In this week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, most of the NFL talk hasn’t focused on the Pro Bowl. Instead, two quarterbacks have made the biggest headlines. One is trying to get into the NFL; the other may be done in the league. Here are our thoughts on Tim Tebow and Kurt Warner.
Warner, who will reportedly announce his retirement on Friday, leaves the NFL at the top of his game. His career has as much distance between the peaks and valleys as just about anyone in the league. He was undrafted and had to go to the Arena Football League to earn a shot in St. Louis because of an injury to Trent Green. He then became a two-time MVP with the Rams, leading the high-octane “Greatest Show on Turf” offense to two Super Bowls and one Lombardi trophy. But a broken hand hampered him and sent him to the bench in St. Louis in 2002 and then for good in 2003, leading to a lull in his career. He went to the Giants as a placeholder for rookie Eli Manning and then went to Arizona, where he had two so-so seasons as a part-time starter before hitting his stride again late in 2007. But he ended his season with two fantastic seasons in ’08 and ’09, leading Arizona to two NFC West titles, four playoff wins, and the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance. Warner has the three biggest passing-yardage games in Super Bowl history and leaves with a sterling reputation for clutch play. The question as Warner leaves is not whether he had a great career; that is certain. It’s whether he’s a Hall of Famer. His unlikely and unique career path makes that a huge question that will likely be debated for many years. He’s not a first-ballot guy, but he may well make it to Canton because his best was truly at the elite level. But his storybook career deserves admiration, and it was fun and fascinating to watch.
As Warner leaves, Tim Tebow (like Warner a great leader and a very religious person) enters the NFL. His Senior Bowl practices have been less than stellar, as his questionable mechanics have been revealed as an unquestioned problem. Tebow has a force of personality that’s evident in every team interaction, interview, and meeting with coaches, and he has physical skills and abilities that definitely bring notice. But he’s just not sharp enough throwing the ball. It’s remarkable to me that Tebow could spend four years at Florida and not develop much at all as a passer yet still have such success, but now he appears to be more and more of a project as a quarterback. Is he a first-round pick for April’s draft? Chances are he is, because some owner will fall in love with Tebow and his ticket-selling potential, which is once again on display in Mobile this week. But I’m becoming ever more skeptical that Tebow can develop into a solid starting NFL quarterback. Part of me hopes I’m wrong, because it’s impossible not to like or at least respect the guy, but being a good guy is no guarantor of being a good NFL quarterback.