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When Job Performance Usurps Quirkiness

The year’s end seems an excellent time to take a break from communications-specific topics and detail a more general one that is applicable to any professional industry: The ability to deliver despite any personality or style quirks. I confess at the start that I’ve been a Denver Broncos fan since childhood and their current quarterback, Tim Tebow, is dominating sports headlines because of that subject.

Tebow is an incredible oddity. A Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who helped the University of Florida win a national championship in 2006, he was drafted by the Broncos in the first round of the NFL’s 2010 Draft. He was considered an anomaly as a player, and numerous critics opined that his bizarre style of scrambling for yardage and throwing motion may work in college but would never be successful at the professional level. This impression was also bolstered via his well documented sobbing on the sidelines at the end of one bowl game when it was clear his team would lose.

Yet his performance in college is only the beginning of a story of interest to even the most football-averse reader.

He is also a devout Christian and extremely passionate about expressing those beliefs in every…single…interview. It was this aspect of his persona that first brought him to my own attention. He appeared in a pro-life commercial aired in that year’s Superbowl and during a subsequent broadcast of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment, Seth Meyers cracked that the NFL’s opposing defenses should now recognize that if Tebow takes a QB option, “He’s going to keep it…” Imagine my surprise a few months later when then-Denver Head Coach Josh McDaniels made him a high-profile draft pick.

In fact, one of the strangest aspects of the Tebow story that’s not well-publicized is that the coach who drafted him was fired during his first season as a player. A new regime, including Head Coach John Fox and then-new VP of Football Operations John Elway (A deity in Broncoland) took over as part of a major restructuring of the team at the start of this year. Both did not have very positive things to say about Tebow, one of their two backup QBs at the start of the 2011 season. When the team limped to a miserable 1-4 record, they benched starter Kyle Orton and gave Tebow his chance.

And he delivered.

In the midst of Game 6, he took the field and nearly led the Broncos back from a 16-point deficit, both passing and running for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, ultimately losing 29-24. It was the start of what would be numerous fourth quarter escapades at the center of the league’s top story. The scene would be replayed again and again, only with the Broncos winning their games in the final two minutes and…. in multiple overtime contests. As of this writing, they are 8-5 and in first place in their division.

As Tebow leaves opposing defenses and many of the Broncos own fans in utter disbelief throughout this wild ride, the media has spotlighted his idiosyncrasies. His motion of kneeling to pray on the sidelines at various times during a game is now officially described as ‘Tebowing’ . He frequently concludes interviews with an enthusiastic “God Bless.”

I’ve been in agreement with many people who’ve expressed the desire for him to downplay his religious beliefs, that such thoughts and beliefs are extremely personal. However, I’ve come to recognize that’s not Tebow’s style. He’s as unconventional as a national sports personality as he is a player on the field.

Were he to continue these winning ways in this season or next, the broadcasting of his faith would be largely overlooked on my part. And therein lies the point to understand for any business or professional relationship.

How many coworkers, clients, customers or supervisors have you had or currently have that the first thing that comes to mind about them is a particular quirk or idiosyncrasy? Yet how many of them ranged from competent to outstanding in their professional capacity? When a person brings the goods, it’s much easier to overlook certain strange ways.

How the Tebow story evolves from here is anyone’s guess. On December 18, Denver will face one of its most formidable tests: The New England Patriots, one of the league’s best teams and craftiest coaches during the past decade.

Personally, I cannot imagine Tim Tebow consistently continuing to make plays that win games in the same fashion during a potential playoff run this year or even in the 2012 season. It would be unprecedented to have a quarterback like that in the NFL. Yet, as mentioned above, many people thought he could never perform as the quarterback he’s proven to be in 2011. Regardless of how Tebow performs in the future, he’s proven that leadership on the field can sometimes be nearly an intangible when it comes from a quirky personality and perhaps most of all, the end will justify the means when that personality is the thing people focus on most.

(Update: Saturday Night Live spoofed Tebow’s religions connection on December 17-actually 18, as it aired just before 1 a.m., here)

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc!

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