Tim Tebow deserved better than this. To be drafted by a coach with no clue, and by a franchise with no plan. To be on his own, 12 games into his NFL career, a cold wind blowing him toward failure.
To have his career end before it begins.
Tim Tebow deserved better than to have Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos happen to him.
It wasn't done with malice, obviously. McDaniels and Denver weren't trying to torpedo Tebow's career when they drafted him in the 2010 first round, but that's what happened. They torpedoed Tebow's career.
It's not over, not yet, but Tebow now has none of the advantages, none of the protection he should have as an NFL rookie quarterback.
The coach who believed in him enough to draft him? Fired. Gone. That's all it takes in the all-business NFL to ruin a man's career, and I don't mean McDaniels'. He'll almost certainly be a head coach again.
He'll make like his mentor, ex-Browns coach Bill Belichick, and rehabilitate his defeated image as an assistant somewhere, and in a few years -- when he'll still be young and promising -- McDaniels will get another shot.
Tebow's shot? It's gone.
It's gone because of the position he plays, and because of the patience and loyalty required to groom a young NFL quarterback, especially one who is trying to overhaul something as basic as the way he throws the ball.
In all the NFL, only McDaniels was going to have the patience and the loyalty to groom Tebow the right way. For McDaniels, Tebow was everything. He was his future quarterback with the Broncos. Tebow was going to prove, one way or another, McDaniels' ability to identify, draft and nurture talent.
By making Tebow his first-round pick in the 2010 draft, against the conventional wisdom that said Tebow's throwing motion and accuracy wouldn't translate to the NFL, McDaniels was attaching his own reputation to that of Tebow. Whatever Tebow needed, McDaniels was going to provide it.
More time on the bench, like Carson Palmer, the Bengals' No. 1 overall pick in 2003 who didn't play a single snap as a rookie? Tebow would get it.
More personalized instruction? More babysitter-style coaching? Tebow would get it from McDaniels, because McDaniels needed Tebow to succeed just as badly as Tebow needed Tebow to succeed.
Now, McDaniels is gone. Whoever coaches the Broncos in 2011 -- and it won't be Urban Meyer, so don't go there -- won't need Tebow to succeed. He'd like him to succeed, sure. But need him to succeed? Nah. Denver's next full-time coach won't be tied to Tebow.
In fact, Denver's next coach would benefit more from Tebow's outright failure than his marginal success. Next season, assuming Denver struggles like it has struggled this season, the Broncos' coach can use the gaping hole in the franchise' 2010 draft -- Look who we wasted our first pick on -- as a scapegoat.
Tebow will be set adrift, and soon, and it shouldn't have been this way. This young man, as much as anyone who has ever entered the NFL, deserved better than this. Now, look. Regular readers are going to accuse me of being a hypocrite, given the way I've failed to endorse Tebow over the years.
I didn't love the way the media and his coach lifted up Tebow (and Tebow's popular religion) to the exclusion of those who don't believe the same things. I didn't think Tebow would be a great pro. I did think he should retire, literally, after his magical Sugar Bowl.
But I'm not a hypocrite, and this is not an I-told-you-so. I'm not gloating over Tebow's predicament. Look, he didn't lift himself up as the Second Coming -- that was the media and even his coach at Florida. From all that we know, Tebow has never been anything but a great young man, and I'd love for him to succeed. I don't want to be wrong, ever, but it's going to happen. I'll be wrong from time to time, and if Tebow is one of the folks who proves me wrong over the years, terrific. I couldn't be proved wrong by a nicer guy.
Which is why, among the many columns I've devoted to this fascinating young man over the years, was this one before the draft -- when I urged Indianapolis to draft Tebow. The Colts already had a proven starting quarterback in Peyton Manning, and as an added bonus they had a conservative locker room and fan base. If Tebow was going to succeed in the NFL, it would be at a place like Indianapolis, a place with talent and patience.
Instead, Tebow went to Denver -- a place with neither. Look what happened to Josh McDaniels. Not two years into his tenure, an inexperienced coach hired obviously for his long-term upside was fired.
What's going to happen to Tebow, a quarterback drafted obviously for his long-term potential? You know what's going to happen. And it's a shame. Good guys don't always win, but this good guy never even had a chance.