The Philadelphia Eagles signed Tim Tebow to a one-year contract. Predictably the sports world picked up the story and ran with it, eliciting responses from supporters and those who doubt Tebow will succeed.
Some conservatives who wear their faith on their sleeve think any criticism of Tebow reflects an anti-Christian bias. They think it is anti-religious bigotry, fomented by atheist haters. It fits with the new narrative of religious persecution that some are willing to peddle.
If that's the case, then the NFL wouldn't be very popular, because there are so many players who are deeply religious and let everyone know about it. The Seattle Seahawks aren't cutting Russell Wilson, the quarterback who cited divine intervention as the reason why his team slipped past the Green Bay Packers and into the Super Bowl. Instead, they're poised to throw a lot more money at him.
Over and over again, players "thank the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior" before answering a single interview question. Players are always kneeling in prayer, before, during and after games, often in large groups. So it can't be an anti-Christian bias.
Tebow's supporters continue to look for evidence of this anti-religious bias. They claim Tebow was great, owing to his lone playoff victory at home over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and how the Broncos did during the season in the won-loss column.
Yet a casual glance of the statistics that year showed that he only completed 46.5 percent of his passes (the lowest percentage of anyone who threw the ball at least 25 times), rated behind John Skelton of Arizona, Blaine Gabbert of Jacksonville, Matt Moore of Miami and Tavaris Jackson with Seattle and just ahead of Kyle Orton, the man he replaced.
With his QBR, Tebow finished third from last of all starters. If you doubled his statistics, he'd be behind Matt Hasselbeck of the Tennessee Titans, at the end of his career. Josh Freeman, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez and Rex Grossman had better seasons.
Tebow could run some with the ball, but it's a passing league. Denver got into the playoffs behind a strong defense despite a fairly weak offense. The New York Jets gave Tebow a chance, but cut him after a year. New England coach Bill Belichick, who knows something about good quarterbacks, cut Tebow after a poor preseason. Teams offered to play Tebow at different positions, but he refused. CFL teams were interested in Tebow as a QB, but even though it is a good league for development (like Warren Moon and Doug Flutie), Tebow refused. It was NFL QB job or nothing.
Meanwhile, another SEC star, Michael Sam, has yet to play an NFL down. He was a late draft pick by the St. Louis Rams, but was cut in training camp. Sam, who is gay, had won the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He was also signed to the Dallas practice squad, before being let go. Yet this Tebow fan thinks gay players are getting a free pass.
The NFL is clearly a professional league dominated by Christians. If Tebow is struggling, it isn't because he's "Tebowing" or bowing down in prayer. It's because he's completing less than half of his passes.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.