|Tebow is converting non-believers with each come-from-behind win. (US PRESSWIRE)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Way back in in August, a week after the lockout ended and just days into training camp, ESPN analyst Merril Hoge spoke frankly about Tim Tebow's prospects as an NFL quarterback. Via Twitter, Hoge said "It's embarrassing to think the Broncos could win with Tebow!!" Later he added, "College credentials do not transfer to NFL raw raw [sic] speeches do not work! You must poses [sic] a skill set to play! Tebow struggle [sic] with accuracy!"
Tebow's response (also via Twitter): "Hey Merril, 'ppreciate that."
Four months later and not only is Tebow the Broncos' starting quarterback, he's 7-1 in the role, the team is on a six-game winning streak, and they're atop the AFC West by one game over the Raiders.
Turns out, college "rah rah speeches" do work in the NFL. And even Hoge can admit that now. During a Monday appearance on ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show, he owned up to his mistake.
"The lessons that (the Broncos) are showing (are) what sports are about. ... I've been obviously very hard on Tim Tebow, very critical of him as a quarterback and his skill set," he said.
"... I've been wrong on a lot of levels with (Tebow). I've lost the ability, or the opportunity, I should say ... to shed light on what an amazing story (about) how he has worked, persevered, changed -- his diligence -- all those things that you try to teach young people ... (what) sports are really about."
Tebow, we'd imagine, has already forgiven him.
As an analyst, it's Hoge's job to weigh in on players -- good or bad. And it's not like he was the only guy beating the "Tebow is really, really bad" drum. Just about everybody thought he had no chance to succeed in today's NFL with a style that is better suited for the college game. The widespread belief that Tebow was overmatched extended into November, after he was summarily dismantled by the Lions in his worst game of the season. The aftermath was particularly brutal.
An anonymous Detroit player told Yahoo.com's Michael Silver that Tebow was "embarrassing" and "a joke."
The post-mortem also included this from Hoge: "Watching last week's tape, the thing that was most disturbing was his ability to not understand where the ball has to go. His [lack of] awareness is mind-boggling to me." And CBS Sports' Boomer Esiason said that what the Lions did to Tebow “…means that there’s no respect for Tim Tebow as the quarterback. And they want to make sure that when they play him, they want to show that to the world that Tim Tebow can not play in this league at this position.”
Such sentiments have changed in recent weeks, and those who continue to pan Tebow do so reflexively and irrationally because as CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel wrote Monday, "…We can't [explain it]. Nor do we have to. Whatever Tebow is doing, and however he's doing it, it defies description. Beauty usually does."
Returning to Hoge's original tweets one more time, even Broncos executive vice president John Elway, also one-time skeptic, admits that Tebow has the uncanny ability to motivate his teammates to greatness.
During a recent appearance on 102.3 the Ticket in Denver, Elway was asked why he thinks the team rallies about Tebow (via SportsRadioInterviews.com):
“I think when you look at it I guess I just believe everyone believes that something good is going to happen," Elway said. "Tim’s been the guy that has led that thinking and he’s just such a strong believer. He’s got everyone else believing that if you stay strong, stay positive, that something good is going to happen. There’s no question that those things … that you really can’t explain that are happening are happening. It’s the power of the mind and the power of positive thinking."
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