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Elway’s Tebow Dilemma

John Elway’s in a real pickle.

On the one hand, he let himself get swept-up in Tebowmania, making a 2012 verbal commitment, of sorts, to his 2nd-year starting QB: “Tim Tebow’s not going anywhere…he’s going to be a Bronco.” (AP / 12-20). And he surprisingly did this when the Tebow tide was just starting to ebb.

On the other hand, since the Broncos’ VP of football OPs jumped on board the Tebow bandwagon the picture on Tim has come into focus and it’s not a Kodak moment.

Tim’s not an NFL quarterback, not yet, anyway. The greatness some perceived during the six-game win streak proved somewhat illusory. Growth, yes, but he’s a project, not unlike the Vikes’ Joe Webb. Bulging with athletic ability, both show a lack of pocket presence by too often reverting to the style that made them campus heroes: run-first, try to pass later.

Others of the same ilk (Young / Newton / Vick), while apt to rabbit as freely as Tim and Joe, have been more adept at meeting the NFL’s ‘sit-tite & survey’ style of quarterback play.

The hero of SB33 knows better than anyone the NFL’s a QB league. Since the days of Otto Graham and Bobby Layne, quarterbacks have set the tone. It’s why recent pink-slips in Chicago (Angelo) and Indy (Polians) were more about PR and scapegoating than poor strategy. When stars like Manning and Cutler go down it changes everything.

And if you think Green Bay’s got the back-up thing all figured out (Flynn), don’t forget the names Matt Cassel and Kevin Kolb, hot-hot commodities not long ago.

The athleticism displayed by the Tebows and Vicks of college ball is always a big turn-on to those who see football as only a game of strength & speed to be measured in numbers at the combines. Lucky for people like me it’s a whole lot more.

Pocket presence doesn’t start with passing, it starts with leadership. Those ‘in the know’ also recognize defense feeds off that leadership…or suffers for it.

Winners don’t carry their squads on their backs (by habitually running for TDs & 1st downs). They trust in their co-workers (coaches / teammates) and delegate responsibility accordingly. And when they find chemistry or symbiosis, they ride together to the title.

GMs are always looking to next year. Elway doesn’t see enough in Tim to lock-in but doesn’t relish backing off his prior statement either, especially with the cult status that crusader Tim enjoys. And keeping him on as a back-up is problematic to say the least (See; Kyle Orton).

Denver’s brain trust wants a win against Pittsburgh in their Sunday Wild Card match-up to be sure. Though strictly from a Tebow perspective, a loss makes their decision easier. But with the help of Mike Tomlin’s indecisiveness all season long on the playing status of his oft-injured star QB, leaving Ben physically vulnerable, coupled with the absence of key cogs Clark & Mendenhall, Denver’s chances for victory improve by the day.

The NFL’s not a development league. It may’ve turned into Arena football but it’s not a training ground. No franchise can afford the time to train a player, no matter how popular, in the basics of a position as important as quarterback.

Whatever Sunday’s outcome, John Elway and the Denver Suits would be wise to keep Tim Tebow on the 2012 RS-roster. Not as a QB, mind you. I picture Tim as a tight-end, and a darn good one at that. Just like I always pictured Joe Webb and Mike Vick as punt-return guys or wide receivers. They all like running so much why not put it to best use?

If legendary flanker-back Paul Hornung (a Packer who played “a long time ago in a spinning world” / MGM) can check his ego and change positions, so too can Tim. The results can be nothing short of miraculous. I think Vince Lombardi would’ve agreed.

Ahead of the Curve

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A native of the old Northwest Territory (IL), my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.

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In response to “Elway’s Tebow Dilemma”

  1. Christopher Rowe Jan 5 201211:15 am


    You always bring interesting topics to the fore and make excellent points. Agree that Tebow is unquestionably a talented athlete and that he is not a prototypical QB. You even bring up Steve Young, Mike Vick and Cam Newton which are excellent examples of run-first QB who all have the big arm and simply needed to learn to stay in the pocket to read a defense before pulling the ball down and doing it themselves.

    Newton is the exception because he seemed to figure it out his first year. Vick took 5 years and Young took going through the USFL and Tampa before landing in the right spot in Bill Walsh’s 49ers offense.

    Young, Newtown and Vick have always possessed the big arm and the ability to be a pocket passer. Tebow has tried to change his throwing motion and has been over-coached since the 2010 combine and still we have not seen his true ability. If Elway hasn’t seen it in practice or drills then that is problematic – because John Fox doesn’t seem to see it either. Perhaps Tebow needs to go to a system that will encourage his talents – especially with a coach willing to work with him. Josh McDaniel (who drafted him) or Gary Kubiak or Jim Harbaugh or Pete Carroll or Ken Whisenhunt would probably all like the opportunity.

    Your other point, that the NFL is not a developmental league and is the ultimate team sport very salient. GMs get fired because their team is too reliant upon one franchise player (Bill Polian re Peyton Manning) though I’m not sure I’d compare Jay Culter in this regard. You are correct in mentioning Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel and Scott Mitchell s backups who should have stayed backups rather than get overpaid by desperate teams.

    Tim Tebow would be more comparable to Matt Leinart these days. Talent is there and much success in college but still needs to learn the pro game in order to make use of those talents. Changing positions is not the answer. Tebow could play tight end for sure or any other position in any other sport but he is best-served finding a system that will lend itself to him.

    Perhaps there should be a developmental league? Arena ball isn’t it and we know what happened to the ill-fated NFL Europe/WLAF but the chasm between the college game and the NFL really is larger than most realize – especially for QB. At certain positions, the skills translate immediately for example cornerback or defensive lineman but how many rookie offensive lineman and wide receivers struggle? How many rookie RB don’t play because they can’t learn blocking schemes? How many Ryan Leafs and Rick Mirers or Garrison Hearsts wind up disappointing while Aaron Rodgers, Terrell Davis or Tom Brady slip through????

    Every team has to be more important than even their best players and because of salary cap and contracts, there will be a parting date for everyone. Hell Joe Montana was asked to leave at one point (to make way for Steve Young), while Bill Parcells, Bill Walsh and Chuck Noll all stepped aside when it was time. Tebow needs a teacher who believes in him as does Mark Sanchez. Seems Cam Newton is doing fine on his own but he is the exception. Steve Young and Mike Vick would testify that some players need more time.

  2. Steven Keys Jan 5 20127:22 pm


    You raise some good points, Chris. But what’s the fun for readers (the few I get) if I simply list off the ‘agree-ables.’ Hey, I just invented something to put in with “Lunchables“ (Oscar Mayer?) Like an after meal antacid?

    I’d write that Tim Tebow IS a “prototypical” QB for our times, a prototypical run-first QB. They’re popping-up everywhere in college. Some GMs take a chance on ‘em in the pros. But as long as the pocket-passer thrives in the NFL (Brady, Brees, Mannings, Rodgers, etcetera), run-first QB will never hoist the hardware come February.

    Matt Leinart “comparable” to TT? I don’t really see that one, Chris. Prototypical USC drop-back passer if there ever was one, don’t you think? Still a bit of an unknown given Matt’s injuries of late.

    Only in recent times have players taken such a firm stand against changing positions once they enter the pros. You know sport history well, Chris. Traditionally, college coaches and pro-scouts helped seniors adjust, tailor their game / play to the NFL, not the other way around. And I don’t think Mike Vick has revolutionized anything in the pros: Atlanta (6), Philly (3), C’mon.

    Thanks for reading and the comment, Chris.

    1. Christopher Rowe Jan 6 201211:02 am


      Always enjoy sparring with knowledgeable fans – and I’m sure you have more than a few readers!!

      Leinart, Sanchez, Kurt Warner, Mark Brunell, Brett Favre, Randall Cunningham, Tim Tebow, Steve Young… all different types of QB who initially struggled when reaching the NFL.

      Some were prototypical pocket passers in a bad system, some had terrible mechanics, others were run-first QB who refused to change positions. Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning could be thrown into the mix too if you allow for QB whose teams threw them to the proverbial wolves because they were top picks who needed experience.

      The problem is that the NFL doesn’t have an allowance for slow development or askew delivery or any intangibles that cant be measured at the combine.

      Brett Favre was a failure until he got to Green Bay and was mentored by Mike Holmgren, while Kurt Warner and Mark Brunell never had the chance to play with the Packers and had to go elsewhere. Steve Young had a nightmare experience with terrible Tampa Bay before landing in Walshland. Could Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez, Mike Vick and Tim Tebow be victims of the same system? Everyone said Randall Cunningham should be a WR or RB but the Eagles let him play QB. A generation later, Mike Vick is learning how to play QB at age 30 because he always relied on his natural ability. Why isn’t Tebow another version of Vick? He has all the tools and is in fact an athletic specimen yet until he learns to read blitz coverage he will always run first and improvise second.

      Leinart and Sanchez are products of an alleged “pro-style” offense at USC yet neither has taken the strides needed to become elite NFL QB. Same could be said for Brady Quinn or Colt McCoy.

  3. James Centifonti Jan 6 201210:33 pm


    Awesome stuff, I think he will need to find somebody else, I am sure Tebow is a nice person but it’s my belief he won’t be able to produce in the NFL long term.

    1. Steven Keys Jan 7 201212:39 pm


      I like Tim’s positive, team-oriented approach, James, although having a critical-eye, even some controlled-anger, is good at times. The human mind offers-up a wide range of emotions to choose from throughout the day, most serving a purpose. Tim tends towards (at least publicly) the “marshmallow world” view of things (King of Queens). But whatever “gets you through the night,” as the song says.

      Thanks for reading and your & comments, James.

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