Some of the hotter memes to pass through social media since President Donald Trump’s castigation of NFL anthem protests all involve Tim Tebow. People have been putting up images of Tebow kneeling during games faster than a dealer passing around a new narcotic, suggesting the ex-NFL quarterback never got a fair shake in the league, and intimating his out Christianity is one reason why he was so divisive. There’s definitely a large nugget of truth to the claim, but the same could also be said about Colin Kaepernick. The two quarterbacks appear to cause the biggest schism between fans, with Tony Romo a very close third, but they’re pretty much two sides of the same coin. It’s an uncomfortable truth for those who enjoy professional football, however, it’s one which needs to be acknowledged.
The first is their college careers. Both Tebow and Kaepernick were dual threat quarterbacks in college, who ran about as much as they threw. Their stats are strikingly similar, with both players rushing for almost 60 touchdowns in college, while Tebow tossed six more TD’s than Kaepernick. What’s interesting is Kaepernick has the edge in passing and rushing yards, having thrown 800 more yards than Tebow and rushed for over a thousand more. The biggest difference between the two is obviously hype, and awards. Tebow played in the SEC for the Gators, meaning he got to be on TV much more than Kaepernick’s Wolf Pack did in the MAC. He also won the Heisman, and was a finalist for two others. The closest Kaepernick got to an award was being on the Manning and O’Brien award watchlists.
The similarities are the also the same in the NFL Draft. Scouts praised both for their leadership qualities, work ethic, height, and arm strength. Both were criticized for playing in a non-pro style offense, decision making, and delivery issues. Yet two teams took a risk on Tebow and Kaepernick, with Tebow going 25th overall to the Broncos, while Kaepernick went 36th to the San Francisco. It’s pretty interesting to see how their careers keep mimicking each other, even into the NFL. Kaepernick has had a longer career, and NFL playoff wins, but Tebow won one playoff game in three seasons and both rushed for at least a dozen TDs.
It could be argued Kaepernick and Tebow’s successes (and failures) are because of how coaches used them. Broncos Coach John Fox was willing to Tebow-ize the Broncos offense in their only season together, and Kaepernick’s greatest success came with Jim Harbaugh as his coach. When Tebow was sent to the Jets, he hardly touched the field, even though he started two games and got to do the occasional trick play. I remember there being questions as to why the Jets even traded for Tebow, if they weren’t going to play him. Kaepernick’s stock fell through the floor when Harbaugh left, and other coaches came in. Does this mean both Kaepernick and Tebow are system quarterbacks? Yes. In all honesty, both players deserve to be in the NFL, if they can find the right situation. There has to be a coach out there willing to use Tebow’s strength as a runner and a deep passer, and Kaepernick’s success with the 49ers with Harbaugh can’t be ignored. This is an indictment on NFL coaches who are too focused on making their offenses a specific style, instead of figuring out ways to successfully use both quarterbacks. It’s disappointing to both players and shows a lack of thought process in the NFL.
The biggest similarity between both quarterbacks are their PR issues (yes, even Tebow!), and the fact they were pushed by the media. Tebow was heralded by ESPN during his college and NFL tenure, while Kaepernick became a media sensation because of his decision to sit during the National Anthem. The PR issues are because of their fans and/or detractors. Tebow’s legion of fans are well known, as plenty of Christians have flocked to him because of his outspokenness regarding his faith. That’s caused others to bristle at Tebow’s success, not because they don’t necessarily like Tebow, but because there’s this idea his fans are annoying. Kaepernick has been praised and vilified for kneeling or sitting during the Anthem, with people on the left loving what he does, while people on the right are a bit more angry. It doesn’t really matter whether either Tebow or Kaepernick are right in their actions. The fact they had their legion of fans so hellbent on pushing the quarterbacks meant it would be a headache for teams to even consider signing them.
I’ve no problem with either player, even if I believe they’re more products of the system they were in, and I don’t mind the fact both of them have been known for their activism. I tend to agree a bit more with Tebow, than I do Kaepernick, but it doesn’t bother me both have decided to stand firm in their beliefs. They both deserve another shot in the NFL, if they can find the right situation.