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Tim Tebow Senior Bowl: Disaster or first step to NFL?

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow has been criticized on and off the football field this week. But he insists his poor performance at the Senior Bowl Saturday is only a beginning.

By Staff Writer / January 31, 2010

South quarterback Tim Tebow of Florida, looks for a receiver during the second half of the Senior Bowl NCAA college football game in Mobile, Ala., Saturday.

Dave Martin/AP

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Most reviews would suggest this has been a bad week for Tim Tebow.

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Already he's catching flak for an anti-abortion advertisement that will run during the Super Bowl, potentially politicizing the event for viewers.

Then on Saturday, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback – a two-time national champion and arguably one of the greatest players in college football history – played in the Senior Bowl to show pro scouts that he could run an offense at the pro level.

Instead, he appeared to prove his critics right. Here's a typical sampling:

"It's simple, he's just not a very good quarterback prospect," one National Football League scout told the National Football Post this week.

With his performance at the Senior Bowl, “Tebow nearly guaranteed that he will not be drafted in the first round, or even the second round,” suggested the Bleacher Report.

ESPN’s Todd McShay said he “is just not comfortable as a pro-style quarterback.”

Yet one voice was not quite so pessimistic. He improved every day, and his presence at the Senior Bowl – a proving ground to college’s second-tier NFL prospects – was proof of his willingness to improve his fundamentals.

That analysis came from Tim Tebow himself.

Not your run-of-the-mill QB

Such headlong optimism might be easily dismissed in many cases. In Tebow’s case it is not.

Tebow has never been a quarterback in the classic mold.

From the vantage point of college football Saturday nights, he is merely a winner – a hybrid of running back and quarterback who can be as punishing with his leading shoulder as his left arm. (See a fan's homage here.)

Whatever it takes to win, he does, even if it’s the awkward sight of the goal-line jump pass – a play not seen since “three yard and a cloud of dust” was the height of offensive invention.

From the vantage point of pro football Sundays, however, he is a nettle of bad habits and bad form. In the turbo-charged NFL, where a fraction of a second can be the difference between a completed pass and a taste of the turf, courtesy a blitzing linebacker, Tebow’s throwing motion is a sack waiting to happen – a windmill motion that takes an age to complete.

And in the NFL, where both his size and his speed will be ordinary, the prospect of bowling over defenses is far-fetched, at best.

Which leaves Tebow as a player with an impeccable record and a deeply fallible set of skills.

A man of uncommon dedication

Yet repeatedly this week, Tebow has acknowledged these flaws. To critics, they were exposed cruelly in Tebow’s poor performance in Saturday’s Senior Bowl: two fumbles, four yards rushing, and 50 yards passing on 12 attempts. To Tebow, however, the bowl was merely the first step in a professional renaissance.

And Tebow has proven himself a player of uncommon determination. In a speech that has become legendary in northern Florida, Tebow made what has become known as “the pledge” after a loss with the Florida Gators in 2008.

“I promise you one thing,” he said to the media after the loss to Ole Miss. “ A lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the regular season.”

Florida went on to win the national championship, and Tebow’s pledge is now inscribed on plaque outside the football complex.

At least one NFL quarterbacks coach, Jim Zorn of the Baltimore Ravens, was not dismissive of Tebow’s ability to reinvent himself.

"You can see that he takes to coaching," Zorn said at the Senior Bowl while watching Tebow throw. "Somebody is going to get a young man that is really going to work hard to be successful.”

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