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Tebow has ways to go to win respect as QB from fellow players

  • By Jeff Darlington NFL.com
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The cynicism still resonated, even as the pain of the Week 14 loss had yet to subside. Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher's team had just suffered the strange and indescribable wrath of a Tim Tebow comeback, leaving the defense in a bizarre spot.

Do members of the D praise Tebow's efforts after the game? Do they accept him as a resilient quarterback, capable of special things in big moments? Do these Bears outwardly admit -- even if they don't internally accept -- that Tebow might really have what it takes?

"He's a good running back, man," Urlacher said, choosing a compromise between praise and defiance. "He runs the ball well."

Fewer than three weeks later, regardless of the side on which you stand when it comes to Tebow's on-field abilities, it should be no surprise that he was not among the three quarterbacks named to the AFC's Pro Bowl roster Tuesday. Not even when Philip Rivers, who threw 17 interceptions in the season's first 11 weeks, is instead among the three.

While Tebow's legion might have previously pointed toward Urlacher's comments as mere bitterness given the proximity to the Bears' loss, this latest Pro Bowl vote might instead provide evidence that Urlacher's sentiment is shared by plenty of his peers.

Does it really matter? No. Wins and losses matter. Will Tebow care? Probably not. At this point, the doubt about his ability to succeed as a quarterback, even if unconventionally, seems to fuel him.

But in a year when Rivers most certainly left the door open for players and coaches to instead put another quarterback in the game when they voted last week, we should now all be able to see that it's going to take much more than seven unfathomable wins to endear Tebow to his opposition as a quarterback worthy of their respect.

Consider the comments from the Jets during the week leading up to New York's eventual loss to the Broncos. Cornerback Darrelle Revis said he believes Denver's offense is only sustainable with players like Michael Vick or Chris Johnson. Safety Jim Leonhard said Tebow is "more like a fullback than a true tailback."

Chris Johnson? A true tailback? Based on the vocal expressions of a few, Tebow probably had a better shot at making the Pro Bowl roster as a running back than he did as a quarterback. Even after Tebow defeated the Jets, you weren't going to get a much different tone from their locker room.

After all, Tebow defeated them with his legs -- not with his arm. And that, whether fair or not, might be his biggest setback as it pertains to individual accolades such as this one.

It should be noted, by the way, that Tebow's most recent falter against the Bills, which included four interceptions, occurred after the Pro Bowl vote. Tebow's season was instead judged on his seven wins and two losses (to playoff teams Detroit and New England).

While he might forever muster a respectable portion of the fan vote (which accounts for one-third of the overall selection process), attaining the vote of the players and coaches (which each also account for one-third) will be a different story.

That's still not to say he won't be able to someday make the Pro Bowl as an unconventional quarterback. It just means he's going to need to sustain a level of success for a much longer period of time before he earns the respect of defensive players like Urlacher, Revis and many others who have both played against him and simply witnessed his season from afar.

Take, for instance, the late Steve McNair, who was drafted in 1995 as the third overall pick. He didn't make the Pro Bowl until 2000 and later was named to two more in the following four seasons. Players and coaches have proven to eventually be willing to accept unconventional play, just as McNair proved capable of eventual consistency and improvement as a passer.

Whether that ever occurs with Tebow, which will certainly require sustained success for a much longer period than he currently has managed, remains a mystery that will need to wait at least another year to be answered.

For now, this is what we know: Players like Urlacher aren't yet willing to vote a player like Tebow into the Pro Bowl. Unless, perhaps, his name appears next to a position other than quarterback.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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