No. 19: Broncos QB Tim Tebow

Could Hall of Famer Willie Lanier chase down Tim Tebow? MATCHUP GALLERY ESPN.com Illustration


ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine sought a list of the 20 current players who a 20-member Pro Football Hall of Fame panel and ESPN's John Clayton believe could excel in any era of the NFL.

Or, to put a finer point on it -- when Mike Ditka looks at today's player, whom does he want lining up next to him ... or across from him?

Which of today's players did our group of Hall of Famers deem really old school?

The playing days for our 20-member Hall of Fame panel spanned the '60s (Jim Brown) to the turn of the century (John Randle).

We'll present four players a day, culminating with our top four on Friday, Jan. 27.

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JAMES LOFTON: He's totally a throwback. When you talk about guys who could play in any era, he could play in any era. It may not be quarterback. He might have been a linebacker, a running back. He might have been a tight end. He's big enough that, if you take him back to the '50s, he could have been an offensive lineman. His physical skill set is something you want in a football player in any era. He's big, he's fast, he's tough, he'll take a hit, he'll deliver punishment. Tim Tebow, maybe he's not a quarterback in the '60s, maybe he's a defensive tackle. But Tim Tebow's going to come out, and he's going to be a winner. And I think that's what people are drawn to.


FLOYD LITTLE: He might not be the greatest quarterback, but he could play at any position you want him to play at. He's a guy I'd like to play with if I was still playing. He's a winner, he's mobile, strong, and gets the job done regardless, whether he's blocking, throwing, running or just fooling you. He finds a way to win, and people need to recognize that. A 'W' is a 'W' and it doesn't matter how you get it. If you win ugly, it's still a 'W.' Mechanics don't play the game, people do.


LARRY CSONKA: I'm picking Tim Tebow, who's a controversial choice. But that kid, a lot of people say he's not a pure passing QB. But neither was Fran Tarkenton. You can take Tebow and compare him to a lot of quarterbacks over the years, great QBs who could roll out and be a threat. When it comes down to it, I think he can throw the long ball, maybe not consistently, but consistently enough to win. And in the final analysis, isn't that what matters? He's not going to statistically pass Dan Marino, but he may end up in a Super Bowl. ... He has a combination of things that come down to winning.


MIKE DITKA: When we won the 1963 championship with the Bears, our heaviest lineman was 255. Tebow is an athlete. It starts there and it may end up there, but he'll improve in the things you do as a quarterback. But if you're saying for a guy who purely loves to go out there and play the game of football, he loves it and he plays as good as he can. Some weeks it may not be good enough, but that's what he does. And the will is a powerful thing.



Tebow replaced Kyle Orton as the Broncos' starting quarterback in Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins. He never looked back as he led Denver to an AFC West title and a stunning wild-card round upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Tebow took his lumps the next week against the New England Patriots.

The toughest game I've been a part of in the NFL was our divisional playoff game in New England this year. There was so much physicality on the field, and I got hit a lot. It's all part of football, though. You're going to get hit, and sometimes it's going to hurt.

But those moments are what you play for, being in the playoffs against a great team. You want to be out there for your teammates and coaches giving everything you have no matter how beat up you are. You want to be able to battle through it, compete and leave everything you have on the field for your team.



Like the old Minnesota Vikings QB Joe Kapp, Tebow goes against tradition in the way he plays the game. He's just a great football player who happens to play quarterback.

CLAYTON ON TEBOW'S HALL OF FAME CHANCES: It's too early to even think Hall for Tebow.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN



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Additional reporting by ESPN The Magazine's Morty Ain, Louise Cornetta, Amy Parlapiano and Alyssa Roenigk.