At the top of Monday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer announced Tim Tebow's return to football by proclaiming: "...one of the most popular and polarizing quarterbacks in NFL history returning to the game after three years." In another tease minutes later, fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie wondered: "Is this a second chance or a publicity stunt?"
At the top of the 7:30 a.m. ET hour correspondent Craig Melvin repeated the "popular and polarizing quarterback" line and wondered: "Has Tebow's NFL career been resurrected?" He highlighted how Tebow's Christian faith made him the subject of ridicule: "The combination of faith and football became fodder for late-night TV." A clip followed of a Saturday Night Live skit mocking Tebow.
In 2011, Today touted how the then-Denver Broncos player had earned the nickname "God's Quarterback," and that "Many Americans were first introduced to Tebow during this controversial anti-abortion ad that aired during the 2010 Super Bowl."
On Monday, Melvin described how Tebow's NFL career faltered: "But the star quickly faded from the gridiron. Dumped by the Denver Broncos in 2011, Tebow was traded to the New York Jets, where he played just one season, ending up a football analyst for ESPN."
In 2012, liberal commentator and advertising executive Donny Deutsch appeared on the morning show and asserted that Tebow joining the Jets "will be his Waterloo," arguing that a "jaded city" like New York was "not going to buy this unconditional love."
NBC kept up the negative coverage of Tebow even after he left the NFL. In a 2013 report, Melvin declared that Tebow's "play never really matched the hype" and noted how the athlete's "well-publicized faith" made him "spoof-worthy on late-night TV."
Displaying a stunning double standard, that 2013 broadcast began by hailing openly gay NBA player Jason Collins as "a towering figure on the court" despite his own lackluster record.
In 2014, the networks slammed critics of the NFL's first openly gay player Michael Sam, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. The Rams cut Sam in August, before the regular season even began. NBC didn't mark the occasion with a story about how Sam's "play never really matched the hype" and "quickly faded from the gridiron."
Wrapping up the Monday Today segment, Melvin dismissed any chance of Tebow restarting his career: "So Tim Tebow's apparently already in Philadelphia, where the Eagles off-season program is set to start today. We should note, he's joining an Eagles roster – he's the fourth quarterback on the roster." Lauer asked: "So you think he's gonna play?" Melvin replied: "No, no....We might see him four or five times, perhaps."
Here is a full transcript of the April 20 segment:
7:00 AM ET TEASE:
MATT LAUER: He's back. Tim Tebow, one of the most popular and polarizing quarterbacks in NFL history returning to the game after three years. But will he actually play?
7:19 AM ET TEASE:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Coming up, is this a second chance or a publicity stunt? The NFL team getting set to bring Tim Tebow-mania back to the NFL.
7:31 AM [7:31:40 - 7:34:08, 2 min 28 sec]
LAUER: Let's begin this half hour, though, with Tim Tebow. One of the most talked about football players in the last several decades now returning to the league after three years away. Today national correspondent Craig Melvin's here with more on that. This is a big story, Craig.
CRAIG MELVIN: This is a big, big deal, especially for folks in Philadelphia. Tebow Time in Philadelphia, the popular and polarizing quarterback is set to sign with the Eagles today.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Return of Tim Tebow?; Report Eagles Signing Fmr. Heisman Trophy Winner]
Has Tebow's NFL career been resurrected?
TIM TEBOW [FROM COMMERCIAL]: I'm excited, let's do this!
MELVIN: Once Tebow-mania swept the nation.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [NFL ANNOUNCER]: Tim Tebow, Denver touchdown!
MELVIN: His signature move known as Tebowing so popular he had it trademarked.
TEBOW: Getting on a knee and praying is a very special deal for me.
MELVIN: The combination of faith and football became fodder for late-night TV.
JASON SUDEIKIS [SNL]: Yes, I, Jesus Christ, am indeed the reason you've won your past six football games.
TEBOW: I knew it1
SUDEIKIS: Woah, Tim, easy, easy.
JIMMY FALLON: Tim Tebow to Jesus Christ.
MELVIN: But the star quickly faded from the gridiron. Dumped by the Denver Broncos in 2011, Tebow was traded to the New York Jets, where he played just one season, ending up a football analyst for ESPN.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN B [ESPN ANNOUNCER]: We welcome our newest college football analyst, Tim Tebow.
MELVIN: Now there are reports he's headed back to the NFL.
DAVE BRIGGS [NBC SPORTS]: Say what you will about Tim Tebow, he has never lost his desire to play the game and he always has said he wants to be an NFL quarterback. You have to give Tim Tebow credit for his work ethic that never goes away.
MELVIN: Tebow's fans are ready for his comeback. His name trending on Twitter amid comments like, "Tim Tebow to the Eagles is a gift from the Gods."
So Tim Tebow's apparently already in Philadelphia, where the Eagles off-season program is set to start today. We should note, he's joining an Eagles roster – he's the fourth quarterback on the roster.
LAUER: Yeah, they're deep.
LAUER: There's no question. So you think he's gonna play?
MELVIN: No, no.
GUTHRIE: Well, wait, maybe not as a quarterback.
NATALIE MORALES: Maybe he'll play another position.
MELVIN: We might see him four or five times, perhaps.
GUTHRIE: Maybe in the back field, special teams, something like that?
MELVIN: Did you brief her?
LAUER: No, no, no. She reached out to others this morning. It wasn't me.
MORALES: What was that about the spread offense? What does spread offense mean, Savannah?
GUTHRIE: He played a similar offense at the University of Florida under Urban Meyer. Alright, I cheated.
MELVIN: Yes you did.
LAUER: There's an app called "football for dummies"? Really, there is?
GUTHRIE: Anyway, Go Eagles!
MELVIN: Craig, thank you very much.