I don’t fully understand the dislike for Tim Tebow.

I get the frustration from secular folk over the religious stuff — people don’t want to be on the other end of a theological sales pitch while trying to watch football. But is that reason enough to cheer against the guy?

I’ve heard from quite a few Tebow haters of late, and a lot of them have difficulty explaining why they don’t want the guy to succeed. The majority of them just recite the same old argument about his overbearing religious views and/or his poor delivery and unorthodox approach to professional quarterbacking.

But it strikes me as odd that so many fans oppose — even loathe — a professional athlete who, spirituality notwithstanding, appears to be an ideal role model. He doesn’t run his mouth or disrespect his coaches or his fans. He doesn’t get caught with hookers and/or blunts and he doesn’t carry a sense of entitlement. He gives back to his and other communities and he appears to be a well-intentioned man.

You know why so many of us hate on Tebow? It’s because of the way the media eats his story alive. He’s become over-saturated by ESPN and its cohorts. It’s a vicious cycle, because those who can’t stand the coverage continue to absorb it, and as a result, thus those who create the coverage continue to churn it out on a daily basis.

The last time this happened in the world of football, Brett Favre was the “victim.” Favre went from an athlete adored nationwide in the 1990s and part of the 2000s to an athlete despised by a large number of those former adorers in the latter years of his career. Now, Favre’s inability to stay retired played a role in that process, so he brought some of it on himself, just as some might argue Tebow has with his Godspeak.

In both cases, I believe sports fans have simply become exhausted by the coverage of said athletes. And as a result, they’ve resorted to cheering against them.

In Tebow’s case, a lot of people are tired of the story. They’re tired of hearing that he’s just a “winner” and that the Broncos are a team of divinity or destiny.

A lot of those people will also argue that Tebow’s success is somewhat fraudulent. They don’t like that Tebow got the lion’s share of the credit for Denver’s impressive 2011 run, despite the fact the defense and the running game played significant roles. I understand that frustration, but is that Tebow’s fault?

It’s not as though Tebow has attempted to hog the coverage or the adulation, has he? He can’t control the fact that the media has turned him into the country’s most famous athlete. I don’t see him doing Saturday Night Live or granting interviews to GQ.

Anyway, you’re going to have to get used to it, because Tebow isn’t going away any time soon. His critics will point to his 47.4 completion percentage and his 75.3 passer rating and deem his win-loss record to be fluke or the result of good support, but the fact is that Tebow has still done enough in only 16 career starts to earn the starting job in 2012.

“Tim is the starting quarterback going into training camp,” Broncos president of football operations John Elway said at his end-of-season press conference today. “He made great strides. He has earned the right to be the starter going into training camp next year.”

That shouldn’t surprise anyone — not even the president of the Brady Quinn Fan Club — but it’ll still stir the pot some more. Elway also said competition will be brought in, which is perfectly reasonable. But he knows that it wouldn’t be fair to strip Tebow of his job after leading the Broncos from an NFL crawl space to a playoff penthouse.

It’s easy to forget, because he’s been a household name ever since winning the national championship at Florida in 2007, but Tebow’s only two years into his NFL career, and he’s only started the equivalent of one full regular season.

So essentially — not technically, but essentially — he’s coming off of his rookie season. Has a rookie 25th-overall pick ever taken as much heat as Tebow? And when you consider that the guy was spectacular in clutch situations and managed to win a playoff game as an underdog at the age of 24, it’s hard to comprehend the basis for the vitriol.

Tebow threw some absolutely terrible passes this year. But that’s what most rookie quarterbacks do.

Some comparisons:

Tim Tebow (first 16 starts): 9-7 record, 46%, 177 YDS/GM, 19 TD, 9 INT, 7.1 YPA, 77.0 rating, 950 rush YDS, 13 rush TD

Peyton Manning (first 16 starts): 3-13 record, 57%, 234 YDS/GM, 26 TD, 28 INT, 6.5 YPA, 71.2 rating, 62 rush YDS, 0 rush TD

Drew Brees (first 16 starts): 8-8 record, 61%, 205 YDS/GM, 17 TD, 16 INT, 6.2 YPA, 76.9 rating, 130 rush YDS, 1 rush TD

Eli Manning (first 16 starts): 7-9 record, 50%, 197 YDS/GM, 19 TD, 18 INT, 6.3 YPA, 67.4 rating, 53 rush YDS, 0 rush TD

Andy Dalton (first 16 starts): 9-7 record, 58%, 200 YDS/GM, 20 TD, 13 INT, 6.6 YPA, 80.4 rating, 152 rush YDS, 1 rush TD

Dalton was roundly praised for much of his 2011 rookie season, and yet Tebow took heat despite similar numbers and a higher yards-per-play average (don’t discount those remarkable rushing stats). All things considered, I’d argue he was more valuable than any of the players listed below him in that comparison.

And then there’s the intangible stuff. Most rookie quarterbacks don’t lead six fourth-quarter comebacks and throw the kinds of rockets that Tebow delivered down the stretch on wild-card Sunday against Pittsburgh. Watch that game and tell me Tebow can’t become a legit pocket passer. Sure, he lacked consistency, but again, how many rookie quarterbacks are consistent?

We hit pause on #TebowTime on Saturday night, but Elway and the Broncos will hit play again this summer. And for the first time in his three-year career, Tebow will be the starting quarterback heading into training camp, with another offseason of honing under his belt.

Though it’s mainly no fault of his own, a lot of you will continue to root against him. Tebow cares quite a lot about a lot of things, but I get the feeling that your support is something he can live without.