Context: For those of you who don't follow the Denver Broncos (our local football team), they drafted Tim Tebow in the first round last year. This was because the coach at the time, Josh McDaniels, bonded with him at camp or whatever and decided he was worth the risk. Tebow was a huge star at the University of Florida, but a lot of people believed (and still believe) that his success wouldn't translate to the NFL. He is also known for being incredibly, zealously religious. In college he wrote the names and numbers of Bible verses on his face paint during games (which, thankfully, the NFL prohibits). He did a commercial for Focus on the Family that aired during the Super Bowl. He is very, very religious and very, very conservative. And very, very controversial as a football player.
Last year the Broncos went 4-12. Toward the end of the season their starting quarterback, Kyle Orton, was benched (supposedly due to a minor injury) and Tebow was allowed to start three games. He went 1-2. Then in training camp before this season, they competed for the starting spot and Orton won it. He started the first five games and went 1-4. Halfway through the fifth game, when they were losing hopelessly against the Chargers, he was benched in favor of Tebow. Tebow came in and led a comeback that fell short of a huge upset win by a two-point conversion. He then became the starter (though when asked about the starter, the current Broncos coach refers to "Tebow... or whoever"). He is 4-1 when starting this season, meaning that the Broncos are now 5-5.
I can't stand Tim Tebow as a person. Nothing against religious people in general, or conservative people in general, but I find him specifically to be incredibly sanctimonious. Bible verses on his face aren't necessary. Talking about God all the time, in every single interview, isn't necessary. Advertising for Focus on the Family, a group that I find disgusting, bigoted, and deceptive, certainly isn't necessary. And I'm not completely convinced that he's skilled as a quarterback either.
Because here's the weird thing. Even though he's won four out his five games, every single win was close, and weird. He has never conclusively had a great game, the kind where he'd be considered the MVP. He had 3.5 terrible quarters before leading a charge to come back from a 14-point deficit with three minutes left against Miami. He led another comeback win against the Raiders. Even against the Chiefs, who are terrible, the game was way too close for comfort. And against the Jets last night, the defense won the game. They scored one of the touchdowns on an interception, and they limited the Jets to 13 points. Tebow didn't do a whole lot.
But beyond that, since McDaniels is gone, there's nobody in the Broncos management who believes in Tebow as a quarterback. And as a result they engage in the most conservative play calling I've ever seen. They call almost exclusively running plays. In the game against the Chiefs Tebow threw the ball, I believe, eight times all game. They only let him throw downfield late in the game when it's do or die. As a result, he's developing a reputation as a fourth-quarter quarterback. If the defense can just keep the Broncos in the game for the first three quarters, they seem to be able to pull out a win right at the end.
But it's frustrating. They traded their best receiver, Brandon Lloyd, for a fifth- or sixth-round draft pick because they didn't want to pay his salary for the next three years, during which time they expect to be in rebuilding mode and not win anything. So why are they being so conservative with Tebow? I just don't understand, if there's nothing on the line this year and it's all about the team's future, why they wouldn't test him. Why they wouldn't work on letting him throw the ball and seeing if he's any good and/or has any chance at becoming good. Why is it that after he's started five games and won four of them, nobody knows if he's any good or if he has a shot in hell at becoming the team's long-term quarterback? How is that helpful in any way?
I just can't get inside the heads of the coaches and play callers. I don't understand what they're doing. I think Tebow could potentially be good, or it could be like an anonymous Lions player said to the media after Detroit blew out the Broncos 45-10 a few weeks ago:
“Come on – that’s embarrassing. I mean, it’s a joke. We knew all week that if we brought any kind of defensive pressure, he couldn’t do anything. In the second half it got boring out there. We were like, ‘Come on – that’s your quarterback? Seriously?’ ”As far as I can tell, that's what most of the NFL thinks of him. So the Lions must be wondering what the hell happened to the Chargers, Dolphins, Raiders, Chiefs, and especially the Jets, who are actually a pretty good team. How did the Lions blow the Broncos out so spectacularly and everyone else falls apart against them? How is Tebow winning all these games and yet nobody knows if he can even throw the ball?
(As an aside, last night after the Broncos beat the Jets the camera showed a group of players, mostly Broncos but also some Jets, led by Tebow, in what appeared to be a prayer circle, where they were all "Tebowing," i.e., kneeling on one knee with their heads bowed in prayer. I get why some of his religious teammates might be joining him in this activity after a game, but why would any players from the Jets, who were just beaten by this guy who is being mocked the world over with this exact pose, and who is considered a total loser by most NFL teams, possibly be interested in joining his prayer circle? I don't care how religious they are--I would think they'd rather pray on their own, not on camera, after a loss. But I guess we should consider this a beautiful show of unity and togetherness. Or something.)
Apparently he's starting to gain respect within the Broncos organization (certainly his teammates believe in him; unclear what management thinks) now that he's won so many games, but we still have no answers about his future. Or the Broncos' future, which is what I actually care about.
Basically, I want the Broncos to get it together. Figure out if Tebow will be their quarterback for a long time or not. And if not, start figuring out who his replacement will be, and send him to a team where he does have an advocate and will get a chance to play, and will get play calls that actually allow him to thrive. Plus, it's really incredibly boring to watch a game where every single play involves a running back plowing into defensive traffic. And every game we watch involves us yelling at the TV as the opponent makes adjustments for the play calling, and the play calling continues as though nothing has changed. Great runs in the first quarter, and then every run gets stopped at the line of scrimmage as the defense adjusts--and yet the Broncos continue running as though the defense will suddenly forget what they're doing and start expecting them to pass. Like the coaches think the running game is still as fresh and surprising as it was at first.
It isn't. It's boring. It's predictable. And somehow it feels like four wins in five games (and three wins in a row) were a fluke. That is a waste of time and money. I don't like Tebow as a person, but he plays for my team and I want to know if he has a chance to be a good quarterback or not. I wish the Broncos would do something to finally start looking for an answer to that question.