Tim Tebow in NFL’s 100 best players? List it as a PR coup

Since acquiring the popular Tim Tebow, above, the Jets have insisted he will be Sanchez’s backup, but will be a key part of the offense while playing in wildcat packages and could see time as a running back/fullback.By DAVID WHITLEY

Tim Tebow fans are apparently right. Tebow, backup quarterback for the New York Jets, really is one of the NFL’s finest players.

The smoking gun is an NFL Network poll. It wasn’t based on fan voting, so we can’t automatically laugh it off. It was based on votes by real live (we think) NFL players.

On the list of the league’s top 100 players, they pegged Tebow at No. 95.

Sorry, but it’s still a laugh riot.

The voting supposedly wasn’t based on popularity or Saturday Night Live references or Sunday morning sermons. It was based on skill and performance.

In a quarterback’s case, that means being able to throw a pass without hitting the popcorn vendor in Aisle 39.

If that description of Tebow’s ability gets you fired up, it just proves the NFL Network’s marketing scheme is working. The network comes out with a top 100 every year, hoping to generate buzz in the post-draft lull.

Isn’t it amazing how the most polarizing player in modern NFL history happened to squeeze into this year’s conversation?

I’m not saying the outcome was rigged. But we really need tougher voter-ID laws when hundreds of Denver fans can show up at NFL polling places and pass themselves off as Ray Lewis.

“There are so many great players in the NFL,” Tebow said. “For just a few of them to respect me enough to put me on this list means a lot.”

We’re not sure how many actually voted this election cycle. Last year, 413 players voted out of a 1,696 who were theoretically eligible.

Some players said they never heard about the voting or didn’t want to bother. The rest presumably didn’t want to be associated with a poll that had 12 quarterbacks ahead of Eli Manning.

Manning, starting quarterback for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, didn’t even make last year’s top 100. Sources confirm that Eli made it this year, but we won’t know for sure for a few more days.

The NFL Network milks the poll by releasing 10 players at a time. Numbers 91-100 came out over the weekend. If they are any indication of what’s to come, Eli might still be ranked behind Peyton based on their 2011 performances.

One spot ahead of Tebow is Marshawn Lynch. He gained 1,204 yards for the Seattle Seahawks. Two spots ahead of Lynch is John Kuhn. He gained 30 yards for the Green Bay Packers.

I appreciate a blocking fullback from Shippensburg as much as the next guy. But you have to wear a cheesehead 300 days a year to think Kuhn is a better player than Lynch.

Then there’s the quarterback at No. 91. Tony Romo.

He had 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a QB rating of 102.5. In 2010, Romo played six games and had a rating of 94.9. Yet he was No. 72 on the top 100.

So you can have a career year and drop 19 spots? If a couple more Broncos had voted for Tebow, he might have finished ahead of Romo.

Tebow had 12 touchdowns, six interceptions and rating of 72.9. Statistics don’t tell the whole story with Mr. Comeback, but they tell more than his flock cares to admit.

Again, the voting wasn’t based on potential or web hits or how wholesome a player looks while modeling underwear. That stuff made Tebow’s appearance on TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list far more legitimate.

Tebow is as big as Oprah or Benjamin Netanyahu, though both of them can throw a better spiral. I hope he learns to read defenses, wins four Super Bowls and every kid in America grows up to be just like Tim. But for now, he’s an exciting project.

Exciting because he can beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime with an 80-yard pass play one week. Project because the next week he can go 9-for-26 and get bombed by the New England Patriots.

With real top 100 players, you know what to expect every week. With Tebow, you never know.

So let the argument rage. Just don’t use the top-100 poll as proof Tebow is good. You’ll look pretty silly next week when Oprah is No. 24.