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Published on 10/11/2011 at Tue Oct 11 11:30.
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Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) and Denver Broncos quarterback Adam Weber (2) watch as quarterback Brady Quinn leads the offense in the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Tim Tebow, once wallowing in the deepest murks of the Denver Broncos depth chart, has ascended. Critiqued, criticized, admired and mired, the 2010 first round draft pick has risen above, both virtually and literally.

It wasn’t long ago that a report from Yahoo!’s Michael Silver quoted a “highly knowledgeable”  member of the Broncos organization, saying Tebow, if the decision were made purely on performance, should be the team’s fourth-string quarterback.

“If everything was totally equal, and this were a competition based only on performance at this camp, Tebow would probably be the fourth-string guy,” Silver’s source said. “Kyle [Orton] is far and away the best, and Tebow’s way behind [Brady] Quinn too. And I’m telling you, [fourth-string quarterback] Adam Weber is flat-out better right now.”

Yet, here we are. Less than seven weeks later, Tim Tebow has won the starting job. Kyle Orton has been benched; Brady Quinn remains benched; Adam Weber has been on the Broncos’ practice squad since the start of the season, and when the Denver Broncos starting offense’s huddle awaits their quarterback, Tim Tebow will stand alone.

So how did we get here? Is it massive, inconceivable organizational dysfunction that has seen Tebow rise from SportsCenter punchline to franchise quarterback in less than two months… or has Tim Tebow, admired and mired, truly earned this starting nod? Let’s break it down.

The best chance to win

We’ve heard head coach John Fox say it and players echo it countless times. “Kyle Orton gives us the best chance to win.” But when your team falls to 1-4 and 0-2 within the division at home, that argument largely flies out the window.

I’m not saying that the Broncos’ struggles were all Orton’s fault. Not hardly. But a large portion of responsibility deservedly falls on Orton’s shoulders, especially in two of the last three weeks.

To start the season, Kyle Orton truly was not part of the problem. It amazed me that the same fans who were clamoring for Tebow after the Week One loss were completely silent after the Week Two win against Cincinnati. Orton had no control of the Broncos defense’s ability to stiffen against the Bengals in the fourth quarter in Week Two, nor did he affect its inability to stop Darren McFadden the week before. Yet many fans made their cries for Tebow solely based on the Broncos’ Win-Loss record. I disagreed then, and I disagree now. This is not about wins and losses. This is about quarterback efficiency.

But in the last several weeks, Orton has not done enough to justify either argument. He’s not winning football games, and he’s not being efficient. He hasn’t had a truly good game in nearly a calendar year.

Meanwhile, the Broncos’ defense has made some small strides. The running game is back on track. The offensive line is healthy. The arguments used to excuse Orton’s inability to win are becoming less pertinent with each week.

Then, in Week Five, Tebow was given half of football to show he could operate a more successful offense than Orton. With less game-planning, less practice, and truly more pressure, he outscored Orton’s offense 14-3. That’s making the most of his opportunities, something Orton hasn’t done.

Ascending Brady Quinn

Some have asked where Brady Quinn falls into all of this. He was once clearly the Broncos’ No. 2 QB. By the start of the season, following a dreadful preseason performance in Arizona, he and Tebow were listed as co-backups, both No. 2.

While it may not be fair to judge Quinn’s performance against Cardinals first- and second-teamers to Tebow’s performance against third- and fourth-teamers, the production difference in that game was so jarring it’s hard to ignore. Quinn went 4 for 12 for 26 yards and an interception. Tebow completed 7 of 11 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.

Furthermore, Quinn has already had his chance as an NFL franchise quarterback. He’s also a young, recent first round draft pick, but his performances on the NFL field are a known commodity.

The Broncos have invested more and have more to gain in playing Tebow.

The potential is there

There was something about that Week 4 preseason game in Arizona that made me a believer in Tebow. I didn’t think he was ready (I wanted to wait until 2012), but I definitely believed he deserved a shot.

I know what that “something” was — it was the most impressive play I’ve seen Tebow execute in a Broncos uniform, or maybe any uniform. It was exactly what the Broncos want to see from their starting quarterback. And it happened with three minutes left in the fourth quarter (scroll to the one-minute mark).

Tebow dropped back, and a crowd of Cardinals defenders immediately surrounded him. Tebow didn’t run; he kept his eyes downfield. One player was well-covered; he checked-down. His eyes glanced to the flat before he recognized Eron Riley breaking free down the long sideline. Tebow immediately released and hit Riley in stride 50 yards downfield.

Touchdown Broncos. Something the Broncos hadn’t done in the 57 minutes before, largely with Quinn under center, Tebow executed to quarterback textbook perfection.

Tim Tebow showed me on that play that he is capable of executing an NFL pro-style offense. Maybe, with practice and experience, he can even excel at it.

He’s earned it

Tim Tebow wasn’t “gifted” a starting quarterback position; it’s true that those above him struggled, but Tebow did not when given the opportunity. His hard work and leadership are unquestioned, and he’s shown flashes of greatness on the football field.

It’s those tantalizing flashes that the Broncos hope to hone into consistent production at the quarterback position. The Denver Broncos hope to spend their next eleven games molding their quarterback of the future rather than struggling so they can draft one in April.

Tim Tebow has eleven games to earn sixteen more.

  • Jeff

    I think its the right call to start Tebow, although it should have been sooner.  I do like Orton and understand and accept that he is a good pocket passer. In my opinion, There is something missing, his demeanor is sluggish and the look on his face these past few games have been puzzling. He does not bring that element of excitement, energy, confidence or passion etc. Those things could possibly be contagious and carry on to other team mates. Tebow time is  tantamount to the Tebow test. We should all try to get behind this new wave and see what happens, its early to be talking about Luck and or the next great college QB  .. remember Quinn wasn’t he in high demand? 

  • Dante Pakistan

    Tebow did amazing in college because he was surrounded by superior talent and was on the better team for basically every single start. In college defenses aren’t as complex and far fewer elite athletes. He was faster and stronger than a lot of the players he faced. In the NFL he is probably only faster than some DTs and only stronger than a few CBs.

  • Dante Pakistan

    I’m not cheering for them to lose, it pains me to watch this team play like garbage. I am willing though to throw away one season for bright future. What plays does Tebow make? He has been awful.

  • Dante Pakistan

    Got a smart one here.

  • Crater

    Does anybody remember Elway lining up behind the guard? Does anybody remember Elway being “unable” to throe the touch pass. Does anybody remember Reeves giving up on Elway and drafting Maddox? Give the kid a chance. leadership matters. Unitas was cut because he didn”t look good in practice.No one has the faintest idea if we are watching history or just melodrama but I like the way 15 looks so far in a real game under real conditions. He is young and hungry for wins — aren”t you? 
     

  • broncodog87

    Broncos will have a top 5 pick and will get a QB… then this can start all over again.

  • http://thingsatrexdoes.tumblr.com Mike Birtwistle

    I have tried not to stand in either Orton or Tebow’s camp so I’d like to put this in a plain and simple way.

    If the Broncos win enough games so that they are not in a position to draft any of the top three QB prospects next year then it will be because Tebow has offered enough at the QB position to win at least half of his next 11 starts.  If the Broncos are in the top five it means that Tebow hasn’t played well enough to win games and unless he has shown a complete turn around in his mechanics and the way he operates on the field.

    If you want my opinion on what I think will happen – Tebow will play well and probably win 4 or 5 of the games remaining, it will be enough for his fans to say that he should be the future of the Broncos and he’ll have enough poor play so that there’s ammunition for the other side.

    Come draft day, Elway will try and sell the family silver to get Luck, but he won’t be able to get anywhere near him.  We’ll draft the top rated CB and move on with Tebow for at least another year.

  • http://broncotalk.net Monty

    It takes a lot more than touch to make it at this level. Weber made some sweet throws in practice, but that’s something that can be said of every team’s practice squad QB.

  • Topbrass7

    DUH? Are you for Real – did you NOT watch this week’s game ?

    It’s all about timing… What you Say, What you don’t Say, and When you decide to say it.

                                                          FOX  IS A FOX !!!

  • Toprass7

    Why are THESE Tebow Haters so  confused – that THEY elevate rumors, the subjective, and Denver Bronco team – political / financial analysis rumors to be more important than real game comparative performance and stats??
     
    For Example >
    Most Tebow Haters do not want to … Deal with Facts..
    Why does Coach Fox’s judgment seem so “subjective”? WHO SHOULD BE THE #1 #2 #3 QuarterBacks?
    Does he – not WANT to consider QB “Comparative” REAL NFL GAME facts?
    Very last Denver Exhibition Game:
    Tebow QB Rating = 129.1, Quinn = 7.6
    (Over 1698 percent better QB Rating) – but the Tebow haters still claim this positions him behind Quinn as the 3rd team Quarterback (because Quinn looks good in drills?) DUH…?
    Now Comparing REAL regular Season Game Stats between Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton from 2010:
    Even ESPN – One of the Leading Network’s of Tebow Haters> Merril Hoge’s own ESPN Network’s new “Realistic Game-time” NOT “Practice-Time” Quarterback Total QBR ranking, ranks Tim Tebow at 16th in league @ 54.3 versus Orton at 21st in league @ 46.6. Perhaps he is now ashamed of his run-amok Tebow attacks, or does he have another agenda, or reason, for his un-restrained animosity toward Tebow?
    Also do you know if ANY NFL player this past 2010 regular season, had a better Rushing TD / Rushing Attempt record (6 / 43 > or a TD For Every 7.17 Rushing Attempts ) then Tim Tebow?
     Just what is the problem with Coach Fox and his judgment? 
    Or is he already joined the ESPN Anti-Tebow biased hate club?
    If not why does he NOT give him an opportunity as qb in the real game? HE IS a WINNER !
    NOW FOX ADMITS TEBOW WAS NUMBER 2 all the time – he just permitted the Tebow Haters to Draw their own conclusions and run with it – like Tebow really no better than # 4 QB..
    Again – FOX IS A FOX !!

  • Jebstewart

    Here is what I saw. A squad, a ‘Team’ actually, play as one with some FIRE and passion. That is what a leader brings. That is what Tebow is! He makes the Team better. Intangibles win ballgames and Teams win Superbowls. This is going to be fun to watch. And how long has it been since we Bronco Fans have been able to say that?

  • Jebstewart

    Here is what I saw. A squad, a ‘Team’ actually, play as one with some FIRE and passion. That is what a leader brings. That is what Tebow is! He makes the Team better. Intangibles win ballgames and Teams win Superbowls. This is going to be fun to watch. And how long has it been since we Bronco Fans have been able to say that?

  • Anonymous

    Haha and that my friend, is why you don’t understand scouting :)

  • Anonymous

    Can’t the same be said for every QB in the league?  If you can’t get it done in practice you won’t get it done in the game.  That is true for just about everything.

  • Anonymous

    Would Tebow had gotten the same results had he played for Vanderbuilt instead of Florida?

  • Anonymous

    When have you worshipers ever been dealing with facts?  Your entire argument is “Tebow was a winner in college” which is beyond irrelevant and pathetic.  You consistently pull out preseason stats then claim they are irrelevant when they don’t benefit Tebow.  You make silly excuses like practicing with the 2nd teamers is why he consistently throws in the dirt. Once he practices with the starters he’ll show everybody how awesome he really is.  But practice really does not matter because Tebow is not a practice player he needs to be in a game to show just what he can do.
    Don’t bring up “facts” again.   

  • Anonymous

    You know what is going to happen if he doesn’t improve or perform well.  ESPN has already set up the convenient excuse.  The Broncos really want Tebow to fail.  That is why he replaced Orton.

  • Anonymous

    If the Broncos cannot get luck they’ll look at who they have rated higher CB or QB and jump on the better of the 2.  Not getting Luck isn’t the end of good QB’s available.

  • Anonymous

    ‘But Tebow is not the answer.  Time will tell.”

    This is exactly why we need to put Tebow in.  We need to figure out if he is the answer and if not we need to move on.  Why keep Orton in and maybe win 3 games for the rest of the year?   There is no point in waiting another season to figure out Tebow isn’t the answer.  Wouldn’t you like to know now when we have a decent chance to pick up a solid QB in next years draft?  My wish is for Tebow to prove everyone wrong and be our QB for years to come, but I am nervous about whether he can do that. 

  • Anonymous

    Come on!!!  He has only played 4 games (well 3.5).  Isn’t it fair to give him a little bit more time to figure things out.  Hell Orton has had 7 years and he still can’t figure it out yet people still want to make excuses for him.  Yeah he may of underthrown or overthrown some of his passes, but damn wouldn’t you if you hadn’t played all “session”.  Maybe he is excited to get out there and play and that is the cause of the problem.  I am not saying he is the most accurate passer, but I have definitely seen him pass better than that.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t drafting Maddox effectively end Reeves career in Denver?  It was not Reeves giving up on Elway, it was bad blood between Reeves and Elway.  The prior season they had just played in their 4th AFC title game as HC & QB.  Reeves fired Shanahan at the end of the 1991 season as well.  By the end of the 92 season Reeves was gone.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed!

  • Anonymous

    uncalled for, this kind of comment should not be tolerated on this site

  • Anonymous

    As a Broncos fan I REALLY hope that Tebow can come in, be effective and become our QB of the future.  I’m not saying that he will be but I sincerely hope this is the outcome so that we can spend our top 10 pick on a DT or CB instead of spending the next 2 years grooming another QB who may or may not pan out.  Anyone else who wants to see this team be competitive sooner than later had better hope for this outcome as well.  Even if we somehow wind up with Luck the chances of getting to the playoffs in his first or second year are pretty slim.  

  • Anonymous

    So much drama…..

  • King

    No QB in the history of the world would’ve gotten results at Vanderbilt.  lol.

  • King

    He beat Cam Newton for the starting position.  ESPN seems to forget this fact.

    Tebow played in the SEC.  So no, he was not “faster and stronger” than a lot of players he faced.  If you look at NFL rosters, most defenders come from the SEC.  There is a reason for that. 

  • Eto1294396

     I do, Elway and Unitas were both slow starters and what a lose it would have been to the NFL and all football fans had they not been given the chance and the time to ajust to the pros. Unitas was not polished and QB that played by the book yet he al`ways found a way to win to me Tebow is cut out of that mold and will be a grat QB in time. I have always been a Elway fan and think Unitas was the best ever and Elway was among the best ever. I have always been a dolphin and Gator fan . I can’t see the good Lord not allowing Tebow to succed as he is a desiple. I know this will draw a crowd.

  • Eto1294396

     I do, Elway and Unitas were both slow starters and what a lose it would have been to the NFL and all football fans had they not been given the chance and the time to ajust to the pros. Unitas was not polished and QB that played by the book yet he al`ways found a way to win to me Tebow is cut out of that mold and will be a grat QB in time. I have always been a Elway fan and think Unitas was the best ever and Elway was among the best ever. I have always been a dolphin and Gator fan . I can’t see the good Lord not allowing Tebow to succed as he is a desiple. I know this will draw a crowd.

  • Anonymous

    But Tebow is a winner and through his force of will Vanderbuilt would have had at least one national championship.  Just ask his worshipers.

  • Tebow for the wins

    after playing 1 play in the prior 4 games, give the guy some slack. at least he doesn’t have 6 interceptions and 4 losses on his resume this season. When Tebow goes and proves you wrong, how dumb are you going to feel. You don’t win a Highsman and be a runner-up and win BCS national championships being a bust QB.

  • Anonymous

    Are you joking?  Slow starter?  The Broncos were 13 – 3 in Elway’s 2nd year.  2 years later was Elway’s first of 6 Super Bowls.  How do even remotely claim to be an Elway fan?

  • crazykid

    …..?

  • tme up

    Broncos will not get a pick any lower than 9. History has proven that when you give a roster a shake in mid season the team responds because they know that they could be next. There are at least 4 wins in the near future, and we still have an opportunity to claim a divisional title look at Seattle last year. Its not likely by any means buy by not impossible either. Give Tebow a chance to prove McDaniels To either be a genius or a fool. then talk about the potential draft picks. Luck is Going to either Kansas, Minnesota, Arizona or Miami. Denver won’t have a chance at drafting him. Fox won’t risk another QB controversy next season either, look how Orton checked out, and Cutler before him. 

  • Big Eli

    Not sure how a better performance in 1 preseason game about 3rdand 4th string defenses make Tebow better than Quinn. The fact is that neither is a proven or unproven commodity in the NFL. Tebow hasnt had a real chance yet and Quinn’s only opportunity was with a horrible Browns team that couldnt protect him and had no runningbacks or receivers to help him. I personally think Tebow is overrated and Quinn probably is too, but I think Quinn is the better choice at this point.

  • Anonymous

    Your biggest mistake is believing ESPNs depth chart over the actual teams depth chart. Both QBs were listed as backup, no designation of 2nd or 3rd string ever existed. It was a fantasy made up by the heads at ESPN to drive up ratings by being able to talk about him more.

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