FOXBORO – If the curtain dropped on Tim Tebow’s NFL career Thursday night, at least he got to go out on a high. It was as modest a high as you can have in the NFL – a touchdown pass with 10 seconds left and his team already ahead 21-20 in its final preseason game with less than half the fans still in the stands.
In the grand scheme, absolutely meaningless. A play – and a juncture in the game - that a lot of former first-round picks who quarterbacked a playoff team to a win just two seasons ago would see more as an insult than an opportunity.
Not Tebow. Because when he says he’s grateful to play, thankful for the opportunity and – yes, blessed – you do the noble thing and compete.
He doesn’t have the arrows in his quiver that most of the other 90 or so quarterbacks kicking around the league have. His shortcomings have been on display all summer. No touch. Difficulty pulling the trigger. The accuracy of a squirt gun in a typhoon.
He throws like most of us golf. For every shot that goes where it’s intended, two go off the map entirely.
But we’ve spent enough time diminishing his throwing ability. The fact that this is likely the end for the former Heisman Trophy winner and icon deserves a wider view.
He’s been good for the game in general – college and pro – because he’s a very good person. His impact goes beyond completion percentage and his impact, even if he’s no longer in the NFL come Saturday evening, will probably be more lasting whether he’s wearing an NFL uniform or not.
The writing on the wall seems clear. The Patriots have some tough cuts to make all over their roster. There are players whose skills have more immediate relevance than those of Tebow.
Tebow was asked at his locker – where there was the predictable swarm of media – what the Patriots would get if they kept him around past the cut to 53 players Saturday night at 6.
His answer? “Someone that will just work hard, loves the game of football, will always hopefully, Lord willing, have a great attitude, a great work ethic and someone that tries to be an encourager in here.”
Tebow didn’t enter the game until after halftime. He completed his first two throws, then was sacked on consecutive plays as the line broke down and he had to duck for cover. On his second drive, there was an incompletion and two more sacks. He picked up a first down on a keeper on first-and-5 on the next drive but a punt followed three plays later.
Finally, in the fourth, some good things happened. A precise throw to his buddy Quentin Sims. Two long incompletions that left the field of play. Then a third-and-10 dart to Sims that Sims reached up to snag before running about 30 yards to complete the 52-yard score. The Patriots bench – led by Aqib Talib, Ryan Mallett, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins – exploded.
Next drive, an underthrown pick. Then two three-and-outs.
With 1:07 left, the Giants got the ball back on their own 15. After a sack on fourth down, the game was over. The Patriots had the ball at the Giants 9 and 10 seconds left.
Tebow got the nod to go for it and he hit Sims in the right corner of the end zone with a beautiful throw for the touchdown.
“I think everyone was surprised they threw with about six seconds left in the game,” said Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. “Honestly I look at it like they were just giving Tebow another opportunity to see if he could have a little touch on the ball there. You know, it is preseason and at the end of the day you are just trying to get your team prepared for the regular season. Everything is kind of fair game at that point.”
And at that point, the Patriots coaching staff damned convention and gave Tebow one probably was his last chance to throw a football in an NFL game.
Tebow has often been described as divisive. I don’t see it.
Factions appropriating what he’s about to advance their own political agendas are annoying. The notion that critiques of his throwing ability are hate-driven is simple-minded. The embarrassing coverage of all things Tebow – which I’ve participated in, I’ll point out – is over-the-top.
But that isn’t him. Who he is and how he lives his life has – to date – been above all reproach. He’s good. Who can be against that?
And he threw a touchdown pass Friday night at the end of what may have been his last NFL game. I’m glad he did.
- Tom Curran, CSN New England