I am having a hard time understanding why there is a so-called “controversy” here in Denver regarding who will be the starting quarterback for the Broncos this season. There’s a question? Really? No there isn’t. Who gives the Broncos the best shot at winning football games? That would be Kyle Orton. Emotions aside, Orton is the answer, always was the answer, and unless he gets hurt, will be the answer for this season. Veterans win games
in the NFL. They’ve been there, they’ve seen it, they’ve done it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not adding to the bon fire Merril Hoge began via his Twitter account and SportsCenter appearance last week. Tim Tebow doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment. He is an intelligent, hard-working, athletic leader who will enjoy success in the NFL if he continues to put in the work. What other 23-year-old has published his memoirs? He’s got it all together. He’ll be fine. Right now, however, the Broncos best chance of winning games and seeing the playoffs is with Kyle Orton under center.
The idea of the NFL is to put the best players on the field who give the team the best chance of winning football games, unless you’re the Oakland Raiders and then you just place an ad on Craigslist and hope for the best. That is what training camp is about. It’s about evaluating talent and skill. With that in mind, Tim Tebow has work to do. Work that Kyle Orton has already put in. Some of that’s due to Orton just being older, wiser, and being in the league longer, some on the lockout that kept Tim from being able to work with the coaches who are in the best position to teach him and help him excel at the things he needs to, and some of it being to how Tim played at the University of Florida. It is his success at Florida and his work ethic that will make him a good quarterback in the years to come.
Emotions have been running high here in Denver since the lock out ended. Most Bronco fans want Tebow. Tim has a lot going for him; things that fans are clamoring for and have been since one John Elwaytook his Lomardi Trophy and rode off into the sunset more than a decade ago. Tim displays leadership, intelligence, work ethic, athletic ability, decent arm, and quick legs that make him hard to catch once he takes off down the
field. He did have six rushing touchdowns last season.He’s at practice before the coaches, and we all know NFL coaches live in their offices once training camp kicks off. Everyone who meets him is drawn to him. Think back to that now famous speech he gave following a loss to Mississippi in September 2008. He took that pledge to two BCS National Championships. He came into the NFL fully entrenched in that pledge. It is who he is. It is what he believes in. It will be what propels him to success. It’s the creed he lives by and will push his Bronco teammates to live and play by. More so, he gets the game. He understands that a hell of a lot is expected out of the quarterback position in the NFL. That very speech at Florida makes the case. He’s just not quite there yet. He showed glimpses of it in his three game audition last season, but it also showed that work remains and that’s why Orton is the answer right now.
I am watching two completely opposite forces in action at play here–the fans’ emotional attachment to Tebow vs. the Broncos’ coaching and management staffs’ need to do their jobs of putting the best team on the field. Fans love a winner. Fans love a sports star who does things the right way–works hard, stays out of trouble, grew up with the life lessons that Tebow has had. It’s a hard thing for management to overcome. I applaud John Elway and John Fox for not letting any of that cloud their judgement. If the entire debate came down to leadership, likability, discipline, and work ethic, the Broncos should just go right on ahead and cut Orton today. The fans can’t see past their current ass-kissing to see that there is far more involved than that. Tebow’s mechanics need work, especially from under center. He needs work making the reads down field as well as getting the ball there with accuracy. He was less than a 50% passer last year while Orton was nearly a 60% one. In college, Tebow worked mainly from shot-gun formations and if the pass wasn’t there immediately, he took off. NFL offenses don’t run that way. They are far too complex and intricate and take more than the 3.5 seconds Tebow let pass before he took off. It takes making the reads down the field and trusting that your offensive line will hold up long enough to make them and get rid of the ball. It takes learning to quickly read defenses and potentially changing the play before the snap if necessary. These are all things that Kyle Orton can do and do very well. Tim will get it in time, but not before week 1 of this season.
If people are still not convinced, and I doubt the ardent Tebow fans aren’t. For you, I am sorry and I still hope that you will be Broncos fans when they win games with Orton at the helm. In fact I will guarantee that you will be the first ones standing up and cheering when they win. I am a numbers guy. I don’t hold a business degree for nothing, you know. For one thing, they don’t lie. Orton played 13 games last season while Tebow started the final three following the “don’t let the door hit ya in the ass” firing of Josh McDaniels. Stretching each’s stats to a full 16 game season, I rest my case:
2010: 361 comps 613 att (58.8%) 4496 yards 25 TDs 11 INTs 87.5 rating
2010: 213 comps 432 att (49.4%) 3472 yards 21 TDs 16 INTs 77.7 rating
A shade under 4500 yards and close to 60% passing with a better than 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio is far superior to less than 50% passing with less than 3500 yards and nearly equal numbers when it comes to touchdown to interception ratio. Case closed. Once Tebow fixes those things in his game that need to be fixed, those numbers will improve. Again, the NFL is “win now”. The numbers clearly indicate who’ll do that more consistently.
Like I said, this isn’t even a controversy. The bigger problem the Broncos have to answer are on the other side of the ball. It isn’t who will be throwing it for them, but who’ll be stopping the other guy from throwing it. The Broncos could put up points last season. That wasn’t the big deal. The big deal was they couldn’t stop anyone else from scoring on them. Some weeks looked like an arena league score. They have addressed their needs defensively taking Von Miller with the #2 overall pick in the draft and have a key piece returning healthy to the lineup in QB killer Elvis Dumervil. Word from camp is that both have been virtually unblockable. The Broncos didn’t need to make a splashy play in free agency, and they didn’t other than addressing a need in bringing in Willis McGahee.
One thing I will give Tim credit for is his handling of all the criticism heaped on him recently, notably the harsh and unwarranted words of ESPN analyst Merril Hoge. Merril went to his Twitter account and said “It’s embarrassing to think the broncos could win with tebow.” He continued and expanded on his post later on SportsCenter adding “He is awful as far as his accuracy goes and what’s kind of even more disturbing, he’s probably worse moving and running around with the football and throwing than he is from the pocket.” First of all, Hoge admits his analysis (I thought analysis was supposed to be built on fact and not fiction) is based on video from last season. While Tim admittedly has taken a little bit of a step backwards this season, much of that can be attributed to not being there working with the coaches best trained to get him NFL ready. What did he expect from a rookie–Joe Montana? John Elway? Noe Namath? You played running back, dude. Go grade them and leave the quarterbacks to the guys that actually played the position. Tebow won’t be a bust. He needs time to develop the rest of the skillset he needs. He has the tools to get there and do it, now he has the people around him to finish the job.
Rational thought will always beat out emotion. Emotion pushes people to be rash and not think thinks through. It doesn’t take statistics or talent into account. People don’t want to think about the NFL being a business first. People want wins and they want the guys they like. I’m sorry, but you sometimes don’t get what you want, fans. Yes, they relate to Tebow more than they do Orton. Tebow is there front and center. Kyle goes about his work in relative obscurity, but gets results. John Elway is a hall of fame quarterback. John Fox is a long time coach in the league. They understand that the fans want Tim Tebow. They also understand is that their only concern is to produce wins. I will put money that if they were to start Tim Tebow right now, before he is totally polished, and the team goes 3-13 or 4-12, those same fans clamoring for Tim will be the same ones demanding Elway and Fox’s heads on platters. In other words, the fans need to leave the choices to those in the best position to make them.
This is only a controversy in the minds of the fans who aren’t getting what they want. That’s life; we don’t always get what we want. Tim Tebow has come to accept that in being pushed to the back up role and now it’s the fans’ turn to learn this valuable life lesson.The NFL can be a harsh place. It’s a privileged place to be. The fans need to take their emotions and direct them in a way that will be helpful to the team they support. They need to show up at games and cheer and be loud and make things as miserable as possible for the opposition. They need to leave the business side of the game to the leaders who get paid to make the tough and right calls. The sooner the fans come to realize this, the sooner they’ll also see that there was never a controversy and the answer is just as easy as I do.