Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For Tampa Bay Bucs, Tim Tebow isn't a good fit

Even now, his followers believe.

Even now, they imagine greatness.

It does not matter John Elway traded him for a whole bunch of nothing, or Joe Namath slammed him along the way, or Rex Ryan thinks the immortal Greg McElroy is a better choice at quarterback.

It does not matter anonymous teammates say he is terrible, or he has made $2.1 million for throwing eight passes this year, or he has spent the season sitting behind the perfectly wretched Mark Sanchez without being seriously considered as an alternative.

To those who believe in Tim Tebow, every skeptic is misguided, every statistic is meaningless and every wobbly pass is an out-and-out lie.

To them, greatness for Tebow is only a trade away, and if the Bucs are considering getting involved, why, they are all for it.

Once the news was out that the Jets and Tebow had fallen out of love with each other, the Tebow-to-the-Bucs idea was bound to occur to someone. Just like that, there are fans who think Tebow dressed in pewter and red would make a splendid Christmas card. Just call him Tim TeBuc and open the ticket windows.

After all, there are fans who think Tebow can do nothing wrong and those who think incumbent Bucs starter Josh Freeman can do nothing right. If they could get Tebow into the lineup, there are those who would bench Freeman before Sunday's game against the Rams.

As for me? I think it's a terrible idea, but I'll admit this: It would be the most popular bad idea in team history. It wouldn't work out, but at the outset, man, would the applause be deafening.

And here we go again. Tebow is still the loudest argument in sports. On the day the world ends — and today isn't over yet — the final sound you hear will be a debate about Tebow, who is either wonderful or terrible, a fine idea or a bad one, an underused star or an overhyped backup.

What he is not is a Buc.

Nor should he be.

Not now. Not next year. Not the year after.

I know, I know. Tebow was one of the great college quarterbacks of all time at Florida. Granted. He's one of the best human beings in sports. Agreed. He has a charisma that allows fans to look past his shortcomings. No one is arguing that. I have written it before: I would have loved for Tebow to have become a great player in the NFL.

This is the amazing thing about Tebow: He instills an unshakable belief in his fans. They seem not to see his stats, and they seem not to hear his critics. They believe in his intangibles, now and forever. There have been other great college quarterbacks who have not fit the NFL game, and many of them have had great character, too. None of them has inspired loyalty like that of Tebow's followers.

When it comes to playing quarterback in the NFL, however, a lot more arguments are against Tebow than for him.

Let's start the discussion here: Say the Bucs decided to bring in Tebow as a backup next year. (And no team in the NFL is going to bring him in as a starter.)

How many incomplete passes would Freeman have to throw before the call for Tebow began? How many losses would he have to suffer before fans stormed the gates? How long before the noise outside the locker room drowned out the noise inside? Put it this way: Having Tebow as a backup hasn't exactly contributed to peace in the Jets locker room, has it?

Then there is this: The most common criticism anyone has about Freeman is his lack of accuracy. Compared to Tebow, Freeman is William Tell. Seriously. Over his career, Freeman has completed 59 percent of his passes; Tebow has completed 47.9.

As for the argument Tebow would sell tickets, well, who is to say how long that would last. Fans don't pay to watch backup quarterbacks sit.

In Tebow's defense, his supporters would say he wouldn't be a backup very long. They would point to his magic run of 2011, when legend says Tebow hoisted the Denver franchise onto his shoulders and delivered the Broncos to the playoffs.

It didn't happen quite that way. The Broncos lost their final three regular-season games and squeaked into the playoffs with an 8-8 record. Tebow averaged 123.5 yards passing per game, which isn't exactly hoisting. It was fun while it lasted, but no, it wasn't the arrival of greatness.

At least Elway didn't think so. After the season, Denver's executive VP of football operations didn't even keep Tebow around to be a backup and to learn from newly acquired Peyton Manning. He sent Tebow to the Jets for fourth- and sixth-round draft picks. That begs this question: If 2011 wasn't enough to convince Elway, should it convince the Bucs?

This year Tebow has sat. Coaches who are fighting for their jobs do not want him to play. Teammates who wanted to reach the playoffs have not urged the team to put him in. Analysts who have looked on have not believed he would make a difference.

Who has believed? Tebow's fans, that's who.

And the rest of us? Eventually, Tebow's fans believe we will change our minds.

I hope so. Once he gets to Jacksonville, I wish Tebow nothing but the best.

Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.

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