Very few topics get the chatter going like a little Tim Tebow, who we should see a lot of on Thursday night.
After a storied career at Florida, Tebow’s overwhelming popularity followed him to the NFL, where few rookies in recent memory have garnered as much interest. Fair or not, along with that notoriety comes an equally heavy dose of expectations.
Talking about those expectations, there might be no better source to discuss the pressure of being a rookie NFL quarterback than John Elway, the first overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. There’s a growing list of quarterbacks who entered the league under enormous expectations and didn’t come out the other side. Even Elway, who faced tremendous media scruitiny as anyone entering the NFL, says he has never seen anything like attention Tebow is drawing.
Here are some excerpts from a recent conversation I had with Elway, discussing the Tebow Phenomenon:
The questions surrounding Tebow: The funny thing about Tebow is that everyone knows that he has the intangibles, they don’t know if he has the physical abilities. Whereas most quarterbacks who come into the league as a first-round draft pick, they don’t worry about their physical abilities, they worry about the intangibles. So, it’s kind of a reverse situation with Tebow. Whether he can do it physically is the question. They know he has the intangibles — the leadership, the work ethic and the “want to” — but they don’t know if he can do it physically because of his release. A lot of guys who come into the league — like Sam Bradford, who has all the prototype ability — no one is sure if he has the makeup to be the quarterback they think he an be.
On the decision to trade up to draft Tebow: Josh McDaniels made his bed, especially trading up to get Tebow. But that’s the thing with Josh, he seems knows what he wants. He wanted a guy like Tebow to be the leader, not only to carry the team physically on the field, but also be that type of leader that he wants off the field. I think he saw that in Tom Brady, who does everything he needs to do and is a great leader and is a big part of the reason the Patriots had so much success. … I think he saw many of the same characteristics, mentally, in those two quarterbacks.
On always being asked to talk about Tebow: Having had a chance to be around him, I understand why he creates such a stir, because he’s a pretty dynamic personality and a really a good, genuine kid. I think he stands for a lot of things that people in this country feel we’re losing. The moral values he stands for. I think people are really rallying around that, and want to see him do well. With the exposure he’s gotten since his sophomore year at Florida and winning the Heisman Trophy, he’s obviously very popular, not only for what he does on the football field but what he stands for off of it.
On the high expectations surrounding Tebow: I’m not so sure it’s about expectations with him. I think there are a lot of questions about Tebow. Everyone wants to talk about his release, and the biggest knock against him has been his ability to throw the football. He’s in a good situation in Denver, where Kyle Orton will be the starter and he’ll be able to sit back. He won’t be thrown in the fire right away and he’s not going to have to go in there and prove himself right away. It’s a different type of expectations. Obviously, his popularity is huge, as is the pressure. But I don’t think the expectations are as high on him as they are on Bradford, because as the No. 1 overall pick, there are still questions about him. The pressure for Tebow is going to come from trying to prove he can play in the league, not that he has to be the best in the league.
Whether expectations of Tebow are misplaced: If you think about it, it’s more of a conversation piece of whether people think he’s going to make it or not. You’re right, the expectations of him are not that he has to come in and play right away due to Orton. Whether he plays this year, and maybe the expectations grow of what he’ll do next year … but much of that has to do with how he progresses, how Orton does and how the Broncos do. It’s more about popularity than it is expectations of him coming in and performing.
On Tebow handling his challenges: In his mind, I think he’s a confident guy. He’s not worried about [everything]. You don’t get style points in the NFL. It really doesn’t matter what it looks like or how people perceive what your release looks like. It’s a matter of coming in and winning football games, and Tebow knows how to do that. He can raise other guys around him to that level.
Hope you enjoyed the conversation with Elway as much as I did. Elway was made available by the good people at Topps, and we shared some stories about football cards as well — found out his hero was Roger Staubach. You can check out more about the cool things going on with the Topps Gridiron Giveaway here.