Television history was made Monday morning. ESPN dedicated extended debate time — as well as the entire headline scroll on the left side of your screen — to discuss the release of a fifth-string quarterback.
Okay, maybe he would have been a fourth-stringer.
Regardless, ESPN returned to Tim Tebow-saturation coverage on Monday, after the New York Jets — a team carrying six-quarterbacks on its roster — finally cut the ex-Florida phenomenon. What should football fans remember from Tebow’s inglorious year with the New York Jets? Let’s recall some of the more, er, memorable moments:
1. The time in training camp, when New York Jets coach Rex Ryan closed practices to the public, and restricted what the media could report from the sessions, while the team installed its top-secret “Wildcat” package, which would feature Tebow in all kinds of tricky formations to take advantage of his ability to both run with the ball, and throw it. Though it turned out that the Jets had little confidence he could do either: Tebow barely took the field all season.
2. Before the season, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said Tebow could get up to 20 snaps a game. Tebow played only 77 offensive snaps the whole season.
3. Even though starter Mark Sanchez floundered all year, Tebow could not wrestle the starting job away from him. In a New York Daily News story, a teammate offered his opinion why. “He’s a terrible,” a defensive starter told the paper. When Ryan finally benched Sanchez, Greg McElroy, who had never thrown an NFL pass before this season, was given the starting job. So the Jets decided to play Greg McElroy over the story of the 2011 NFL season, who inspired teammates in Denver and led the Broncos to a playoff win — something Peyton Manning, by the way, could not do this past season.
4. After Tebow failed in New York, ESPN president John Skipper was forced to admit that his network should have dialed back its Tebow obsession, especially during the slow summer months; during that time, ESPN basically turned Cortland, N.Y. — site of the New York Jets training camp — into an around-the-clock bureau. “I said, ‘Guys, we didn’t handle this very well,'” Skipper told the Sports Business Journal. “Going to training camp wasn’t a problem. We just stayed on it relentlessly and too long … We’ve had some good discussions internally about trying to be careful. In some ways, the more difficult internal conflict is between long-term story telling and ratings. We all know that if you focus on the Tebow story, for the next 10 minutes you’re going to do better. But the question is trying to take a long-term perspective and saying, ‘Guys, let’s not get over excited about one story and hyping it.'”
This chat didn’t stop ESPN from turning Tebow’s release into another five-alarm story. But you can’t really fault the network for doing so: unlike all other current NFL fourth or fifth-stringers, Tebow once captivated the country. A casual fan could spot the flaws in Tebow’s delivery: with his slow, windup delivery, he throws the ball as it if weighs 50 pounds. Yet, he turned the Broncos into winners, causing Americans to attribute the success of Tebow to higher powers. Kurt Warner, a former Super Bowl MVP quarterback and devout Christian, said Tebow’s success was a “modern-day miracle.” According to one poll, 43% of Americans believed that Tebow’s dramatic success can be attributed to divine intervention.
The Jets did Tebow no favors, but if his quarterbacking career is over, the team alone shouldn’t be blamed for his failures. Not even the Broncos, the team whom Tebow led to the playoffs, truly believed in him. Although getting Peyton Manning is more than enough reason to trade a Tim Tebow, neither Broncos president John Elway, nor coach John Fox, expressed an overwhelming amount of confidence in Tebow. He didn’t seem destined to last in Denver.
ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, a trusted source amidst the ESPN chatter, says Tebow has “no future as an NFL quarterback.” And even if that’s the case, Tim Tebow deserves a ton of credit. He kept all the hysteria surrounding him in perspective, and is a safe bet to stay grounded. As he told TIME back in 2011, “thank goodness I don’t have to live the roller coaster that everybody else lives about my life.”