…if you saw his performance last night against the Jets, you should realize that it may be a fruitless, soul-consuming task in the coming years.

“Tebow Time” came with about four minutes left in the game.  The Broncos were behind by three and had the ball on their own five yard line.  About three minutes later, after the Tebow-led Broncos powered down the field on the ground, mostly Tebow’s running, except for one nice third-down completion in the flats, they faced third and long from the Jets’ twenty.   Tebow dashed into the end-zone on a play that most everyone figured was the prelude to a game-tying field goal.  The Broncos went ahead by four, and held out against the Jets’ final, last-minute, onslaught. 

Tebow did to the Jets exactly what he once did to opponents in the Southeastern Conference, particularly my beloved Crimson Tide:  He beat them.  The Tide couldn’t stop him in 2008, when his much-maligned passing ripped the Nick Saban defense to shreds, particularly on corner routes in the end zone to his favorite receiver at the time, Pearcy Harvin (it’s really helpful if a quarterback is to become great to have a few great receivers to throw to).  Bama was able to throttle Tebow in 2009 in the SEC championship game that amounted to the real national title game (if still only mythical, as all designations of “national champion” without a national playoff are) .  I admit, seeing him cry after the game filled my schadenfreude-addled heart with joy.  I hated Tebow when he played at Florida because he so damn good.  And because Gary Danielson of CBS Sports (the network that broadcasts the SEC game of the week, and the SEC championship game) would not–could not–shut up about his greatness. 

I mean really, he’s great Gary.  Got anything else to say? 

Now I find myself rooting for him.  In fact, it was hard to pick last night which of the much-maligned quarterbacks I should cheer.  Mark Sanchez is a good quarterback and a humble guy, on a team with a blustery, bloviating buffoon of  a head coach. 

But Tebow doesn’t deserve all the fan and commentator abuse he’s suffered since becoming a professional.  Just because his style doesn’t fit the NFL’s proven, but tired and boring, mold of a quarterback standing in a pocket and delivering footballs on a rope to streaking receivers, does not mean he can’t possibly win in the NFL.  There’s always more than one way to skin a cat.  Tebow skinned it with his legs last night.  I was pulling for him to pull it off.  What a difference a couple of years makes.  For me, and him.

I imagine quite a few folks dislike Tebow for his piety.  Fair enough.  I think it utterly ridiculous whenever an athlete thinks he’s doing God some big favor by deflecting the glory to him in their post-game interviews.  Does God really need any human to glorify him?  Especially by implying that He favored one side over another in something of so little import as a football game?  What part of omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence don’t they understand?  I don’t like anyone that wears their faith on their sleeve, or as in Tebow’s case during his college years, in paint on their face.  It’s quite okay to believe in Christ, but here’s an idea–don’t tell anyone about it and just aspire to live as Christ described, loving one’s neighbor as you would love yourself–and see if people can guess by your actions what are your motivations.  Anytime in life’s daily intercourse I run across someone who tells me they are Christian, I immediately reach for my wallet.  Not to donate, but to protect it from whatever scam they might have up their sleeve.  If you have to tell me you are Christian, experience has shown, it’s not very likely you’ll be acting like one.

But I can forgive Tebow his piety, for no other reason than he seems sincere, if naive.  Pulling for Tebow won’t be the first time I’ve changed my opinion about a quarterback once he got to the pro’s.  I hated Peyton Manning when he was at Tennessee for much the same reasons as I hated Tebow at Florida–he was so damn good.  I didn’t figure Manning would do so well in the NFL–he seemed too fragile.  Over a decade later, and boy was I wrong.   I have a thankfully pliant mind, so a few years into Manning’s pro career, I changed my mind about him and admitted to anyone that asked, and a few that didn’t, that I’d been wrong about him.  Anyone that loves the game of football has to love the way Manning has played it. 

But I still hate Cam Newton, if only a lingering little bit.  His jaunt to the national title last year just seemed too easy and breezy, and of course, he played for Bama’s arch-rival.  Newton is a quarterback in the same mold as Tebow–as dangerous with his legs as with his arm.  I think he’ll have a Hall of Fame pro career if he doesn’t get hurt and he keeps his head screwed on straight.  But I still don’t like him, yet.  Maybe once the scars of watching him lead Auburn’s comeback from a 24 point first half deficit in last year’s game with Bama have healed, I’ll be rooting for him, too.

In some small measure, Tebow and Newton are a product of the pocket passer protections the NFL has instituted over the years to protect its most valuable commodities.  With so many protections being afforded a passing quarterback, a niche is created for a quarterback that can pass and run.  Michael Vick originally exploited the advantages to a running quarterback of the rules changes, but his size makes it hard for him to keep from continually getting hurt.  Tebow and Newton are as big as the defensive linemen that will be trying to catch and crush them.  Affording them extra protections because they happen to be quarterbacks seems unnecessary, and perhaps even a bit unfair.

Kudo’s Tim Tebow.  Your performance was fun to watch last night, and isn’t having fun the whole point of wasting time watching football?