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Published on 10/13/2010 at Wed Oct 13 12:30.
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Tim Tebow ran twice for two yards in his NFL debut in Jacksonville (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Tim Tebow ran twice for two yards in his NFL debut in Jacksonville (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Kris Burke covers the Denver Broncos for Bleacher Report and NFLTouchdown.com.  This is his first piece for BroncoTalk — let him know what you think in the comments. Follow Kris on twitter at @KBurkeNFL.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Knowshown Moreno, Laurence Maroney, and Correll Buckhalter all could not get the Denver Broncos running game going. The team ranks 32nd in the rush while ranking No. 1 in the pass.  Kyle Orton is on pace to smash Dan Marino’s single season passing mark, but coach Josh McDaniels knows that moving the ball through the air alone will not get the team very far come winter time.

So what can the Broncos do?  They tried bringing in Maroney, McDaniels’ old back from his days in New England, and had no success.  It seems like Moreno gets hurt too often to do any good and Buckhalter hasn’t done much either.

Could the answer be…Tim Tebow, running back? 

Now, McDaniels has gone on record saying that Tebow will be a quarterback in the NFL and a quarterback only, although he has experimented with putting the rookie in short yardage Wild Horses formations in the red zone. Tebow has only attempted two rushes all season and has not seen the field since the opening game at Jacksonville.

With a lack of quality running backs available, save maybe DeAngelo Williams in Carolina,  McDaniels may have no choice but to turn to the rookie from Florida to help get the Broncos running game moving and help propel the team to a possible playoff berth.

Here’s why it may not be such a crazy idea after all:

1. Tebow‘s athleticism

You can’t say enough about Tebow‘s unique athletic abilities. His height combined with his speed and sheer power provide a challenge for even NFL linebackers to bring down.  His garbage time rushing touchdown against the Bengals in the preseason where the lineback tackling Tebow came up lame comes to mind.

2. It creates a whole new playbook for McDaniels

Even with all his skills running the ball, let’s not forget Tebow possesses an incredibly strong left arm as well.  His jump passes that he pulled over regularly in college could easily work in the NFL even if Tebow lines up at halfback instead of under center.  Adding the threat of a halfback pass to every play will confuse some defense and allow McDaniels and Orton even more flexibility in an already explosive passing attack.

McDaniels could also utilize reverses, double reverses, and flea flickers here too.  A reverse via Orton to Demaryius Thomas to Tebow for example would be enough to make a defensive coordinator’s head spin.

3. He isn’t afraid to run up the middle or outside the tackles.

Along with Tebow‘s skills come his whatever-it-takes, never-say-die attitude.  His willingness to lay it all on the line for his team.  Tebow is not afraid to run it through any of the A, B, or C gaps or even take it to the perimeter to get yardage. Wherever this is a hole, Tebow will run through it.

Is McDaniels willing to subject his prize pupil to some potential punishment with the Broncos already wounded in so many areas? Perhaps that is the question keeping the coach from even trying an idea like this.

4. Oh those intangibles.

It was well documented this preseason how well Tebow endeared himself to his teammates. Anyone willing to publicly display a Friar Tuck-style haircut is brave in my book. If Tebow is able to bring his leadership skills over to the pros, this will take some pressure off of Orton to be THE locker room leader. An Orton-Tebow two-headed monster could be enough to propel the Broncos to the top of a very weak AFC West.

Conclusion

To some fans, this idea may seem anywhere from crazy to downright stupid.  To them, I would say why not try it? Nothing has worked so far.  The worst that can possibly happen in this situation is that it doesn’t work.  Tebow in the backfield can not possibly perform any worse than the Broncos already have.

There is of course the injury risk to Tebow, but with Orton now locked up through 2011, it would provide Tebow time to heal.

Then there is the argument that this could possibly hinder Tebow‘s development as a quarterback. To that I would say that this would be a bonus for No. 15 because he would be able to see how Orton directs the offense up close and personal.  It’s the closest thing to getting reps as he can, and it sure would beat studying pictures on the sideline.

McDaniels may go with this option eventually and then again he may not.

The choice is his, but as I figure it, it’s worth a shot.

  • LarECanada

    BTW Tebow sits. I've seen what an blown acl or mcl can do to any career.

  • LevonZevon

    Geez, I read all 45 comments– most of them quite intelligent– and still no one mentioned the glaring absence of a Tight End to keep run-defenses honest (especially opposing Safeties).

    Still, I liked a few comments a lot. Particularly the spread-'em-out-and-run-draw-plays-from-that-formation idea. The problem is that Tebow is ideal for that, but we already have a good QB (and no healthy RB to take Orton's handoffs when we do 2-minute-offense runs).

    However, a few plays here and there as a RB wouldn't be so bad for Tebow, if the point was to set up a jump-pass or double-reverse. Think about the Green Bay Packers of the Lombardi era and their steady signal-caller Bart Starr (who Orton kinda reminds me of). They still used a college QB like Paul Hornung effectively and even had THEIR GOLDEN-ONE throw passes from the HB spot too!

    Also, why is media and fan-reaction keeping Tebow from getting game reps at the end of a blowout loss? Orton is playing so well that it would impossible to misconstrue keeping Kyle healthy, as somehow benching him.

    But its an NFL tradition that backups only enter when you are winning big (not losing big). I say, who cares? Tebow needs the reps and we have enough injury problems already.

    Heck, pride isn't even a good enough reason to keep Champ Bailey or another banged-up player in the game when we are more than 2 TD's down in the late-fourth. Cassius Vaughn and Squid need reps too, you know.

    We have to keep our remaining talent remaining on the field when it matters (and not just for show). Baltimore demonstrated the worst of both worlds as we get slammed for crawling into the fetal position by Kizsla's headline-writer AND we keep players in for no good reason (as they get more hurt).

    Morale and mental toughness are mostly catch-phrases to write about and sell newspapers. The next game always arrives and the team will be all pumped up again and ready to battle anew (especially since the petulant pair of B-Marsh and J-Cut have already been sent packing).

    But a Tight End and a defensive-tackle are the top priorities in the off-season. Until then, I say try Demaryius there at TE until we get someone full-time when the season is done. The running-game is having enough problems against front-sevens. With Safeties like Jim Leonhard cheating up, it becomes near impossible (especially with our O-line problems).

    Oh, while I'm at it, good insight from whomever noticed Clady's lack of trust with our rotating LG's.

    In a perfect world where McD doesn't care about media/fan-reaction, we'd probably have traded for Logan Mankins. But getting taken on LeKevin Smith, Maroney and wasting money on Jarvis Green, makes that impossible (in NE West). Especially since our reaction-sensitive head-coach would inevitably have to deal with questions like; “Isn't Left Guard the position that you used a high-draft pick on Zane Beadles for?”

    “If Mankins is now manning that spot, where do you see Beadles fitting in long-term? And, in retrospect, shouldn't you have drafted a guy like Aaron Hernandez instead?”

    Our Coach would probably grumble about people not appreciating the finer points of running a two-TE set (and how its simply a case of Quinn and Gronkowski not executing well enough).

    Just like Shanny blamed execution instead of his passive cover-two schemes' drawbacks for the last decade in Denver.

    But Tight Ends that can catch passes down the seam don't instantly tip off that its a running-play 100% of the time. I mean, these coaches across the field aren't morons, Coach. Who exactly do you think you're joshing?

  • LevonZevon

    Sorry for the poor pun at the end of my previous message. But the reason I wrote in an addendum was to ask why defensive-players are expected to shift positions– like Haggan to OLB– but McDaniels' offense is supposedly set in stone?

    Quinn and Gronkowski can't catch and Graham lacks the speed to keep Safeties from cheating up into the box. Demaryius will be a great WR someday. So, what's the risk in using him at TE right now?

  • Ken Enyeart

    I would ask some questions over the past two seasons. Has the defense improved ? There are certain indications it has not. The offensive line sucks, special teams suck. The only one who has stepped up is Orton. I think its past time for Denver to find a new head coach.

  • http://broncotalk.net Kyle

    I also like Tebow better in an H-back/tight end role. But just to counter your argument: plenty of that movement occurs along the offensive line. Beadles was drafted pretty much because he can fill four spots.

  • Mikeinmelb

    I don't think he's talking about making Tebow a 250 carry a year back, maybe more like using him like the Jets use Brad Smith in their offense to mix things up. Worth a try, with McDaniels genius and injuries we have ZERO running game. We don't need to run for 150 yards a game , we just need a hint of balance so they can't just load up on nickel packages every play.

  • Edcheval

    Simple solution to dilemma: Let the Sunday game begin with Orton. If all goes well, let Tebow sit–if things do not go well, send Tebow in to run the show. He will probably take a time out; read the team his riot act; then, sit back and watch out. What you need is strong reaction to the helm. EJC

  • LevonZevon

    I understand (and that's why I said it would be others who would ask this). However, as much as this year's injury problems have underlined the need for depth, is it really wise to use a high pick for a younger Ross Hochstein or David Diaz-Infante (a utility blocker from the previous decade)?

    Still, I hope that McD sees the situation for what it is and gets over his pre-season vision for how everything should be developed.

    After all, as John Lennon wrote: “life is what happens when your making other plans” (or something like that).

    Lennon was no US football fan, but did speak to Howard Cosell once on “MNF” (where, ironically enough, his death was first announced by Mr. Tell It Like It Is).

    This team needs a spark and Tebow is game for getting on the field in any manner (even for just a few plays). Its conspiratorial, but maybe there was something to the comment that alleged Tebow's limited use was to damp down expectations (by sending him straight into the line rather than using his option-play instincts).

    The way we aren't moving the pile– when we even get to the red-zone– dictates something new. And Thomas to his right and Tebow to his left would certainly cause disruptions to Rex Ryan's array of expected blitzes (especially since Jason Taylor and Calvin Pace will likely sacrifice gap-security in favor of pinning back their ears).

    I just hope McD focuses more on innovation and less on fan/media-reaction.

    After all, its been awhile since he successfully unveiled the Amoeba formation on national-TV last season (against the Giants, I think).

    He didn't break it out again. But the novelty factor worked for our defense (whatever game it was tried).

    Anyways. Mikeinmelb and Edcheval agree with us, Kyle. So I can't see what the hold-up is.

    Oh, wait. Coach McD is more likely to be drafting game-plans than perusing BroncoTalk, huh?

    Of course, he could combine both activities (snark intended).

  • LevonZevon

    Oh, yeah. “Just one more thing,” as Lt. Columbo used to say before re-appearing for more (yeah, I'm over 40 yrs. old).

    If they do finally use Tebow on something more complex than a straight run– which I expect has been the plan for the Jets game all along– I'd be happy to see Tebow lined up to the left-wing behind Orton.

    Then Orton can take the shotgun snap and hand it to the lefty Tebow, cutting behind Center J.D. Walton while Orton runs to the right.

    The middle linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott would probably freeze in anticipation of a double reverse to the wide-receiver Eddie Royal (while ROLB Jason Taylor probably over-pursues due to just seeing the shot-gun look). They can put Royal in pre-snap motion from right-to-left and, if they really want to be daring, they could instruct Clady and the Left Guard to veer to the left (to confuse the defense the way the old zone-blocking line would veer to the opposite direction of whatever direction Jake Plummer used to take the naked bootleg).

    But instead of flipping it to Royal on a reverse, with Orton in front of him, Tebow could keep running right with Demaryius Thomas– in the H-Back spot– just steps to his right.

    Since pitching the ball with his right hand isn't as hard as throwing as a righty, Tebow could run it like a college option play with Bay-Bay as an emergency bail-out (while the defense is distracted by the fake reverse, the two O-linemen, plus Royal and Orton all going the opposite direction).

    Since McD hasn't utilized much deception and has chosen to overload whatever side he's attacking, the 4 guys going left and Tebow uncharacteristically running right with the ball would be enough to keep the Jets from getting an anticipatory step to diagnose the quick-developing run. They'd just have to use Lloyd and the other WR to get in the way of the Jets other d-backs, behind Harris and Kuper.

    Also, another trick play I haven't seen– except in last-second desperation times– is Don Shula and every High School coaches favorite: the hook-and-lateral (sometimes called the hook-and-ladder).

    If aggressive rookie nickel-back Kyle Wilson gets Brandon Lloyd, Gaffney or Royal in isolation coverage, a 7-10 yard back-shoulder slant with Thomas, Buck or an unexpected running-back like Andre Brown trailing would also be a thing of beauty (if done when the game is close and in the first-half).

    Just one of many options if they use Thomas out of the backfield or try Buckhalter or Brown in the Tony Nathan role (who was the versatile HB who went the final 25 yards in the Miami-S.D. O.T. classic after receiving the WR lateral in the final seconds before halftime).

    If the lateral isn't open, then its just a regular pass play. Yet I always wonder why teams don't instruct their players to be in position on these more often? Probably because a non-attempted lateral makes it look like a failed gadget attempt or something.

    But screw what people think. We need tricks when our O-line and running-game are sputtering against another over-pursuing, swarming and attacking defense. And like a draw-play or peeled-off screen against a blitz, logic never goes out of style.

    Its easy to make fun of, but I'd rather go down fighting than losing while keeping respectability (or however people justify going-through-the-motions).

    For example, I read somewhere that Peyton Manning's Colts were stopped by Jacksonville when the Jags utilized a 2-3-6 look (that they probably borrowed from something Shanahan tried his final season).

    Sure, you get mocked when it doesn't work. But all that matters in the end is creating indecision in your opponent (whether its testing them deep with Lloyd or using play-makers in unfamiliar positions to befuddle the attacking Safeties).

  • LevonZevon

    Oops. Meant to write Orton runs LEFT after handing the ball to Tebow from the shotgun (who uncharacteristically heads to his right).

    Also, this play would work just as well if its Buckhalter behind Orton (on the other wing besides Tebow). Demaryius Thomas can start that play along the line or not even be involved whatsoever (especially since its probably preferable for Daniel Graham's still-awesome blocking to shield off the ILB's).

    Not that anyone is even reading down this far…. But, just in case anyone is, I wanted to clear up what I mis-wrote (about what we'll never see).

    Now I'm finished. Hmmm, what was the topic again? Oh, yeah. Still somewhat relevant.

  • areferee

    Congratulations Kris! Your simple question got this site and your readers as stirred up as “GB2″ will the fans and players when he's finally given a REAL chance to show what he can do as a “Field General”.

    It ain't ever gonna be dull! The Bronco “snooze factor” has been a little high lately. It'll wake things up, just like your story. Good job!

  • BigDave

    Wow – lots of comments here, so I couldn't read them all of course, but I do have an opinion – no, I wouldn't run Tebow. He's a QB, not an RB. He can gain some good yards as a scrambling QB when he's in there full time, but let's not break a potentially very good, possibly “franchise” QB in the process.

    I think what we really need is Gibbs back … heheh … just kidding, but you have to wonder if his schemes with the kids on the O-line wouldn't be a good thing. We're not opening holes in the D, and when we make it look like we might, our RBs kind of limp through them, instead of bolting. I'd rather see some Rathman-out-4-to-5-yard short pass plays out front (but not that $%&@$%!$@#% stinkin' bubble screen where we get creamed every time) and add some darned covered and naked bootlegs by Orton – Jake ran the daylights out of them until the D knew he was doing it every time, and now we run, what?, one a game????

    Mix it up better. Running plays aren't just, BAM left of center for 2 yards … BAM right of center for 1 yard … BAM right of center for 2.5 yards … kick the ball. Orton is doing a totally amazing job this year with some very good receivers (hooray!!!) and his numbers could ROCK!! But it won't win playoff games – we have to be able to run and get 4+ yards per carry. That starts with the O-line – more training required IMO.

  • Whlyles

    I have watched Tim Tee all throughout his college career, up close when playing UK. He can beat you in many ways and he is a winner. There have not been many times in Tim's career that he has bee stopped. I say give the ball to Tim in the red zone and see what happens.

    Wesley Woodyard get well and be TUFF.

  • Danny

    I think letting tim tebow play running back would be a GREAT!!! idea. i couldn't agree with this article more. the run, pass, reverse option would drive d-coordinators crazy.

  • Skerns

    Using Tebo to run the ball is about like using a Waterford vase to pound a nail–if they need a running back–buy one

  • Dannystella

    Tim was a running back at Florida for two years remember? Bronco's have to have the running game to be in the payoffs. Look at Dallas last week, with Romo throwing over 70's passes with over 300 yards passing and still lost the game. Tim could help this team and confuse the denfense and he is a very strong and tough runner to bring down, and judging only his first two runs in his NFL career against the Jags is not a great statistic to justify saying he can't run the ball. What else can Denver do without a running back to depend on with all the injured players?

  • florida gator

    Tim Tebow is not a running back. He is the best College QB ever. Florida was a champion because of him. Now Florida is nothing without Tebow. I am a Florida Gator. If you want your team Broncos to start winning put a winner QB as Tim Tebow because Orton is just a loser.

  • Gill

    Orton seems to be doing what he did for the Bears…nothing! When he was on he was on. But let's face it, it's time to try out Tim @ QB and see what happens. If we don't use him, he will go to someone that will!

  • Batsandgats

    um, LeGarrett Blount ran a 4.7 at the same combine and is one of the top backs this season, LeRon McClain ran a 4.88 and had 900 yards rushing one season. Tebow had THE fastest 3 cone drill time for any quarterback OR runningback at this combine, and his shuttle would be in the top, as well as vertical, for RUNNINGBACKS, which shows he he doesn't lose much speed when changing direction and is very fast for the first 10 yards. Shonn Greene ran close to a 4.7 and Knowshon Moreno ran a 4.6something.

  • Batsandgats

    um, LeGarrett Blount ran a 4.7 at the same combine and is one of the top backs this season, LeRon McClain ran a 4.88 and had 900 yards rushing one season. Tebow had THE fastest 3 cone drill time for any quarterback OR runningback at this combine, and his shuttle would be in the top, as well as vertical, for RUNNINGBACKS, which shows he he doesn't lose much speed when changing direction and is very fast for the first 10 yards. Shonn Greene ran close to a 4.7 and Knowshon Moreno ran a 4.6something.