world where passion and competitiveness are lifeblood, Tebow stands out. In a world where leaving everything you have on the field is a pre-requisite, Tebow sets the bar. But he leaves more than just his energy on the field. As he steps away from the competition, he completely switches his thoughts to other endeavors. One perspective is that his deep faith gives him a unique ability to live both worlds. Another perspective, and one Elway may have, is that Tebow’s ability to “turn it off” means there are times when it is not “on”. And that, Elway may conclude, precludes Tebow from joining in with the ranks of the elite athlete.
Last summer, while most young players were working on preparing for an upcoming season, Tebow went on a national tour to promote his new book. It is easy to believe that his motivation was not money driven, but rather a sincere desire to get his message out. It is also easy to believe that while he was traveling, he spent hours preparing for his job as quarterback. But to have spent time doing anything other than preparing for football, especially for a player with so many opportunities for improvement, seems inconceivable to many. After all, every minute spent away from football is a minute spent away from football, and to the elite athlete that is inexcusable.
The chasm between Elway and Tebow may be driven by more than just playing style. It may be driven by attitudes towards life in general. One view maintains the highest need is an unwavering obligation to a life of football, while the other view maintains the highest need is an unwavering obligation to life outside of football. If that is the case, then no amount of training or coaching will lead them to work well together. It is time for one of them to move on.