We're not sure exactly why, but former NFL quarterback and current CBS announcer/radio guy at large Boomer Esiason has a real problem with Tim Tebow.
Whether with the Denver Broncos or New York Jets, Tebow has done precious little to impress Esiason, who threw for 37,920 yards and 247 touchdowns in a 14-year NFL career that went from 1984 through 1997. For the second time in Tebow's pro career, Esiason is telling Tebow's team that the only way to solve whatever problems brought about by his presence is to get rid of the third-year player.
"I'm just telling you right now, I would [cut him], and I'll tell you why I would," Esiason said on Monday morning, while on WFAN with show partner Craig Carton. "It's not in any way, shape or form — I think — benefiting this team ... All you have to do is watch him throw the ball. Just watch him."
The Jets acquired Tebow from the Denver Broncos in March to fill a to-be-determined role. He could be anything from a punt protector, to a return man, to a Wildcat quarterback, to a red-zone fullback, to ... well, maybe the team's eventual starting quarterback, if Mark Sanchez has trouble leading the Jets to a successful season. Inevitably, Tebow's presence at Jets camp has caused a media circus this franchise hasn't seen since Joe Namath's salad days, and Esiason, who played for the Jets from 1993 through 1995 after 10 years and a Super Bowl berth with the Cincinnati Bengals, is not at all impressed with what he considers to be a serious distraction that could impact Sanchez's development.
"I just think this whole thing — at least from my perspective right now in relation to who Mark Sanchez is, your starting quarterback — is a major mistake," Esiason said. "You can say whatever you want about Tim Tebow ... he played some of the worst football that any quarterback has ever played in the history of the game last year at times."
Esiason closed out his attack by saying that the only reason the Jets would retain Tebow was because of his character. Tebow, showing some of that character, took the high road when asked about Esiason's comments.
"I've heard nothing but great things about Mr. Esiason," Tebow said, in a statement distributed by the team. "I know he was a great player here, and I just wish him nothing but the best in his announcing and God bless him.
"I've pretty much heard a lot of it. From when I was in high school, when they said I couldn't be a high school quarterback, when I was in college and my first year they told me 'you'll never play quarterback,' and then, 'you can never win a championship,' and 'you'll never play in the NFL.' I've heard a lot of it and I just continue to use that as motivation and when I get my opportunities, try to make the most of them, just be the person that I am and not let that get me too excited or too down, but just be who I am and go out there and work as hard as I can every day and try and improve and be the best football player/quarterback that I can be."
As we said, this isn't the first time Esiason has insisted that Tebow's team should give him the boot. In 2011, as the Broncos were adjusting to their atypical quarterback in the second half of the season, Esiason set America straight in his own mind by blasting Tebow in a similar way.
"This is a bad move for two reasons," Esiason said last Nov. 1, after Tebow was held to 172 passing yards and sacked seven times in a 45-10 loss to the Detroit Lions. "One is, I don't believe that Tim Tebow knows what he's doing on the football field. … Number two, those hits that are coming his way are coming with authority. Meaning that players are out to get him."
Well, that's where there might be a slight distance between reality and Esiason's opinion. The Lions are out to get every quarterback, and the fact that they were "Tebowing" after many of those sacks indicated a reflection of the media frenzy around Tebow more than anything else. The Broncos were adjusting to a new and far more mobile quarterback as Tebow replaced Kyle Orton as the team's starter, and that was his second start of the NFL season. The week before, Tebow had led the Broncos to an 18-15 win over the Miami Dolphins by throwing two touchdown passes in the last 2:44 of regulation. He also executed the 2-point conversion that took the game into overtime.
After that loss to the Lions, and as the Broncos began to meet their new quarterback halfway in a schematic sense, they rolled off six straight wins, qualifies for the playoffs, and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round when Tebow beat a Cover-0 look in overtime and threw a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. Tebow completed more than 50 percent of his passes just twice in that six-game winning streak, and threw for more than 200 yards an equal number of times, but few would dispute that he was the engine that made those wins possible.
Tebow was the engine because he helped the Broncos win in other ways. In a 38-24 win over the Oakland Raiders, he rushed 13 times for 118 yards. In a 13-10 win over the San Diego Chargers, he ran an unbelievable 22 times for 67 yards. In wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, his rushing touchdowns provided the deciding points. He proved to have an uncanny ability to overcome his own limitations as a passer when it was necessary, and he brought his fearsome red-zone abilities from college, where he scored as many NCAA rushing touchdowns as did Marshall Faulk.
Look, we get it. Nobody who prizes the traditional quarterback model will ever embrace Tim Tebow, because it's highly unlikely that he'll ever be able to play the position consistently and efficiently in a traditional sense. But as much as I'm generally opposed to the "intangibles" argument when it comes to athletes of any stripe, I grew to like and admire Tebow's ability to wrest victory from the arms of (admittedly often self-created) defeat on a consistent basis.
Esiason may have been a great NFL quarterback for a time, but he's wrong in his Tebow criticism. It's not that Tebow doesn't understand how the game is played; it's that he doesn't understand how to play the game the way Esiason played it. And the disconnect in Esiason's head is that the position of professional quarterback is not entirely about style points. It is also, and just as much, about helping your team win by any means necessary -- and if there's one thing Tebow has been able to do throughout his unique career, it is that.