Commentary

Tebow for real -- except for one thing

When you meet the man, you can't help but like him -- until he throws the football

Updated: July 31, 2012, 11:12 AM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Up here in the land of nowhere, where all things green and white seem to revolve around a backup quarterback with rock-star appeal, the only thing newsworthy is that Tim Tebow appears to deserve it. His cordiality and decency are beyond comprehension.

Apparently, so is the veneer of his soul. So much so that you find yourself wishing he played any position other than quarterback -- simply so he would never have to throw the football.

Except, Tim Tebow has had to throw the football. Quite often, as the New York Jets entered their fourth day of training camp. And while doing so -- despite evidence that he knows how to win football games and is clearly in possession of an "it" factor few have been blessed with -- all the former Florida All-American has done is force anyone with two eyes to echo unflattering sentiments in unison, no matter how much it pains them to do so:

Tebow simply cannot throw the football.

At least in the humble opinion of this scribe.

"I think, first of all, it's not my place to try and debate or make myself look good," Tebow told me Monday, following the Jets' practice at SUNY Cortland. "I really appreciate you complimenting me by saying I have the "it" factor and I can win football games. Just as far as trying to get better and throwing the football, I've been working really hard with that. You can see that in certain situations that I've done that.

"Plus, I've tried to work on being very careful with the football. So I think I've done some good things and I'm going to just continue to get better. But I appreciate the compliments. As to everything else, I just use it all for motivation."

Here's hoping it works for him someday.

Truth be told, there are doubters. A face-to-face meeting with Tebow -- such as the one I had on Monday -- will undoubtedly come rife with flattering, sentimental emotions, leaving one wishing they felt otherwise. But change is not something it would provoke.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Bill KostrounAll eyes are on Tim Tebow right now -- especially when he's throwing the football.

In the end, Tebow's throwing motion, the absence of timing, his slow release, the wobbly throws, the lack of precision, the questionable football IQ, and the residue of a 46 percent completion rate that was the worst of any starting quarterback in the NFL last season, is what resonates. Profoundly. And there's nothing even the wide-eyed Jets can do to change that right now.

"He's a helluva teammate," linebacker Bart Scott told me.

"We love having him and we think he'll be a tremendous asset to this team," fellow linebacker David Harris added.

Even wideout Santonio Holmes got into the act, proclaiming his faith in the young 24-year-old who lives by a creed more than most of us. Yet, it doesn't prevent the rest of us from questioning the obvious.

Some would say the Tebow trade was always a smart play by the Jets, but it begs the question: Was it because Tebow can play quarterback? Or because the Jets were so dysfunctional last year, and Tebow's presence in the locker room is what they're relying upon more than anything else.

In the end, we simply don't know everything about Tebow's game. All we know is that this dude is the genuine real deal as a human being. We know that every encouraging word that comes out of his mouth is believable. That he's draped in spirituality, and leans on it more than his game. It's so believable, in fact, he even sounds sincere when talking about competing with Mark Sanchez for the starting quarterback job, even when his words appear contradictory to his job description.

"I disagree that it's contradictory," Tebow retorted, when challenged on the sincerity of his well-wishes toward Sanchez. "There are things that are more important than football games. Relationships, in general, and how you treat people are more important than football games. As far as rooting somebody on and supporting them, you can do that while still trying to do your best. If your best is better, so be it. If not, then you have to do other roles that you're asked to do.

"But I don't think you have to have the attitude that you don't want someone to do their best. Absolutely not. I want them to do their best. I just want to do my best, to be the best I can be. You can still support someone, believe in someone, encourage someone and help make them better, and still try and continue to be a competitor and be the best you can be. It's 100 percent about outlook."

We're clear on Tebow's outlook. Unfortunately, most folks are still fixated on our outlook of him.

Watching him, you still believe he can't throw. You still know he's not better than Sanchez. And we're all still left wondering what he'll be able to do as a result of his deficiencies.

The thing is, if anyone is capable of making someone hope they are wrong, it's Tebow -- shirtless or not -- who leaves you feeling that way.

Decency breeds such emotion.

In that department, Tebow stands alone.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, a co-host on First Take" and a regular on "SportsCenter."

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