Tom Sorensen

Sorensen Classic: In which Tim Tebow and Danica Patrick are compared, contrasted

When the New York Jets gave Tim Tebow another chance to be an NFL quarterback, there were smirks and disbelief.
When the New York Jets gave Tim Tebow another chance to be an NFL quarterback, there were smirks and disbelief.

Editor’s note: This column originally published on April 23, 2015.

Tim Tebow is to the NFL what Danica Patrick is to NASCAR. He’s tremendous at attracting attention.

Should Patrick win a race, sponsors and fans will give NASCAR a jolt it has long craved. The NFL doesn’t need a jolt. But if Tebow leads his most recent employer, the Philadelphia Eagles, to a victory, it will get one anyway.

Some are convinced Tebow and Patrick are the same – that they got away with something – and they resent them for it.

Since there are so many worthy drivers competing on small-town tracks and so many worthy quarterbacks who won’t get their names called in next week’s draft, why do Tebow and Patrick continue to get opportunities? They’re fraudulent and should drop to one knee and confess.

It’s not as if Patrick, 33, was randomly anointed. To be a woman and succeed at a man’s game requires toughness, and she is tough. She parlayed that quality and intelligence and good looks and talent – she has talent – into the entity she has become.

And so far, Patrick has been better at passing than Tebow has. If the Chase began today, she’d be in it. But she still is known more for her work off the track, and the publicity it generates, than for what she does with her green race car.

Tebow, 27, is much better known for being Tim Tebow than he is for being a quarterback.

He is intriguing because of who he has been. He won the 2007 Heisman Trophy at Florida and in 2010 was a first-round draft pick. Denver took him 25th.

But as a professional, Tebow’s strengths have been muted and his weaknesses exploited. Nobody thought he’d play again. But he tried out for the Eagles, signed a contract this week, and here he is.

I spent time with Tebow in 2009, after his final season as a Gator. Race team owner Felix Sabates introduced us at the Daytona 500.

Tebow, who looks bigger than 6-foot-3, stood up and kept standing up.

“It’s nice to meet you, “ he said. “It’s a pleasure.”

Being a nice guy doesn’t mean you can play quarterback. And being overtly religious doesn’t mean you can’t.

Tebow invokes faith at the slightest provocation. This sets him up for criticism. How can you lead a Bible study group when you can’t lead a drive? Yet religion is not the primary reason Tebow is criticized. His inability to throw forward passes is.

Denver traded Tebow to the New York Jets, the Jets cut him and New England signed him in 2013. He was given chances because he is Tebow – big, strong and athletic. Coaches figured that in their system he could succeed. The Patriots cut him before the season began.

Tebow since has worked for ESPN and the SEC Network.

He also has worked with Tom House, a former major league baseball pitcher who has become a throwing specialist.

House focuses on biomechanics, which is where passing and engineering meet.

No matter how sophisticated Tebow’s biomechanics, what are the odds that at 27 he figures out his craft?

At the moment, he’s one of five quarterbacks on the Philadelphia roster. The presumed starter is Sam Bradford, who was selected with the draft’s first pick a year before Cam Newton was. (Newton also backed up Tebow at Florida.)

The other Philadelphia quarterbacks are Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne, and the Eagles might draft another.

Tebow likely will be a special-occasion player, a running quarterback or passing running back when a few yards are required.

If he makes the opening-day roster, what do you think his first act will be?

According to the sports betting site Bovada, the odds are:

▪  2-1 he throws a touchdown pass or rushes for a touchdown.

▪  20-1 he catches a touchdown pass.

▪  1-1 he gets cut, traded or retires.

I like underdogs and long shots, especially those few others like. Since Tebow said it was a pleasure to meet me, it will be a pleasure to pull for him.

Patrick apparently doesn’t need my help. Last month she finished seventh on a short track, and last weekend she finished ninth.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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