When I watch Tim Tebow play and read what's written about him by the so-called experts, I can't help but think of Doug Flutie. And, in the more distant past, Warren Moon.
All three quarterbacks were over-scrutinsed and doubted as a result of some aspect of their physical make-up: Moon, because of the colour of his skin; Flutie, because of his height; Tebow, because of his non-traditional throwing motion and his skills as a runner.
Moon had to come up here to Canada to play quarterback, since no NFL team would even give him a shot at the position. Moon turned into the most effective, most exciting pocket passer I've ever seen play and, thanks to his standout performances in winning five Grey Cup championships in his six years in the CFL, he was finally given a chance to play in the NFL. The rest is history: once the colour of his skin was no longer a factor, Moon became one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks, a Hall of Famer, even though he joined the league as his prime playing years were starting to pass.
Flutie had to come to Canada too. Despite an impressive record at Boston College, Flutie was considered too small and never got a real chance to play in the NFL when he first went there. In the CFL, Flutie was a god, simply the greatest quarterback I've ever seen in any league. He dominated the league with his legs, his arm and his mind. He won three Grey Cups with two different teams and finally got his NFL chance in Buffalo (thanks, I think, to his popularity in Southern Ontario). Everyone knows what happened in Buffalo. In one of the great coaching gaffes in football history, Wade Phillips benched Flutie at the end of a strong season in favour of Rob Johnson, who looked more like an NFL qb. The Bills went out and lost their first playoff game, a match they would have won with Flutie.
Now it's Tebow time. The Denver quarterback is now 4-1 as a starter and, with the help of an impressive Bronco defense, just knocked off the New York Jets. Tebow's passing stats are unimpressive but he keeps every defense on its toes. Yet, despite his success in the win column, every so-called expert seems to want to use words like "experiment", "temporary", "make do", "project" or "interim" when it comes to Tebow as a starter. Don Banks even wrote a column on SI.com yesterday stating that the Broncos must be one of the teams in the market for a first-round quarterback.
The fact of the matter is, Tebow is a winner and the Broncos are winning with him behind centre. No, he's not the passer that Moon or Flutie were but he will improve. And, if he's winning now despite his limitations as a passer, imagine how good he'll be as his throwing improves and he gets more experience. If... he is allowed to continue to play.
The stories of all three of these quarterbacks reveal one of the great, startling sad truths about the NFL: it appears more important to coaches and GMs that their quarterback look effective than that they are effective; they'd rather lose with a classic NFL pivot behind centre than win with someone who doesn't fit the mould.
So sad. And so surprising.