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National Columnist

Tebow not great or even very good, but deserved better from NFL

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Ding-dong, the witch is dead. Which old witch? The Tebow witch.

Tim Tebow's career. It seems to be over.

And you're loving it -- well, those of you who aren't hating it. And some of you are hating it, as well you should be. If you're a fan of Tim Tebow, he's the best thing to hit the NFL since, well, the NFL. For those of you who love Tebow, who love his religion or his innocence or just his story, you hate what's happening right now. Your guy is being run out of the league at this very moment, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. His career is a car going the wrong way on the interstate -- the crash is coming, it's coming, it's coming ...

And you're watching as it happens. Cringing. Nauseated. Unable to stop it, but unable to stop looking.

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Those are the folks who love Tebow.

The rest of you? This is what you wanted. Happy? He's about to be gone from your NFL, Tim Tebow is. His poison is about to be sucked out of the game, like a rattlesnake bite that was caught before it did too much damage. All 32 teams are affixing their lips to the wound, sucking it up and spitting it out of their league.

That's Tim Tebow. He's a car crash, or he's a poisonous loogie.

And this is me: Baffled. Disappointed. Angry.

Tim Tebow deserves better than this. He deserves better from the NFL, and he deserves better from you. But worry not -- this is no attempt to convince anyone that you're wrong, because years of experience have shown me that people like you, on stories like this, don't change your mind even when you are dead wrong. And hell, maybe you're not wrong. Maybe I'm dead wrong, me and the zealots who have fallen in love with Tebow over the past few years. Maybe we're the problem here.

Actually, I know we are.

Tebow is being run out of the league because the league is sick of us. See, what's happening to Tim Tebow is happening because of people like me, people who love writing about Tebow and talking about Tebow and obsessing over Tebow. That's a lot of noise surrounding a player who isn't a great NFL player. He was a great college player, no question. Maybe the greatest of all time. Certainly on the short list, despite the impossible subjectivity of that debate. Greatest college player of all time? Impossible to decide, but impossible to leave Tebow out of the conversation given his one Heisman Trophy, two other top-five Heisman finishes and role on two national championship teams at Florida.

Anyway, Tebow was great in college. He has not been great in the NFL, or even very good. His record as a starter is 8-6, which certainly makes him sound very good, but we all saw what happened in 2011 when he was going 7-4 as a starter with the Broncos. He wasn't great, but the Denver defense was. He wasn't even very good, except for the final minutes of close games when something special, downright supernatural, kept happening. He wasn't even great in the playoff game he won, though he did throw for a great-sounding 316 yards against Pittsburgh. But he was just 10 of 21 on the day, and 80 of those yards came on the final play, a relatively short pass over the middle that Demaryius Thomas took all the way into the end zone for the winning touchdown.

He hasn't been great or even very good, but he's been special. He's fun. He's different. And different is good, unless you like all your backup quarterbacks in the NFL to be the same guy, some doofus named Brady Leinart Gradkowski Clemens. Same guy, all of them. Drop-back passers who can't pass, but who sure look the part -- and who don't have a frenzy of fans screaming for them to play. So they get to stay.

Tebow? You have to go, son. Nothing personal, but the people who love you are getting on our nerves. So we're going to shut them up by shipping you out.

That's what is happening here, and I don't mean to antagonize Tebow's fans. This isn't me, poking that bear with a stick. Look, I enjoy Tebow in the NFL too. I didn't always, but he won me over during that 2011 season when the magic or mystery -- or whatever that was -- was just too much to ignore. Lots of pundits -- and you know who I'm talking about, Prisco -- didn't like Tebow from Day 1 and decided they weren't going to come around. Me, I came around. Puts me in the minority, because most folks decided on Tebow, the NFL quarterback, when he was still in college. People like Prisco (whom I like) and Merril Hoge (meh) decided Tebow's presence was beneath the NFL.

And maybe it is. But you know what? Tebow never got the chance to prove otherwise. Look, his 8-6 starting record is misleading, and we all know it, but at the same time it happened. His track record as a starter is that of a guy who wins. However it happens, it happens.

Brady Quinn's record as an NFL starter is 4-16. Bruce Gradkowski is 6-14. Matt Leinart, 8-10.

Tim Tebow is 8-6.

Kellen Clemens is 4-8. Chad Henne, 14-23. The brothers McCown, Luke and Josh, are a combined 15-27.

Tim Tebow is 8-6.

Tyler Thigpen is 1-12.

Those guys will have a job in 2013 if they want it. So will Tebow, I guess, if he switches to tight end. That way, when Matt Leinart drops back and throws it to him, at least a real quarterback with a real quarterback's throwing motion will be bouncing the ball in the dirt.

Tebow shouldn't be used as a carnival attraction to sell tickets and generate headlines -- but he shouldn't be run out of the NFL at age 25, either. There's a whole lot of middle ground in there, room enough for John Skelton and Derek Anderson and Ryan Lindley to have a job in the NFL.

But there's no room for Tebow? This is my fault, and Tebow fans, this is your fault. But it sucks all the same.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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