How Tim Tebow destroyed his career

We all know where we were when "Tebowmania" hit. As the quarterback for the University of Florida, Tim Tebow was absolutely dominant. He won the Heisman Trophy as an underclassman in 2007, and he quarterbacked for the Gators when they won the BCS Championship in 2008. He also served as an inspiration to many with his devout Christian faith. By the time he was declared for the 2010 NFL Draft, Tebow was a household name and had the whole country "Tebowing."

The 6'3" tall and about 240-pound Tebow was described as "the strongest human being that's ever played the position" by one anonymous NFL coach (via Biography). However, despite his stellar college career, NFL scouts and talent evaluators questioned whether he could replicate that success in the big leagues. Some even openly wondered if he should change positions due to his stature and rushing ability. But as a quarterback? Not so much. "I'd say third or fourth round worst-case scenario, second round as a best case. Probably a third-rounder," said ESPN football analyst Mel Kiper Jr., per Yahoo Sports!. "That's assuming his workouts are good."

But the Tebow hype train would not be slowed down for anyone. Tebow had a dream to play quarterback in the NFL and that's what he did. However, five years later, that dream was over. Why did one of the greatest college football players of all time flame out so quickly? Let's huddle up and find out how Tim Tebow destroyed his career.

Tim Tebow found early success with the Denver Broncos... then he didn't

Despite most draft experts and NFL scouts calling Tim Tebow a mid-round pick at best, the Denver Broncos traded up in the 2010 NFL Draft to select the quarterback as the 25th overall pick in the first round. Then-head coach Josh McDaniels praised Tebow's competitive traits and his winning college record (via NFL.com): "He's a leader, he works hard, he's got all the intangibles you look for in a player at that position."

Tebow's rookie season in the Mile High City wasn't much to write home about, but in 2011, "Tebowmania" reached its peak. After a 1-4 start to the season, Tebow became the starting quarterback and led the Broncos to the playoffs. Tebow played the greatest game of his career against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the team's first playoff game, throwing for a career-high 316 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard bomb to Demaryius Thomas that sealed the game in overtime. But the high didn't last long. The Broncos faced the New England Patriots the following week and were absolutely destroyed 45-10.

"Tim's earned the right to be our quarterback going into training camp next year," the Broncos' vice president of football operations John Elway said after the season (via The Washington Post). However, Tebow never played another down for the team.

Tim Tebow was the 'most self-centered humble guy' in Denver

Were Tim Tebow's issues on the field the only reason he was evicted from the Mile High City? Well, according to the book, Elway: A Relentless Life, sports journalist Jason Cole talked to several sources inside the Denver Broncos organization, and the former Heisman winner apparently didn't make any fans in the building by allegedly being an egomaniac obsessed with money. 

"The most self-centered humble guy I've ever met," one Broncos staffer said of Tebow in an excerpt provided by the Daily Mail. And while the quarterback reportedly charged $50,000 to speak at churches, he was apparently under the impression that he would also bank the same at Broncos charity events, which angered many inside the Broncos organization — including John Elway's wife. The book also claimed that "Tebowmania" and his "devout group of fans" made it difficult for Elway or any Broncos coach to criticize Tebow publicly. When Elway appeared on a radio show and remained non-committal on Tebow's future with the team, the reaction was "as if he had just burned the American flag at high noon in front of Sunday school class."

However, behind the scenes, the Broncos coaching staff reportedly thought Tebow was "simply awful" and "struggled to understand concepts in reading defenses and executing the offense," so much so they would "shake their head" when asked about Tebow's mental aspect of the game. As one former teammate claimed to Cole, "He has no idea what's going on out there." Yikes.

Did Tim Tebow sow discord in Denver?

With the Denver Broncos starting the 2011 season with a 1-4 record under starter quarterback Kyle Orton (above, left), there were calls from the fan base for head coach John Fox to give Tim Tebow the starting job. One of those calls took the form of a giant, digital billboard paid for by employees of the Denver-based Multiline International Imports, which read (via NFL.com): "Broncos Fans to John Fox: Play Tebow!"

"We have the best fans in the NFL," Broncos team spokesman Patrick Smyth said at the time, trying to put a diplomatic spin on the billboard. "This is another example of their unrivaled passion and enthusiasm for the Broncos." However, the Broncos quarterback room privately fined Tebow every day the billboard remained up for failing to make a public statement about the divisiveness of the sign.

Two months later, the Broncos cut Orton, and the veteran quarterback signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Later that year, Orton got his revenge by defeating the Tebow-led Broncos 7-3.

Tim Tebow's season of disappointment with the New York Jets

The Denver Broncos solved their quarterback issues in 2012 by signing Peyton Manning, so Tim Tebow was shipped off the New York Jets in exchange for two late-round draft picks. The Jets understood the issues with Tebow's lack of arm strength and accuracy, so they decided to implement the Wildcat offense to play up his running ability. Tebow was expected to thrive in the new-look offense. SPOILER: He did not.

Barely three months into the season, Tebow's teammates were reportedly calling him the worm in the Big Apple. "He's terrible," an anonymous defensive starter said (via the New York Daily News). "We don't look at him as a quarterback," another starter added. "He's the Wildcat guy." Players also claimed Tebow played horribly in practice, while a member of the organization alleged it would take "like a five-interception game" for Tebow to replace the team's equally bad starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez. "It would take Mark to totally just s**t the bed and become unglued," the person continued. As for the Wildcat offense? Another player claimed, "We can't win running that s**t."

Tebow's tenure ended with the Jets the following April, when the team waived him. He completed just six passes for 39 yards in a Jets uniform. "We have a great deal of respect for Tim Tebow," said then-Jets head coach Rex Ryan (via USA Today). "Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we all had hoped."

Tim Tebow's stop with the New England Patriots lasted two months

If any one team could find out a way to use Tim Tebow, it would be the NFL juggernaut New England Patriots, right? Well, that was the thinking in 2013, when the team signed him a day before mandatory minicamp started. Reunited with his former head coach in Denver, Josh McDaniels (who returned to New England as the offensive coordinator), Tebow thought he found a new lease on his NFL career.

After playing in three preseason games with an abysmal 36.7 percent completion percentage, the Boston media was calling for him to be cut. "In a couple of weeks, Tebow likely will be cut, and his former Patriots teammates all will say what a pleasure he was to be around," Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald wrote. "His coaches will say he was a joy to coach. Fans proudly will wear their No. 5 jerseys forever. Tebow will smile and bless us all as he walks out the door. And there will, finally, be no more mystery. Tebow will be gone, and we all will know why."

As expected, Tebow was cut before the regular season started. In a series of tweets (via The Washington Post), Tebow thanked the Patriots for "the opportunity to be a part of such a classy organization." He added, "I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback." Turns out the dream wasn't dead... yet.

Tim Tebow's last chance: Philadelphia Eagles

Prior to the 2015 season, four years since his last starting position, Tim Tebow signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles to compete for the third-string quarterback job. According to NFL insider Jay Glazer, they had a reason to be a little excited. "Eagles spent time [with Tebow's QB] coach Tom House and are convinced he's improved a lot," Glazer tweeted. "If he hasn't no harm no foul as they have roster spots."

Tebow played surprisingly well (for Tebow) during the team's four preseason games, throwing for 286 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, and rushing for 82 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately for Tebow, that wasn't enough and he was released before the season started. "We felt Tim has progressed, but we didn't feel he was good enough to be the [No.] 3 right now," then-Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said (via ESPN). "He just needs to get more playing time. Get out there and get actual reps. Because he has done a ton on his own from an individual basis, but it is about taking that next step and playing the game."

Once again, Tebow thanked a team for an opportunity. "Thanks @Eagles and Coach Kelly for giving me the opportunity to play the game I love! Romans 8:28 #Blessed," he tweeted. And with that, Tebow's NFL career was over.

An NFL career autopsy

Tim Tebow seemed to have everything going for him when he came out of college — except a strong arm, that is, but plenty of guys in the NFL have succeeded without a strong arm. However, if we may use a basketball saying here: ball don't lie. During his 35 regular-season NFL games, Tebow threw for 2,422 yards (an average of 69.2 yards a game) with 17 touchdowns, nine interceptions, an abysmal 47.9 completion percentage, and seven fumbles.

Couple that with the off-field distractions and way too much media hype, and Tebow's NFL career was uninspiring. An anecdote by one of his former Denver Broncos teammates, Chris Harris Jr., might serve as a microcosm of Tebow's time in the league. Harris was intercepting so many of Tebow's passes in practice that the coaches told him to stop. "Coming in as an undrafted rookie, I wanted to make sure I competed every day against those talented receivers," Harris told STACK. "A lot of times, [coaches] had to tell me to cut back, don't pick off a lot of Tebow's balls. That's how hard I was out there working." Yikes.

In 2018, Tebow appeared on the Journeys of Faith with Paula Faris podcast, and shared that he ha no doubts he could still play in the NFL. "It's still hard sometimes when I watch games and I'm thinking, 'I can totally do that,'" he said (via TMZ). "Or, 'I can be doing this or playing here or crushing that!'"

Tim Tebow stayed in the game, but on a different stage

While Tim Tebow was unable to fulfill his dream on the field, he stayed close to the game he loves. In 2013, the former quarterback joined ESPN as an analyst for the SEC Network as part of SEC Nation — a pregame show in the conference where he became a collegiate star. "I am so excited that ESPN has given me this incredible opportunity," Tebow said in a statement (via ESPN). "This is an amazing opportunity to be part of the unparalleled passion of college football and the SEC." ESPN senior vice president Justin Connolly called Tebow an "SEC icon" who would be a "significant contributor" with his "wealth of knowledge about the game, the conference and the passion among SEC fans."

By 2017, Tebow signed a multi-year extension with ESPN that allowed him to continue his pursuit of being a professional athlete. "I love the passion that SEC fans bring to our set every Saturday morning," Tebow said (via Deadline). "And I look forward to continuing to share my own love of the game with fans on ESPN and SEC Network." When you have a chance to add a widely popular sports and media figure to your network, you have to jump at it. Kudos to ESPN for understanding that. 

Tebow's crossover appeal wasn't lost on ESPN's parent network either. In 2014, ABC brought "Tebowmania" when Tebow was tapped to co-host Good Morning America as part of their Super Bowl coverage.

Will Tim Tebow find success in a new sport?

With his NFL days over, Tim Tebow announced he was pursuing a professional career in another sport he played at the University of Florida: baseball. "This may sound like a publicity stunt, but nothing could be further from the truth," CAA baseball agent Brodie Van Wagenen said in a statement (via ESPN) in 2016. "I have seen Tim's workouts, and people inside and outside the industry — scouts, executives, players and fans — will be impressed by his talent."

It didn't take Tebow long to find interest. That same year, the New York Mets signed him to a minor league contract. By 2020, Tebow had spent four years in their minor league system, and on Feb. 25, 2020 — about a month after he married former Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters — Tebow notched a first in his professional baseball career. "Tim Tebow just hit his first extra-base hit in four years of big league camp: a two-run homer off veteran reliever Alex Wilson," Mets beat writer Anthony DiComo tweeted.

The following month, Tebow was among the first players to be cut by the Mets during spring training. "He was actually in a good place swinging," Mets manager Luis Rojas said, per Mets.com. "I thought he walked, had a single and hit three balls really hard. I see a progression in his game. This is a guy that works really hard. We had the conversation with him going down to keep going with his plan." Hang in there, Tebow!