Leadership Lessons from Tim Tebow
Posted on November 18, 2011 by Christopher Matthew Jensen.
Tim Tebow is a quarterback. He’s a terrible passer. By most measures, he’s the worst passer in the NFL. Some even say he’s the worst passer the NFL has ever seen at the position. His coach, his General Manager, analysts in the media, former quarterback greats, scouts, and people that know the position well will all tell you he has no business as a starting quarterback in professional football. But the undeniable truth is that Tim Tebow is a winner. That's the power of great leadership.
Leadership is about much more than being an elite performer. In fact, sometimes the absolute best performers make terrible leaders. Leadership is about bringing the best out of people. Leadership is about taking a collection of individuals and making a team. For all of Tebow’s shortcomings as a passer, he’s found success in large part because -- love him or hate him -- the guy’s leadership skills are off the charts.
Now in his second year in the NFL, Tebow has finally gotten the chance his many fans have been clamoring for. His coach, John Fox, reluctant to hand over the starting quarterback position to a player with so many fundamental flaws as a player, was basically forced into doing so when the Broncos started the season with just one win and four losses. Since taking over as starting quarterback, Tebow has improbably led the team to four victories and just one loss. In one of the most astonishing stat lines in recent memory, on November 13th, Tebow’s Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs 17-10 with only two completed passes. Two! Yet his teammates are believers.
As teammate Von Miller put it, "I trust him with everything. No matter how many interceptions he throws, no matter how many touchdowns he scores, that's Tim Tebow and I'm going to ride with him to the end.”
As Tebow’s demonstrated in the past weeks, it’s what happens in the end that matters most. On October 23rd, after a miserable day in which the Broncos offense couldn’t put together any sustained drives, let alone points, he miraculously rallied his team to victory from a 15-0 deficit with less than three minutes in the game. No NFL team had come back from such a deficit with so little time left in the game in over twenty years.
Last night in a similar scenario, after 54 minutes of disastrous offense, producing just three points, the Broncos took over on their own five yard line with less than six minutes left after a New York Jets punt. Tebow made one big play after another, drove 95 yards down the field against one of the league’s best defenses and plunged into the endzone on a game winning touchdown scramble. Somehow, some way, when it means the most, Tebow always comes through. As unlikely as it may seem after watching 55 minutes of terrible quarterbacking, the Broncos players still trust he’ll come through in the clutch.
Another way Tebow has gained the trust of his teammates has been his history of accountability. One of the more famous moments in the lore of Tim Tebow came from his days in college playing for the perennial powerhouse Florida Gators. After the fourth game of the 2008 season, a game in which the Gators, then ranked #4 in the nation, lost to Ole Miss, Tebow appeared at the post-game press conference. Fighting back tears, he took responsibility for the loss, apologized to Gator fans everywhere and he also made a pledge. He promised to work harder than anyone else and to push his team to work harder than any other team. His Gators responded by winning the rest of their games and finishing as NCAA national champions. His pledge now hangs on an engraved plaque inside the stadium where the Gators play.
Tim Tebow's Promise and Pledge
At the University of Florida, Tebow had the luxury of playing for a team loaded with talent. In the NFL, he hasn’t been so lucky. The Denver Broncos finished the 2010 season with franchise record 12 losses. Earlier this season, the team traded away former Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Lloyd after the Broncos started 1-4, seemingly abandoning any hope of immediate success in favor of re-tooling for the future. Now, after five games with Tim Tebow at the helm, the Broncos are in the thick of the playoff race and the lowly has-beens and never-will-bes filling out much of the Broncos’ roster are rising to the occasion week after week.
In the words of starting cornerback Champ Bailey, "Tebow is a special player. I have never seen a player quite like him in my whole career! I’m gonna play all out for the guy! I know he will be out there giving 110% every play every week, so I’m gonna give 120%!"
So how does Tebow do it? How does a quarterback with the lowest passing completion percentage and the 34th best quarterback rating (out of 32 teams) turn around a franchise in so few weeks? When you create trust, exemplify accountability and inspire others to give their all, there’s no limit to what miracles you can pull off.