If you are not into American Football, you have probably never heard of Tim Tebow. He is the most talked about player in the National Football League at the moment. This is because he is winning with his team, the Denver Broncos. Critics, however, argue that he is winning the wrong way.
Tebow is a devout Christian who is outspoken about his faith. This irritates his detractors as equally as the way he is winning games. He has polarised the sports into two camps: those who loathe and those who love him. Tebow has also confounded the experts because of his unconventional playing style. His throwing and passing mechanics are suspect and his game stats are unimpressive but yet he manages to get his team to win. Tim Tebow is a winner. He won at high school, he won at college and now he is winning at the professional level.
American football is a quarterback driven sport. The quarterback is the leader, captain and playmaker rolled in one. He is the heartbeat of the team. Early this season, before Tebow became starting quarterback, the Broncos struggled under another quarterback. Under Tebow’s leadership, the team has won six games and lost one. He has managed to inspire the whole team to win games.
Yet, to appreciate Tebow’s story, you have to draw some parallels with the story of David in the Bible. According to the Bible, the Philistines decided to wage a war on the Israelites. The Philistine army outnumbered and were better equipped than Israel’s army. The best Philistine warrior, Goliath, challenged any of Israel’s finest to face him in a duel. The outcome of the duel determined the result of the battle. The loser’s army had to surrender to the victor’s troops.
No one was willing to face Goliath in open combat because of his gigantic frame and great skill. Even King Saul of Israel didn’t want to face Goliath. David the Shepherd, a teenager, volunteered to face Goliath. Saul gave him his armour and sword, which David tested but found uncomfortable because he wasn’t a trained soldier. He discarded the sword for his preferred weapon of choice – a sling.
Goliath was offended when David approached him with a sling and some stones instead of a sword. He abused and cursed him for daring to do this. Goliath had never faced an opponent with a sling before so he was unprepared and dismissive of this method of warfare. This is why he didn’t wear his helmet which he left with his armour bearer. It only took one stone, slung by David, hitting Goliath’s unprotected forehead to knock him out cold. David went to an unconscious Goliath, took his sword and chopped off his head. David used the sling instead of the sword because it played to his strengths and he was comfortable with it.
Tebow and the Broncos are implementing the offense system called the ‘spread option’ which experts said could never work in the National Football League. It was an accepted assumption that the pace and strength of the professional league would neutralise such system, hence no one bothered to implement it. The spread option was believed to be better suited for the college level. This is a system that plays to Tebow’s strengths. The Broncos’ coaching staff realised that Tebow wasn’t a conventional quarterback so they reverted to the system that worked so well for him in college. The other teams have never faced the spread option before so they are struggling to cope with it. Football purists are horrified that Tebow and the spread option system are succeeding. Every week they predict Tebow’s collapse but every week he defies expectations to fail.
Can Tebow lead the Broncos to the playoffs and maybe even win the Super Bowl with this system? Only time will tell. But whatever happens, he has helped change the established view of the conventional quarterback and the spread option just as David did with the sling.