Tim Tebow, Messiah: Why Do NFL Fans Love Backup Quarterbacks So Much?

I think you're onto something, Jake, but we're missing a key component to the fan psychoanalysis underway here: Committed sports fans are impatient, yes, but they also love the idea that they have tangible control over their teams. There's another layer to the endless hours we spend discussing our lineups, our depth charts, the trades our teams should be making, and of course, the best man to stand under center every Sunday, and it's all about eventually being right.

And while a substantial chunk of that compulsion gets tempered by fantasy leagues, it's not ever enough. We talk, we tweet, we email, and through it all we're convinced that we're the first to say it; that no one has ever thought that Tebow should get a start over Kyle Orton (even if it's literally on a billboard in Denver). So when John Fox finally made the announcement, every casual Broncos fan in Colorado got the satisfaction of saying, "I called it."

Then there's the underdog element. Pro football doesn't always have a viable underdog—especially in seasons like this one, when all of the basement teams in the league are rallying around a cry to " Suck For Luck." Football's classic underdogs are the backups (for reference, please refer to Matt Saracen in Friday Night Lights, Rudy Ruettiger in Rudy, Willie Beamen in Any Given Sunday, the entire cast of The Little Giants, and the inspiration for the train wreck that was The Replacements).

It's hard to remember it now, but even Tom Brady was "the underdog"—a sixth-round draft pick with only one completed pass in his rookie year in the pros—for a season and a half in New England. I wonder if, when Belichick made the switch, which was initially only made to rehab an injured Bledsoe, some kind of mythology was born or at least strengthened for NFL fans. The Pats were 5-11 with Bledsoe in 2000; Brady led them to an 11-5 season and a Super Bowl just a year later. With apologies to Broncos fans, it's not by any means a proven system, but it's enough to make us think, at least for a week, that everything will be different now. And there's nothing wrong with that delusion.

What do you think, Hampton? Do football fans need a reality check?

–Emma

Presented by

Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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