October 26, 2009
Tebow gazing from the proprietor of Tim Teblog.
A year ago, Tim Tebow had the finest -- and defining -- moment of his career: "The Promise." Following Florida's stunning home loss to Ole Miss, Tebow took the media podium after the game and delivered an impassioned speech that went something like this: "I promise ... yada yada yada... to lay waste to everything en route to a national title. God bless."
At the time, it was a testament to the depth of Tebow's competitiveness and commitment that he would stand in front of the media and not just represent the team's bitterness over the loss -- but his personal sense of responsibility for it. Over the next 10 weeks, it would become college football legend. It's already enshrined on campus.
On Saturday, we experienced the "Bizarro Promise," and Tebow experienced the worst moment of his career despite the Gators' win at Mississippi State. It had nothing to do with his worst-ever statistical performance (12-of-22 passing, 0 TDs, 2 INTs). It had nothing to do with either of the pick-sixes (two!) into the arms of MSU's Johnthan Banks, which kept the Bulldogs and their cowbell-clanging fans in the game despite their predictable offensive struggles against the top-ranked UF defense. It had nothing to do with his inconsistent on-field decision-making.
No, the low point was after the game, when Tebow offered no speech, no "Promise." In fact, he ducked the media entirely, the first time in his career he had never addressed the press following a game when healthy, win or lose. His presence after yet another unimpressive victory was glaringly missed -- and shockingly out-of-character for a star whose outsized persona is built as much around "leadership" as anything he accomplishes between the hashes.
• "Wow, you're right: One touchdown in six trips into the opponent's red-zone is unacceptable."
• "I recognize that, in retrospect, I am allowed to throw the ball away."
• "Yes, despite all appearances, I have complete faith in my receivers."
• "I was as shocked by that 100-yard pick-six as the rest of you."
• "So how about our defense, huh? Those guys are sick."
• "Did you see me under center? And...? TD!"
• "Scoreboard. We're 7-0."
He did not have to stand up there and give a reprise of his after the Ole Miss loss. Something like "I promise you'll never see a team work harder to score touchdowns in the red zone" would have been fine. But with the palpable frustration spreading through his struggling offense, the have to stand up there and say something.
If Tebow is nothing else, he is a leader -- we can argue about whether he is the greatest player in college football history (or, yes, even the best player in the country this season), but most folks are willing to stipulate that he is college football's all-time personification of leadership. By not facing the media, Tebow shirked that responsibility.
According to the AP, Tebow said he skipped the media session to hang with Mississippi State's coach, Dan Mullen, his old offensive coordinator at Florida. While I appreciate that, there is no reason he couldn't have done both; he was photographed hanging out with Mullen even before returning to the locker room.
I appreciate that Tebow was likely frustrated to no end about his performance, and the performance of the offense, in general. But, as with press conference following the Ole Miss game a year ago, Tebow owed it to the team, the fans and the media to talk about the game. Even if he didn't want to.
On the one hand, it is a testament to Tebow's career that something this seemingly banal would mark the low point of his college football career. (After all, Florida did win the game and remains on track to defend its national title.) But on the other hand, it says something about the standard Tebow has set -- even demanded -- for himself that this huffy silent treatment would feel like a far bigger let-down than anything he could have done on the field.