Posts Tagged John Elway

Not Worth Getting Lucky….Yet

What do the Minnesota Vikings, St Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, and Indianapolis Colts all have in common? They’re all 0-4 so far this season. At the quarter pole, it can be assumed that none of these teams are likely playoff bound. They all have serious issues that won’t be corrected anytime soon. Minnesota is starting Donovan McNabb at quarterback, a guy who has had probably one of the steepest declines at the position of anyone in NFL history. St Louis can’t stop anyone with their lines on both sides of the balls and now have serious injuries to their receivers and no one to step up. The Miami Dolphins just lost their quarterback that no one seems to want and have a coach ownership doesn’t acknowledge the existence of (kiss that vote of confidence bye-bye Coach Sparano). The Colts have one missing piece, but that piece is like missing the engine to a car in Peyton Manning. The entire offense has been built around him and him alone since he joined the team fourteen years ago. With all four of these teams you hear whispers of playing for Andrew Luck, the phenom quarterback at Stanford University.  That requires going out of their way to stay under the four win mark for the season to have any shot at that overall #1 pick in next April’s draft.

Luck had the opportunity to come out for last year’s draft, but he would have competed for attention with Cam Newton who was fresh off leading Auburn University to the BCS Championship. There’s also the teams picking at the top of last year’s draft—Carolina (who took Newton), Denver, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. I know he didn’t want to go to any of those disasters, though Buffalo is looking like a playoff team this season standing at 3-1. They were not in need of a quarterback. Denver didn’t need one after trading everything but the stadium to select Tim Tebow the previous draft. Carolina was set on Newton from the moment the final second ticked off the clock at the Championship game leaving Cincinnati where careers go to die. His decision to remain for his senior year is looking as though it may lead him to that very same BCS Championship game Newton found himself in.

That leads to an important question for these four teams, and to an extent, some of the 1-3 teams as well: Do you go all out, play to win every week and pray you come up with a decent season, even if it doesn’t land you in the playoffs, or do you half-heart it, show your fans you’re giving it your best shot, but rack up the “L”s and play for Luck? It’s a dangerous game to play. On the one hand, maybe your schedule improves, you get some guys back healthy, or someone unexpected steps up and you play the remaining 12 games in 10-2 or 9-3. Depending on the division, even going 8-4 might be enough to get into the playoffs. The flip side of this is going out week after week, giving it you almost best shot, beating some of the other also-rans on your schedule, but playing the remaining 12 at 4-8 or 3-9, maybe even 2-10. The dangers in this are alienating your fan base, who already is pissed off at your stellar start, and splitting your locker room who begin to believe that you, as coach and front office, don’t believe they’re talented enough to go out and win without the help of an unproven college player.

The last part leads to the biggest problems. Coaches stop trusting players, players stop trusting coaches, and eventually players stop trusting one another. Even if you’re lucky enough to land Luck, the damage may be too much to fix without a major overhaul of the roster and coaching staff. Now you’ve got Andrew Luck, a rookie who’s proven nothing, and a bunch of veterans who feel used and abused by the front office. If you had any thought that one person was going to reverse your franchise’s fortunes, you’d be a fool. You may win less games and potentially ruin all remaining good will with the fans, trust of the team, and may ruin any chance Andrew Luck has of finding success as an NFL quartback.

For every John Elway and Peyton Manning that’s picked number 1 in the draft, the league ends up littered with the likes of Jeff George, Tim Couch, Alex Smith, and JaMarcus Russell. The draft is a nothing more than the NFL’s version of the lottery. Every pick is a gamble. Are you getting that guy that will make the impact on your franchise that puts you on the road to a Super Bowl or is it a pick that sets things back even further? Seventeen quarterbacks were taken with the overall #1 pick since 1970. Of those, only six have won Super Bowls, the most recent being Eli Manning who was picked #1 in 2004. Do you want to risk all the issues of tanking just to take a shot at a lottery?

Teams that end up with records worthy of the #1 pick in the draft often have multiple needs. Your quarterback can’t catch the ball after he throws it, can’t block for himself, can’t cover the other team’s receivers, and can’t tackle so it’s only one part of what most teams need in order to get back into contention. Yes, the draft is seven rounds and you will get other pieces. There’s even some pieces usually available via free agency, but picking up a brand new quarterback with the number one pick is huge. He becomes the face of the franchise. He is now your leader. Everything your team does is focused on his success from the offense you run, the types of receivers you draft or acquire via trade and free agency. That guy has to be able to come in and have the confidence and attitude that the team will succeed and he is the man to lead them in that success. It is more often than not a position that is larger than the man.

I have watched plenty of Andrew Luck play over the last couple of seasons. I will definitely get a good look at him Saturday as he is playing Colorado. I can’t help but to say he is the real deal. He will be the next truly great QB to come into the NFL and be an integral part of someone’s future plans and success for years to come. His teammates listen to him. He has great on-field command from the huddle to the line, knows what he is doing the moment he gets the ball in his hands, and nothing fazes him, even if a play breaks down. He refuses to give up on a play as long as he can see the field. For his career in which he was last year’s Heisman runner-up, Luck has thrown for 6926 yards, and has 56 touchdowns against only 13 interceptions with a 24-6 career record (4-0 so far in the 2011 season) including a win in last season’s Orange Bowl. What team wouldn’t want that?

I know that every team wants that kind of leadership under center. That’s the kind of leadership that wins championships. That’s the kind of leadership that demands the respect and attention of the locker room. That’s the leadership you want as the public face of your franchise. That’s the kind of leadership that has free agents clamoring to come and play for you. My opinion is all that leadership potential becomes background to the circus that will be your locker room as guys that have been there become resentful of a kid. They don’t care about what the future will hold. All they know and understand is they were used to draft someone that they believe isn’t as good as they are; he hasn’t fought the battles on an NFL field like they have. He’s going to make millions based on a hunch. They understand that the team tanked its season on a wing and a prayer.

They say you can’t win the lottery unless you play. Wasting your money on a hunch isn’t just potentially hurtful to you; it can damage your entire organization. Any of the teams thinking about blowing off the rest of this season after just four weeks should think long and hard about that and the odds that, even though everything points to Andrew Luck being as advertised, a lot goes into getting that potential talent to show itself at the NFL level. It takes the right coaches, front office, and most importantly, teammates that have enough class and dignity to allow things to take shape.

It’s not a chance that’s worth anyone taking.

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Religion and Football Don’t Mix

After the messy loss to the Tennessee Titans, I almost gave in and supported the chants of “TE-BOW TE-BOW” that were resonating loudly throughout the greater metro-Denver area. Something happened, though. What happened was the game against the Green Bay Packers. Except for three interceptions against the world champion defense, Kyle Orton was able to move the ball well up and down the field. The Broncos scored three touchdowns on offense, and while his 273 yards are considered mediocre in today’s pass-happy NFL where 350 yards is more the norm than the super-star performance, he had a good day by his standards. Moreover, his coaches and teammates stood behind him even though the Broncos were blown out of the stadium.

In the 4th quarter with the game no longer in doubt, and it wasn’t much of a game after halftime, the fans of Lambeau began that familiar chant heard multiple times here at Mile High “TE-BOW, TE-BOW” and while it would have been the perfect time for John Fox to give in and play him, he chose to remain with his starters. His reasoning made a lot of sense when he said “We need our STARTING quarterback to get experience for us to improve. That’s the idea behind that. He needs to get better in our system.” He spent over a season in Josh McHoodie’s open style of game and now has to adjust back to Fox’s run first, more conservative offense. There were no OTAs, training camp was a joke or a circus depending on which word you more enjoy using, so using a blow out game as a learning experience is the next best thing.

Most Tebow fans are burnt orange with rage at Fox and Elway for not playing Tebow in garbage time. I wish people would understand this—Tebow couldn’t throw the ball in training camp, and outside of one decent pass in a sole pre-season game, he can’t throw it in game situations, either. The ball looks half drunk leaving his hand. He throws it to places his receivers can’t catch it unless they dive. He’d have better success throwing a javelin than a football at the moment. His defensive reads aren’t there. If his first option isn’t available, he either doesn’t know where his secondary and check down reads are or he doesn’t care and just wants to use his “god-given talents” to make the play, and his teammates be damned.

As I sat and amused myself at people calling Fox and Elway every name in the book and then some on ESPN and Facebook in the aftermath of the 49-23 blood bath, something else came apparent. Based on the comments I was reading, while some were indeed Denverites and true Bronco fans, a majority of them posted and acted as if they didn’t know the first thing about either football, the Denver Broncos, or the NFL in general. They talk blindly about leadership and heart and how he’s a champion. How many Super Bowl rings is he wearing? That’s what I thought. When he’s wearing two like his Team President, give me a call.

A few of those outlandish comments from the football illiterate said they learned all they needed to learn about Tebow’s talents entirely from the post-game speech he made following the University of Florida’s loss to Mississippi in 2008. After the game, a distraught Tebow met with the media and gave them the following gem:

To the fans and everybody in Gator nation, I’m sorry. I’m extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida has never done here.

I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season.

You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God bless.

These amateurs who probably watch the Super Bowl for only the commercials have probably seen video of Tebow and seen the prayers in the eye-black and seen inspirational messages like the above (I have a few choice words for that; keep reading) and read about the missionary work he’s done and believe he walks on water. They know absolutely nothing about the game of football, but their religious zeal gives them absolute confidence that he is the man to lead the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl. They’ve accused the Bronco front office of keeping him out of games for disingenuous reasons—because they disagree with his religious beliefs. His faith and belief in god are all he needs to be one of, if not the greatest quarterback, in NFL history they falsely claim. Perhaps they haven’t picked up a Bible recently either, or they missed that part where it is taught that God does not care about personal glory or gratification. Just believing is enough for them. I saw too many of these kinds of posts on both ESPN and Facebook to ignore them.

“He’s a good kid”, “He’s always saying the right things” and “He’s got the heart of a champion” are all the same thing. I have nothing against religion. My family comes from the birthplace of the world’s three predominant religions on the planet. I DO have a problem with people using it to push their own personal agendas, even if it goes against the greater good. When people from Kentucky, who have likely never seen a professional football game spend $10,000 to buy the use of a digital billboard to demand Tim be the starting quarterback, it’s no longer for football reasons. It can’t be. Something beyond common sense and sanity are in full force.

Football players since the beginning of the game have knelt in prayer after scoring a touchdown. Players have given grace to God after a great or game-winning performance. I have no issue with these practices. They’re usually personal and don’t aim at pushing an agenda.

Tim Tebow, to these fake believers represents all their hopes and dreams in one 6’3”, 245 pound package; a man not afraid to speak about his faith, not afraid to tell you its importance in his life, and not afraid to attempt to push people into his beliefs. You need to look no further than some of the commercials he has appeared in since turning pro. He has been open about his beliefs about abstinence, about marriage, his missionary work where it is a given he is attempting to convert non-believers. He is 24 years old and has already published his memoirs which delve further into his faith and how it has shaped the person he is today. That, above his athletic talents is why a majority of people posting want him in the game. He is one of them. Or, I should say, they see themselves in him; he has become their false idol. Again, I think there’s something pretty close to the beginning of the Bible that tells people to beware of these.

He is free to have his opinion. He is free to be as devoutly religious as he wants. His supporters enjoy the same right. This is America after all. They even have the right to yell and scream and type their disapproval about his lack of playing time. The issue is, those that are responsible for the other 52 players in the locker room that is Tim’s office, have to do what is in the best interests of the entire team. Those 52 other players are just as important as Tim Tebow to those that run the Denver Broncos and to their true fans. Based on the points that football players are actually judged by, religious beliefs not among them, he is not the best option for the team to win. John Elway and John Fox’s opinions are the only two in the room that matter on that point.

Whatever these football novices may think and want, their words come across as an adult in a  Peanuts special—“wah wah wah wah wah wah” and nothing more. Running back Willis McGahee says it best telling the media after the Green Bay game “Kyle’s our guy. That’s who we’re rolling with. Whoever doesn’t like it, it is what it is. He’s leading the Denver Broncos. He’s running the show. So, I mean, I think everybody just needs to get over it.” He’s right. Kyle Orton is the best quarterback on the roster, period. He has the best statistics. He has the best mechanics. Everything he does on the football field gives the team the best chance of winning every game. They may not be close to beating the World Champions, but the Packers are in a different class than 3/4 of the league right now.

The game is a team effort. Everyone has to do their part to win games. Kyle Orton is doing his. Everyone else has to step up at the same time and do theirs for success to be found. It came together in the win over Cincinnati and was almost there in the close losses to the Raiders and the Titans. It takes the defense not allowing the opposing quarterback to throw for over 400 yards and the offense not turning the ball over four times to a team that good without the extra help. Tim Tebow can’t play corner back, he can’t play defensive line, and he can’t play offensive line to allow Orton time to pass. Until he can do those things or learn to actually play the quarterback position better than Kyle, he and the rest of Tebow-land are going to have to get used to him standing all alone on the sideline with his helmet on like that one kid that the coach won’t play because he stinks. He hasn’t done enough to show his coaches or teammates he’s ready for the big time. He hasn’t shown himself to be the team player they can trust.

He can believe what he wants. He can say what he wants. He has said some right things about the circus he is partly responsible for creating. You’ve probably heard the saying “there’s no ‘I’ in team”. Look back at the quote from the Mississippi game. How many times does he talk about himself? His goal was an undefeated season. Wouldn’t the rest of the team want to go undefeated? It seems the easiest path back to the BCS Championship game. He’s the only player that would work harder the remainder of the season? As much as Urban Meyer may have loved having him, I know there were other guys on that roster. He talks now about improving himself as a quarterback each week. If he is the leader that everyone makes him out to be, even as a backup, he needs to also be working on improving his teammates. He needs to work gaining the respect of that locker room. There’s a reason that every man is behind Kyle Orton. Kyle is all about the team. Look at all the other outside distractions that Tim has from his memoirs to his foundation (by the way, isn’t it a little bit pompous of him to ask the guys renting the billboard to donate that money to his foundation? Last I checked, the Denver Broncos have their own foundation that works with Denver area youth and other charities. If he were a team first guy, he’d have asked the donation to go there instead) to his appearance on The Biggest Loser. When guys were gathering for their training while locked out, Tim was barely present. How do you expect me or any other Bronco fan, or more importantly your teammates, to take you wanting to be the leader and starting quarterback seriously if you’re not willing to put in the extra work, even if it isn’t team-sanctioned?

There are numerous reasons why Tim Tebow is not the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos. His religious beliefs aren’t one of them. To do so is to make a mockery of both the NFL and the religion that Tim and many others hold dear.

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Orton or Tebow? The Answer is Easy

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

Denver Broncos QB Kyle Orton

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

Fan favorite Tim Tebow

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:

Orton:

2010: 361 comps    613 att  (58.8%)    4496 yards    25 TDs    11 INTs    87.5 rating

Tebow:

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.

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