ESPN spent the vast majority of the 11 a.m. edition of its flagship program SportsCenter taking a look at Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow from a number of different angles on Thursday. The network spoke about Tebow for approximately 50 minutes while covering the some other news of the day in between his segments.
The show began with a highlight package of clips from Denver’s victory over Pittsburgh in the wild card round of the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs, capped by Tebow’s 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime to ice the game.
Read the rest of this TebowCenter post…after the break!
Then the network went live to Denver, CO and spoke with reporter George Smith, who addressed a number of topics including the Broncos’ practice schedule and how Tebow is handling “Tebowmania.”
After a quick look at Denver’s failings against New England in week 15, ESPN explained how Tebow was burned by the blitz a few weeks ago, something his team will likely try to adjust for during Saturday’s game.
NFL analyst Herm Edwards joined the set in the following segment and discussed what adjustments the Broncos will have to make offensively, whether or not he’s ever seen so much hype and scrutiny for one player and a number of other topics.
“I like the way he handles himself,” Edwards said. “He handles the criticism with a smile, and he handles success with humility. He drives down the road of humility when you think about this guy. And the last time I checked, this road he’s driving on – [there’s] not a lot of traffic.” Edwards continued, “He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s a football player. He’s not the best quarterback; he’s just a football player. People respect that. They respect how he handles his life. At the pro level anymore, we put these guys on a pedestal and we want to see how they handle it. He’s handled both situations – criticism and success – with a lot of class.”
ESPN then aired comments from Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, both of whom commented on their concerns about Tebow after leaving Florida. “Tim can’t play quarterback in a tradiational setting,” Meyer said. “Tim’s not the lone solider there. There’s very few quarterbacks that are really any good in those traditional systems. To try and force a guy like that, with his skill level, to play in a traditional pro offense, I was very much worried about that. And then is aw the evolution of the offense at Denver, utilizing his school. I was not worried if he would be successful but if he would [have] a system that would allow him to play.” Mullen agreed by adding, “The belief that I had was if he ever went to a system that would try to build around his strengths, they would get themselves a winner. But if you tried to change who Tim is, he’s not going to be as successful. Certianly I never had a concern about his competativeness, his intensity, his willingness to learn and his effort. Those were always the things – the mental, physical toughness that he has – that you never dobuted. You buid around the strengths of your players, and if you build around the strengths of Tim Tebow, you’re going to have a winner at any level.”
For a slant on Tebow’s future with Denver, ESPN turned to insider Adam Schefter, who said it would be “hard to believe” that he will not return as the incumbent starter with the Broncos in 2012. “At this point in time, with all that he’s done, he has to be the starter in 2012,” he quipped, adding that executive vice president of football operations John Elway obviously has a “new respect” for Tebow, who has made the team relevant for the first time in a while.
After the commercial break, Tebowmania was put up against other national phenomenons like Beatlemania, Fernandomania and Hulkamania. ESPN MLB insider Tim Kirkjian joined the program to compare Tebow’s sudden rise with that of Fernando Valenzuela’s in the 1980s. “The biggest difference is how great Fernando Valenzuela was. In football terms, his first eight starts he through for 300 yards and four touchdowns in every game. His first eight starts in 1981, he won them all, he completed them all, he threw five shutouts, he allowed four runs in 72 innings,” Kirkjian explained.. “He wasn’t just some novelty act. He wasn’t just some colorful character that won games. He shut people out every single game. To me, that’s the difference between Fernando and Tim Tebow. People are wondering can Tim Tebow play in this league? If you saw Fernando Valenzuela pitch, you said, ‘This is one of the best pitchers I’ve ever seen already.’”
ESPN then ran an encore presentation of Tebow’s journey throughout the 2011-12 season beginning with his detractors coming down on him and moving on to Tebow taking over for Kyle Orton, Elway saying after four wins that he was no closer to knowing Tebow was “the guy” going forward, him continuing to play solid before struggling in the last three games of the regular season, and Tebow throwing the game-winning touchdown last week.
Next up was a look at the business side of Tebow with sports business analyst Rick Horrow, who discussed television ratings, tweets, Google hits and how big of a mistake it would be (from a financial perspective) for the team to go with a different quarterback.
ESPN then aired their favorite clip – Tebow pumping up the College Basketball GameDay crew with a pre-game speech back in 2008 – before showing other athletes Tebowing. One was Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson, who performed the move after grabbing an interception against Arizona in week 16 action. There were also audio clips of former NBA player turned analyst Charles Barkley saying he has had enough of the “national nightmare” of Tebow hype and was just interested to see if he could continue to be productive long-term.
Then the network transitioned into a roundtable discussion hosted by Mike Greenberg with panelists Hugh Douglas, Trevor Matich and Herm Edwards. The foursome talked about why Tebow is so polarizing, the hype surrounding him and whether or not he can succeed long-term (all three panelists said ‘yes’ to the final question). “I think for people who dislike him as a person, they ought to check themselves a little bit. Why do they dislike him as a person? Because he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve from a standpoint of making speeches about his lord and savior every three minutes,” Matich said. “He’ll say, ‘I thank the lord,’ and then he’ll move on. He’ll do a quick ‘Tebow’ and then he’ll move on. But he doesn’t make lengthy demonstrations about it. I think that people who find that to be offensive need to ask themselves why is it that’s offensive. Is it something about Tebow that they wish maybe that they were more like or makes them look bad by comparison? I’m not saying it does; I’m just saying they should ask.”
Edwards continued to be outspoken about Tebow just as he was earlier in the show. “If you don’t like Tim Tebow, what you’re really saying is you don’t respect people with integrity,” he said. “The one thing I know about this young man, and I’ve been around him, his words and his life match up every day. So if you don’t like that something’s wrong with you, because this guy lives a life of integrity. Whether or not you like him as a football player or anything else, as a person – as a human being – he has integrity.”
The second edition of TebowCenter concluded with a ‘You Don’t Know Tebow!’ game show with guests Douglas and NBA insider Ric Bucher answering questions about the former Heisman Trophy winner. After some more Tebow statistics and tweets and a video of Phoenix head coach Alan Gentry spending his entire post-game press conference talking about Tebow, the show was over.
OGGOA will update this post with footage from the ESPN program if the network releases individual clips on its own website later in the day.