NEW YORK -- When it comes to former NFL quarterback, and current MLB hopeful, Tim Tebow, everyone's got an opinion. And those opinions usually hug one of the extremes.
To many, Tebow's athletic C.V. is beyond reproach: Heisman Trophy winner, two-time national champion at Florida, starting NFL quarterback and now an athlete who's talented enough to try his hand professionally at a second sport. Plus, his humanitarian efforts away from the playing field are extremely impressive. As are his movie-star good looks.
But to others, Tebow comes across as a sort of misguided rube. He was more of a running back than a quarterback in college. He has a horrible, awkward throwing arm, which makes him a joke of a quarterback by professional standards. And as he's so late to the game of baseball, he has no chance at making a real run at an MLB team, leading some to see his time with the New York Mets as a P.R. stunt. Just another stop on the golden boy hype train.
So what's the truth? Is Tebow a rare athletic specimen who has the intangibles and confidence required to make it in a second sport? Or is he just another disillusioned athlete who's having trouble letting go of his glory days, even if all signs point to him being a professional disappointment, regardless of sport?
Well, talk to former NFL star, and Packers legend, Ahman Green and he's quick to let you know where he falls: He's in the pro-Tebow camp. In fact, Green believes that Tebow shouldn't still just be in the NFL, but he should be starting for an NFL team every Sunday. Why? Because Tebow is a leader, plain and simple.
"If I'm an NFL coach or the GM or the owner, I'm looking at (Tebow), like, 'He wins games,'" says Green. "I don't care how the hell he throws the ball. He's a motivator, he leads, people follow him. Every team he was on, in college and pro -- the Florida Gators and then the Denver Broncos -- that team got behind him. And that's all you really need."
It's worth pressing pause right there and examining that specific notion, that leadership is the only quality you need as a quarterback. Because in Tebow's case, he'd better have an awful lot of it, as his statistics -- outside of his rushing -- were pretty horrible for a quarterback. According to Pro Football Reference, Tebow completed just 47.9% of his passes over his career, he threw for just 17 touchdowns in three NFL seasons, and his career QB Rating ("QBR") was a paltry 75.3. This is on equal footing with the likes of Tim Couch (75.1), Vince Young (74.4) and David Carr (74.9), quarterbacks of similar vintages who were all considered busts.
Plus, there was that awkward throwing motion.
Yet keep talking to Green about Tebow and he won't back down. He continues to stress the importance of his ability to produce as a leader of men.
"You just need a good, solid leader," continues Green. "Does he need to have a great quarterback percentage, or QBR as they rate them? No. But he was winning games. And he was motivating guys to play behind each other. Because it's a team sport."
So what of this notion that the other stats don't matter if a quarterback can be a field general? How does one measure one player's impact on his fellow teammates in an all-for-one team sport like football?
Well, there is one telling statistic that doesn't just fall in Tebow's favor, but arguably tips the balance from "bust" to "star". What is that stat? Game-Winning Drives ("GWDs"). GWDs are defined by Pro Football Reference as an "offensive scoring drive in the 4th quarter or overtime that puts the winning team ahead for the last time."
Or in layperson's terms, GWDs measure a quarterback's ability to instill confidence in his teammates at a time when they need it most.
And this is where Tebow truly stands out.
In arguably his best season as a pro -- the 2011 campaign with the Denver Broncos -- Tebow didn't just lead the Broncos to a surprising 7-4 record as a starter (as well as a successful playoff run), but he led Denver on a remarkable 6 game-winning drives that season (7 if you include the playoffs).
Six might not sound like a lot, but consider the quarterbacks who have never managed that many in a single season over their entire careers. Aaron Rodgers' career high is 3 in a season. Russell Wilson had 5 once. Cam Newton, 4. Joe Montana, 5. And they are seen as top-tier quarterbacks, all of them; or possibly the best ever in Montana's case.
As for those that have more? Well, Tom Brady (7 in 2003) and Peyton Manning (7 in 1999 and 2009) have both topped Tebow's 6 GWDs in their careers, but that was over 16 starts. Tebow only started 11 games in 2011. How many GWDs would he have had if he started all 16 games that year? Eight or nine would have been well within his reach.
Viewed that way, maybe it's true that Tebow was run out of the NFL too hastily. Not surprisingly, Green thinks so.
"Really in my opinion, I believe Tebow should be still on the football field," says Green. "I think he kind of got pushed out of the NFL because he didn't have the 'normal' quarterback stuff that you see most quarterbacks in the NFL have. But in my book, he's a winner."
And now that "winner" is trying his hand at baseball. Tebow is currently with the New York Mets in spring training, where he recently struck out on three pitches to Cy Young hurler Max Scherzer. The moment reverberated throughout the internet, yet another viral "epic fail" for the Tebow-haters to pounce upon.
But talk to Green, who was a remarkable two-sport athlete himself (baseball and football), and he still has faith in Tebow.
"In my opinion, he should still be in the NFL, but for him to be on the Mets spring roster right now is great," concludes Green. "He's a phenomenal athlete. It's not going to surprise me if he makes the squad."
As he showed with the Broncos, it's never wise to count Tebow out. No matter how late in the game it is.