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A Look At The Cult Of Tim Tebow


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Guy Raz.

Another win for Tim Tebow.


RAZ: Last night in San Diego, the Denver Broncos managed to, once again, pull off a last-minute upset. Denver's quarterback Tim Tebow is now five and one as a starter. And depending on your source, Tebow is either the greatest or the worst quarterback in the NFL right now. His numbers are generally dismal. So far this season, he's completed less than half of his passes. Three weeks ago, he completed just two. That's two passes the whole game. And yet his Broncos are winning, something they weren't doing before Tebow came along.

We're joined now by Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN, the magazine. Howard, how do you explain it? How do you explain how this team is doing so well with a quarterback who has such bad stats?

HOWARD BRYANT: I explain it with defense. The Denver Broncos are a good defensive football team. And Tim Tebow is not being asked to do a whole lot. He's not being asked to score 20, 30 points a game. He's not being asked to drive his team down the field in a pass-oriented game. He's being asked to not make mistakes and he hasn't made mistakes.

RAZ: And, admittedly, he's not a great passer.

BRYANT: He's not a good passer. He provides the ammunition for all the people that don't like him, saying: Listen, how on earth can you win a football game with a guy who can't complete a pass?

RAZ: Well, that's my question. I mean, here was a guy who was such an incredible college player, two national championships for Florida, a Heisman Trophy winner as a sophomore, one of the best high school quarterbacks in the country. And yet even before he got to the NFL, people were saying this guy wasn't going to make it in the NFL.

BRYANT: Sure. And there's a couple of reasons for it. Here's the biggest reason, this isn't college and it's not high school. When you're a great college player, you have a lot of physical advantages that 95 percent of the country - the players that you're going up against don't have.

In the NFL, everybody's world class. The game is faster. The speed of the game is faster. Plus, Tim Tebow didn't have the quarterback mechanics. You can't run the option forever in the NFL because...

RAZ: You've got to pass?

BRYANT: The players are so big, they'll knock you out of the game. You're going to get hurt. So that's why players don't run the option in the NFL. And the other thing is that when you drop back in the pocket, you have to be able to read a defense. You can't just take the ball and run with it because the players are so fast. And this is - the surprise element of Tim Tebow right now is paramount.

I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next year when teams have a full year of game film on him. They know what he's going to do and then they're going to force him to actually throw the football. And I think that's when the entire Tim Tebow monument will collapse.

RAZ: For a moment, if we can forget about his physical abilities or his stats and just look at him as a leader. I mean, this is a kid who was used to winning his whole life. Right? He won in high school. He won in college. Is there something to that? I mean, are we not fully sort of considering the psychological part of why he's doing so well?

BRYANT: No. I think that that's a huge part of it and I think nobody can explain why some people win and why some people lose. It really doesn't always have to do much with talent. It has to do with how you deal with pressure. And Tim Tebow seems to be one of those people that when things begin to fall apart around him, he focuses better. Everybody who's ever played football has seen fear in the eyes of somebody playing, you know, next to them. And Tim Tebow doesn't have that fear, and I think that elevates the entire club.

RAZ: Is that enough to make him a great quarterback?

BRYANT: No. It's enough to make him a great leader.

RAZ: Howard Bryant, thanks.

BRYANT: My pleasure.

RAZ: Howard Bryant is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN, the magazine, talking about the phenomenon of Tim Tebow. You can also hear Howard on WEEKEND EDITION SATURDAY. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.