Posted Tue Oct 11th by Monty
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.