Elway’s Question: To Tebow or not to Tebow?
To Tebow or not to Tebow? That is the question. And no, I am not talking about whether it is insensitive to get down in a prayer stance as an homage/mockery of Denver Broncos Quarterback Tim Tebow. Instead, I’m talking about whether or not John Elway and the Broncos organization should commit to their first-round pick as the franchise signal caller of the future.
Just as recently as two weeks ago, in the middle of a 7-1 stretch by Tim Tebow, Elway told the listening Denver public that he was not committed to Tim Tebow as his franchise quarterback. That obviously sat with many different people in one of two ways. The people who believe in Tebow were observably upset. And the people that don’t think Tebow can quarterback in the NFL were glad that Elway’s trepidation supported their analysis of Tebow.
But regardless of what you think about Tebow’s long-term viability as a quarterback in the NFL, I want you to think about what’s fair and what isn’t.
Tim Tebow is 7-2 as an NFL starter this year. Sure, he hasn’t beaten up on much of any team that’s worth a damn, and his two losses came at the hands of quarterbacks that are considered inarguably better passers. But a record of 7-2 is a record of 7-2, and even if Tebow’s passing numbers do not seem to suggest that he can sustain such a high-level of winning over a long-period of time, his play on the field does.
One of the things that Tebow gets unfairly charged with when his critics are coming at him is that he has been extremely lucky that the defense is playing for him in a way that they didn’t play for Kyle Orton, who was the starter the five games before Tebow entered the lineup. Now, in some ways, those critics are right; Tebow has posted a 20-point game just twice in his nine starts. But what those critics are unfairly failing to recognize is that Tebow’s protection of the ball keeps his defense from being in unfortunate positions. Additionally, Tebow’s ability to run the ball for first downs keeps the clock running and his defense on the sideline.
Tebow’s critics also charge him with getting the added benefit of a recharged Willis McGahee, who like the defense, was not playing this well at the running back position when Orton was in the lineup. Problem is that Tebow has contributed to McGahee’s resurgence as much as McGahee himself has. Tebow’s ability to run the football softens up the defense throughout the game, nevermind his ability to take the ball on a read play and go out the backdoor against the defense for a 15-yard gain. So those who say that Tebow is lucky that McGahee is producing like this for him are just being unfair.
Of course, I understand that completing just two passes in a game is something that his critics are going to find hard to consider “winning football,” but the other things he does on the field are inarguably contributing to his team’s ability to win.
That’s why it seems unfair not to commit to Tebow at this point. At 7-2, he can’t do much more to prove he can win the NFL. What John Elway is doing right now by not committing to Tebow is saying that the young quarterback has been lucky, and that over a larger sample-size, you will likely see him fail. While that may be the prudent and smart way to approach this, as larger sample sizes almost always yield more worthwhile results, it’s just not fair to do that to a guy who is potentially the future of your franchise.
How would you like it if at your job, you were the best salesman in your department during a boom in the economy, and your employer refused to give you and your team salary increases and better benefits because he wasn’t sure you could maintain your level of work when the boom went away?
You wouldn’t like it. Hell, you would be mad about it. After all, you didn’t bring the good economy, but now you’re being forced to pay for it? And if a couple years later, you were still producing at that same rate and another, better opportunity came along, you don’t think you would hold your employer’s previous lack of faith against it when making that decision?
Well, in this case, Tebow’s not the reason the defense and running games were bad when Orton was the quarterback. And even if you don’t believe that he’s part of the reason each of those aspects of the Denver Broncos games are better, you shouldn’t be punishing Tebow for flourishing in the success of them.
This whole Tebow situation kind of reminds me of another quarterback that was constantly told that he couldn’t be a long-term guy in the NFL because of what were “literally” his shortcomings.
Doug Flutie just couldn’t maintain a starting job in the NFL because he wasn’t considered tall enough to do so. This in spite of being a killer quarterback in the Canadian football league and having a winning record in the NFL. Instead of being deemed the starter in New England after going 6-3 with the team, he was sent packing. Instead of being named the starter in Buffalo after going 14-6 during his last 20 games there, Flutie was booted for another quarterback. And instead of getting the gig in San Diego, albeit at the ripe age of 40, he was sent to the bench after a 5-11 season with a team that had been the worst team in the NFL the season prior.
Granted, Flutie wasn’t the purest passer ever, he wasn’t very conventional, and his stature in the pocket, or lack thereof, certainly did hurt him at times. However, 38-28 is a pretty decent record, especially after 16 games with the worst team in the league. And his 86-68 touchdown-to-interception ratio is better than what you see from the Mark Sanchezs, Joey Harringtons and the Akili Smiths of the world; all of which got handed the keys to their franchises without really earning them.
Which brings me back to Tim Tebow. Have you ever seen Mark Sanchez go 7-2 for a stretch? Is Sanchez protecting the ball like Tebow is? Can Sanchez affect the running game the same way that Tebow can from the quarterback position? The answers to all of those questions is no, and yet Sanchez is the guy that had the full support of the franchise behind him from Day One.
Listen, I’m not trying to tell Elway what he should do with his budgets, because at the end of the day, it’s his neck that is on the line. Quite frankly, I can’t even fault him for being prudent after watching the Buffalo Bills throw away millions of dollars to Ryan Fiztpatrick because he looked above average for six games. And as a numbers guy, I certainly am not going to sit here and say that Tebow is owed a commitment due to his play, as I know very well that business is business, and sometimes being “fair” has no business in business.
However, in some rare occasions, being unfair in the name of your business can actually do harm unto it.
Maybe Tebow will never be a confident passer in the first three quarters of games because he always feels as if a bad throw will cost him his job; kind of in the same way Doug Flutie felt back during his mess.
Maybe Elway never finds out what the full potential of Tebow is by not committing to an offensive style and personnel that is befitting of his quarterback’s talents.
Maybe, just maybe, Elway forgoes one of the few quarterbacks that can tangibly make his defense better without playing a single snap on that side of the football.
And maybe, in the name of “business,” Elway and the Broncos never get to see Tim Tebow at his best until they are playing against him and the Chiefs. And maybe that Tebow-led team beats the Broncos, but what’s fair is fair—when it comes to business.