Several NFL teams don't even list a third-string quarterback on their depth charts. The Broncos, however, have the most and least popular third-stringer in the history of the league.
Over the weekend, ESPN aired a piece on Outside the Lines discussing why Tim Tebow is so discussed.
Tebow is a lot of things, but not a starting quarterback or a player whose off-the-field behavior is excessively noteworthy. Yet Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles' starting QB, who spent two years in prison for operating a dog fighting ring, is the only other quarterback in the league who generates the amount of publicity Tebow does.
Tebow speaks about his faith, runs a foundation, does charity work in impoverished countries and starred in a Super Bowl ad about abortion that didn't mention the word "abortion." But he's hardly the first famous athlete to be openly religious or charitable. Kurt Warner was a very religious quarterback with a much more successful NFL career than Tebow, but he was never encountered the animosity Tebow has.
Tebow represents so many of the cliché intangibles that many sports fans get all misty-eyed about: leadership, heart, work ethic, a team-mentality, a clean criminal record and virginity. He's possibly the most decorated college football player ever and shows none of the ego and arrogance that so many fans hate to see in athletes. That's perhaps why Tebow's jersey was at one point the NFL's best-seller.
But the "Tim Tebow Crying" Facebook page has over 14,000 "likes" and the "Tim Tebow Sucks" page has nearly 3,000. As the ESPN piece points out, there are also multiple anti-Tebow Twitter accounts and websites such as TebowHaters.com. On this site you can view perhaps the most over-the-top Tebow hate from Daily Show correspondent and comedian John Oliver. A video clip on view below shows Oliver telling a joke in which he compares his distaste for Tebow to that of Osama Bin Laden.
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The Outside the Lines piece focuses on Tebow's religion and how any public proclamation of his faith can be interpreted as forcing it on the public. Tebow is shown in college, when he wrote bible verses on his eye black, and speaking to prisoners whom he told: "If you have Jesus Christ in your heart, you are going to spend eternity in Heaven. If you don't, you're going to spend eternity in Hell."
But some of the noise surrounding Tebow actually stems from the field. Despite his vast college success, many analysts and fans simply think he can't play at the pro level. ESPN's Merril Hoge has been Tebow's most vocal critic. But enough fans want to see him try that some plan to buy billboards around town advocating Tebow be the starter.
Surely the excessive media coverage of Tebow, his multiple endorsements and general teacher's-pet vibe have something to do with Tebow-mania and why people feel so strongly about him. Rest assured, ESPN is not making a nine-minute feature on any other third-stringer.
More from our Sports archive: "Denver Broncos' glass isn't half-full despite gutsy 24-22 win over Cincinnati Bengals."