By now you know that Tim Tebow is the newest member of the New York Jets, shipped their this afternoon for a 4th rounder, a 6th rounder, a hope and a prayer. The last couple of days have been extremely difficult for me as a fan of the Broncos, so much so that I refused to write a piece about the actual trade…until now. After way too much reading and reflection, I’ve finally been able to isolate just what it was about Tim Tebow that converted me, the most skeptical, number-driven sports fan that I know. It was the most improbable of relationships, and like 99% of all improbable relationships, it’s now over.
I wish that I could claim that my conversion to Tim happened the second Josh McDaniels traded up to take him three rounds early back in 2010. That’s not the case though. I defended Kyle Orton to the death and even wondered whether Brady Quinn might be a sneakily awesome possibility at starter. The real person I was rooting for was Andrew Luck though and that my beloved franchise would intentionally tank the season last year for the right to draft him. Six games and 46 minutes into the season last year, all was going as planned. Then this happened:
I was watching that game live and I confess that I was livid. How dare this Tebow guy come in and ruin the Broncos chance at the greatest QB prospect since Elway himself! I was begging for the Broncos to quit when Tebow of course delivered on one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history. Rather than celebrate it, I mostly pouted to my fiancee about how the Broncos were ruining their future and had no shot at Luck anymore. A drubbing the following week at the hands of the Lions confirmed my suspicions.
And then a funny thing happened. The Broncos spent the week between Detroit and Oakland, their next opponent, conducting the biggest experiment in the history of the NFL—they actually tailored the offense to Tebow’s strengths. You’re never going to believe this….but it worked.
Of all the improbable comebacks, miraculous fourth quarters, and game-winning drives, the not-even-close biggest miracle that Tim Tebow accomplished last year was getting an actual NFL franchise led by a respected NFL head coach to dare to think outside the box. It is quite possible you will never see anything like it again. This was number one I fell in love with Tebow. That, and beating the living piss out of the Raiders.
You know what else happened over the next few weeks. Tebow and the Broncos went on an improbable win streak where nearly all the games were decided by the QB on the final drive of the game. America was swept with Tebowmania. ESPN started devoting entire hour-long episodes to Tebow-related material only. Skip Bayless ran to his defense. Colin Cowherd blasted him. The fans were kind of just left shaking our heads wondering what in the hell happened.
These past couple days I was sad. What frustrated me though was that I was unable to pinpoint exactly what I was so emotional about. I will certainly not miss defending Tim Tebow every week. During the season I resigned myself to telling friends that you just simply couldn’t understand how pleasurable it was to have Tebow as your quarterback. It was all exhausting because, well, look at him when he’s on the field at any point not in the final two minutes of the football game. I will not miss the missed receivers, the looping throws that sail out of bounds, or every NFL defender taunting him in order to get their face on SportsCenter. It got old.
There was something about it all that I really, really, really enjoyed though.
I have no idea how I connected these events, but it happened yesterday as I left work. The first event was somehow remembering a random column I read during the NFL season last year. I don’t remember the writer nor do I remember the site. I think it was theclassical.org, but to be honest I’m really not sure and a quick search through their archives yielded no results. More to the point though, that column was the collection of thoughts of a Patriots fan and what that team has done to him as fan. On the outside, it appears awesome to be a Patriots fan, or so it seems. The writer then launched into a story describing how ugly he feels as a fan now. Because of the 2007 Patriots and their success leading up to that year, he said he is now never satisfied by the Patriots exploits on the field. He explains that no win is ever satisfying enough, no Tom Brady performance is ever perfect enough. In fact it had gotten so bad he actually yearned for the days of their first Super Bowl back in 2002.
The reason was simple. The Patriots weren’t expected to win that year. In fact, they were expected to be blown out by one of the greatest offenses ever assembled in the St Louis Rams’ “greatest show on turf.” Instead Bill Belichick orchestrated one of the greatest upsets of all time and America was introduced to Tom Brady. He’d go on to have an argument as the best quarterback ever to play the game. The writer argued that 2002 was the pinnacle of being a Patriots fan and that nothing would ever compare.
It all actually makes a ton of sense when you think about it. The best things in sports are those that are unexpected. Nobody really cares who the Patriots beat in their next two Super Bowl victories. They’ll always remember them beating the Rams though. They’ll also always remember when they lost to the Giants, perhaps the greatest upset in NFL history.
It’s why we remember the United States upsetting the Soviets in the semi-finals, but can’t remember who we went on to defeat in the gold-medal game. It’s why Villanova defeating Georgetown is a must-have in any March Madness compilation.
It’s why I’m going to really, really, really miss Tim Tebow as the quarterback of the Denver Broncos.
Think about what the Denver Broncos accomplished last year under Tebow. They went 7-4 down the stretch in the regular season. They won the majority of those games on their last possession of the game. They backdoored their way into the playoffs. They upset the heavily favored Steelers in the first round. They won that game against the Steelers on the first play of overtime. It is literally impossible to write a worse script for a movie. While this was going on, nearly every team had players taunting the Broncos, nearly every outlet had outspoken critics mocking the Broncos, and almost everyone in this country had an opinion about what was going on.
Despite all of that, the Broncos won anyway.
Before this past MLB postseason began, I recall a number of Cardinals fans remarking that this year’s squad was by far their favorite team of all-time. This was at a time when it was still uncertain whether they would make the playoffs or not. They didn’t yet know that the Braves would complete an all-time historic collapse and lose their Wild Card slot to a St. Louis team playing with way too much pride. They had yet to come within a single strike of losing the World Series…twice. And how can you not agree with that assessment?
I found myself multiple times this year calling Tim Tebow and the Broncos the most fun I’d had as a sports fan ever. I often compared it with the memorable Colorado Rockies run to the World Series back in 2007. That year the Rockies famously won 14 of their last 15 games and went 20-8 in September to clinch a one-game playoff where they then defeated the San Diego Padres in extra innings. It was only appropriate that the win came in the bottom of 13th off future HOFer Trevor Hoffman when the Rockies trailed by two to start the inning. They then breezed through the playoffs before eventually losing to the far superior Boston Red Sox.
Those two seasons are my all-time favorite as a sports fan. Neither ended with a championship. Both left me absolutely grateful for sports and the emotions they are capable of producing in me.
Now Broncos fans are left with Peyton Manning and to be quite honest, it’s depressing. As they all mentioned in the press conference yesterday, it’s Super Bowl or bust now. There is no learning curve or witnessing of player growth. There will be no moments where Peyton endears himself to the fans of Den