For the record I am an UT alum and well tend to despise anything from Gainesville (sorry thems the rules); and as a self-loathing evangelical (as one friend recently called me) I tend to get twitchy around “Jesus helps me win football game types.” Also on the record I hope that is the last reference to Tebow’s faith in this column (that story is done in my humble opinion). No what I want to address today is what I see as the essential Tebow problem: a c0llective failure of imagination both among the Football genius’s in Denver and those football savants in the media.
Tebow is not your prototypical QB (thanks Capt. Oblivious); but neither would he be a prototypical RB, FB, TE, or WR. He has a body type and skill set that defies quick categorization. I think that is what irks me the most watching him play, he does not look right out there on the field anywhere. It is annoying then to watch someone who does not look right be successful especially when one considers all the guys who have passed the eye test; yet, been miserable players ( I learned my lesson on this topic my sophomore year of college as I watched a freshman Peyton Manning and Brandon Stewart battle for the starting QB job- one of them looked the part and other turned out to be the part. Many in the league learned that same lesson in the Manning vs Leaf debate before the 98 draft).
That brings us to the problem that Tebow presents. We as fans; and both the Broncos staff and media have a fixed idea of what a QB is (and what a RB is, a FB is, and so on). Yet sometimes individuals come along that defy any such known categorization. So what do we do? Mostly we try to take these special individual and pigeonhole them into one such existing and arbitrary category. In the case of Tebow he has been asked, “what position do you want to play?” He has answered, “QB.” So we have said, “Alright try to do that, but here are our expectations for what a QB does. He does this, this, and this; and occasionally we let him do this, this, or this.” The problem is, though, doing these things is not Tebow at his best, and so he even though he has worked extremely hard and made miles of progress he is still no where near what we expect, want, judge, or deem acceptable. AND WE BLAME TEBOW FOR NOT MEETING THESE EXPECTATIONS! “See!” we say, “I told you he wasn’t that good. He’s all hype and no substance.”
But what if the Denver Broncos were to admit that Tebow is not a normal QB, and what if there were to say rather than pigeonholing him into a position that is an ill-fit (at best), we are going to do something different. He is going to be a starter. He is going to be on the field for every play that our offense runs, but he is not going to be assigned a position that anyone currently recognizes. What if they went out and recruited a good QB, a game manager-type (with a little athleticism and great confidence), a guy that is solid, stable, and can make most of the throws and reads a ‘normal’ QB has to make? And what if you put him out there with Tebow? What if Tebow and said QB wander all over the field? What if some plays Tebow lines up at QB and runs a spread offense and sometimes a little wildcat? What if sometimes he lined up in the backfield at either the FB or RB position and was available as a runner (who is a threat to throw) and as a decoy or extra blocker? What if he lined up as a split-end slot and worked routes like Aaron Hernandez does for the Patriots or Anthony Gonzalez has at times for the Colts? What if he went into motion and was available to take direct snaps, quick handoffs, and pitches for end-arounds and reverses (always a threat to throw)? Would you want to be the DE with backside contain responsibilities who had to take down a Tebow going full-steam after taking a pitch? What he went in motion took a pitch and then had both the fullback and running back go with him for the threat of the option or just on the option? What if he took a screen-pass and then had the ball in space to use his natural running ability? Would you want to be the poor CB with screen responsibilities who had to fight off a block just for the honor of going after a Tebow running in space? Can you imagine the sleepless nights opposing D Coordinators would have trying to scheme for this type of wide open anything can happen offense? And how would opposing defenses be ready for this type of offense (which they guaranteed never to have seen before or again)? Can you imagine the joy Bronco RBs, TEs, and WRs would feel as confused defenses fell over themselves trying to account for Tebow, only to forget to stay solid with Demaryus Thomas on the fly or Eric Decker on the post or as Tebow flys by in motion taking half the defense so that Ball can take a handoff off the tackle side that Tebow just vacated? I can hear the critics now saying, “you can’t do that. It would never work, and beside it would be a lot of work and what if he gets hurt?” The answers in order: watch us, just because it hasn’t been done does not mean it can’t be, and if so we run the same plays we currently run, and play more basic techniques (or perhaps we find some other athletes that don’t fit elsewhere and have them doing some of the same things).
I am currently reading the book, Too Big to Fail (review to come), and someone that has amazed has been the lack of imagination shown by the businesses involved. Yes, they have shown creativity in creating really bizarre investments; but they failed because even then they could not see beyond the categories they had already created. When Lehman failed to see that CDOs are not like the fixed assets their leaders grew up trading; they painted themselves into corners that only a tax-payer funded bailout could fix (and even then not so much). Or take this morning as I watched the brilliant film Moneyball (review pending as well), the problem addressed in the film is the failure of great baseball minds to think outside the box, the inability to see the values in players that did not play the way they were supposed to play. Beyond these three examples we see it day-in and out, at our jobs, at our churches, in our schools, in our governments, in our families, and so on and so on. Everyday we are surrounded by people that we attempt to quickly categorize, sort, and lump into their accepted places. We do this to try and make sense of our lives and ease up on the pressures of life. Yet how often do the people we know easily fall into the categories we have created for them (nor even does God, but that is another essay for another day)? I would argue that this is rare. So why can’t we have the courage to allow the people in our lives to break out of our neat nomenclatures? Why don’t we have the imaginations to see others in new ways, and new shades? Why do we force people into ill-fitting roles which do not suit and then blame them for the failure to not be what we thought they should have been? Why get mad because your husband failed to fill the role you had for him? Why get mad that your boss refuses to be the type boss you expect? Why fire employees for not meeting job descriptions for which they did not match? To break out of our comfortable fantasies and live life outside these imagined boundaries would take all our energy, our strength,our wits, and our patience; but I got to think that once freed from their bounds, these newly liberated beings might just surprise us, and in that surprise bring unimaginable joys and benefits.