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Will Tebow’s Circus be a Total Jet-Wreck? Plus a Bonus Point on Manning and Elway, and Why Manning Didn’t Consider One Team

Yesterday as The Herd on ESPN Radio was ending, an event occurred that I would subsequently hashtag as a #2bletwitternuke. News of the New Orleans Saints suspensions and the Tim Tebow trade from the Broncos to the Jets broke within seconds of each other, and I was just thankful it happened to be on a day when I was reading 37 corn samples and could just listen to the radio. The Tebow-to-the-Jets trade came completely out of nowhere; ESPN had only begun to discuss it as a possibility that morning.

Peyton Manning, in essence, bailed John Elway out of the second year he had to give Tebow. Denver certainly would have done poorly with their new, first-place schedule, and Tebow would have made them look even more pathetic in defeat. With Manning, Elway could jettison Tebow and declare the first-rounder that was burned on him a semi-bust. Thus end

The price that the Jets paid for Tim Tebow and a seventh round draft choice (a throw-in) was reasonable. The only way the Broncos could have done better would be if the Jets had agreed to a sixth-round choice this year and a conditional choice next year (which probably could have been as high as second rounder, if Tebow had started half the season). Ultimately, Elway can’t get back the three picks that Josh McDaniels traded for Tebow (ironically, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, two of the three players the Ravens got in the trade are viable NFL players. The other, Sergio Kindle, has had more legal troubles than anything else and seems to be the anti-Tebow.)

The Jets seem to be the most abnormal fit for Tebow. Other than running the wildcat for Tony Sparano (which is barely an effective NFL offense anymore), it seems like the Jets are the opposite culture for Tebow. Granted, the one aspect that Tebow and the Jets have in common is that both are outspoken, but unfortunately, they are outspoken for different purposes. The Jets like to make lofty promises of winning the Super Bowl, Tebow likes to make proclamations of Christ to the hilt. And New York isn’t exactly known for religious conservatism. (Tebow’s religion)

Colin Cowherd raised an interesting point on his show that I, as a Lutheran and a theologian of the cross, found interesting. An NFL source told him that, inside the Broncos’ locker room, Tebow was being perceived as an attention-lover, and that part of the reason he wanted to go to New York over Jacksonville was that Tebow wants exposure in a new market. While Tebow often does speak about being humble, one has to question if he is choosing worldly glory over God’s calling. I don’t know the answer to this, but if Tebow’s teammates perceive that he likes the attention, there might be something to that. (My issues with evangelicals) (The Social Church)

Best Buds?

And what about Mark Sanchez? As I listened to the radio chatter, I began to wonder if Tebow-on-the-Jets would lead to Sanchez demanding a trade. Does Sanchez have enough Jay Cutler in him to stand up, walk out of the Jets facilities, and say, “I’m not dealing with this crap. Trade me.” Sanchez has always put forth a team-first image, in spite of any differences he has had with Rex Ryan, a run-first coach. Two thing are for sure-if Sanchez does demand a trade, some quarterback-hungry team (Cleveland, San Francisco) will be more than read to throw a package including a first rounder at the Jets. And second, if Sanchez does leave the Jets due to Tebow, it’s proof that Tebow is self-absorbed on some level. (My Tebow posts)


Bonus Point: Peter King wondered why Manning wasn’t considering the Kansas City Chiefs, which I had thought of myself. The Chiefs have a good young nucleus, with a number of players coming back from injuries, and most importantly, the schedule of a team that finished fourth in their division. With a good draft and the addition of a good pass rusher, Kansas City could win the AFC west with Manning, or at least make the playoffs.

Tebow: the Aftermath, and the Off-Season

Saturday night,Tim Tebow lost to the Patriots, and honestly: I find it to be a non-event. I had already made up my mind on Tebow weeks ago and was not surprised that Patriots buried the Broncos. While I thought that maybe the Broncos could have come up with a better defensive plan the second time around for Brady, it turned out that once again, Brady was motivated to show everyone how a real quarterback plays, and that was that.

When I was watching the highlights of the second Broncos-Chiefs game with a friend who is a retired coach, I asked him what I suspected, and Gene said that yes, the Chiefs’ defense was playing the Broncos’ man for man. As long as each player tackled the player he was assigned to, they didn’t have a problem with Tebow. In the handful of plays I watched in that game (and against the Patriots), players knifed straight to Tebow on the option. It reminded me of when Nebraska in the late 90’s and early 2000’s played teams with lots of athletes.

Football, as odd as it may sound, isn’t usually a game of 11-of-11. It’s a game (especially in the NFL) where the best players dictate match-ups: a great pass-rusher or wide receiver has to be double teamed. The whole principle of a two-deep zone is that the offense will have four players who can burn you. A defense prepares every week to stop a best players, not play teams man-for-man.

The success of Chiefs and the Broncos shows that indeed, the league has caught up to Tebow. Once they’ve seen his option game a couple of times, it’s not that hard to stop. And once a team goes into a game with their assignments, they can play with reckless abandon and shut down Denver’s offense. Here’s why no one runs the option in the NFL.

Still, Elway and Fox are right in bringing Tebow back for next year. Given his work habits, it is likely that Tebow can improve as a passer. But one question in my mind is, will Eddie Royal, Demaryius Thomas, and Eric Decker stay after practice to work with a quarterback whose presence on the field means that they will catch the football less? And who’s going to be Denver’s backup? Could Donovan McNabb be the answer? With a skill set similar to Tebow’s, it could that McNabb would make the ideal backup, all though his work ethic has come into question since he left Philadelphia. David Garrard also seems like a good backup option.

But the one thing in my mind that I hope to see Tebow improve upon is his foot work, mainly because watching him run one and then the other is so painful. I do think he has improved to a degree: there are times after read or two he can find a receiver, but if he gets pressured, he runs outside the pocket, as if he thinks that somehow, he’ll make it around the end and there’s a play to be made.

Elway (and by extension, Tebow) did receive one bit of fortune: the Chargers decided to keep Norv Turner and AJ Smith. Had Dean Spanos decided to clean house and bring in Jeff Fisher (or perhaps one of the more high profile coaches waiting for the perfect coach), Elway may not have had the liberty of giving Tebow another year.

Tim Tebow, part 3: Is God helping the Broncos win?

Tim Tebow’s pastor in Colorado recently stole the headlines by saying that God was the reason that the Broncos were winning. Such a declaration of God’s blessing of an athletic team actually has a precedent in the history of football in the state of Colorado: over twenty ago, Bill McCartney’s Colorado Buffaloes team chaplain predicted success for his team in the form of a dream which featured players with golden helmets on top of a hill (McCartney recorded this dream in his 1995 book From Ashes to Glory.) Indeed, the altitude in Colorado seems to have a way breeding wild predictions.

This kind of theology, that God blesses those who proclaim him with material success, is tailor-made for the American evangelical; just read one of Joel Osteen’s sermons. I myself, as a follower of conservative, traditional Lutheran theology, believe that, while all material possessions are gifts from God, despise any direct connection between believing in Christ and material wealth and/or success.

Let me offer a different explanation: as I said before, the Broncos have had a string of beatable teams in a row and have played up under Tebow’s leadership. First win, there was woeful Miami. Second win, there was Oakland, who was starting a new quarterback who didn’t have the benefit of any training camp. Then, bad Kansas City with a coach who is now unemployed. Then a limited Jets team on a short week and a Chargers team who was in the middle of a loosing streak. Finally, they played a bad Minnesota team, and then a Chicago team without its starting quarterback and running back, 75% of their offense. When I look around the NFL, I see team like this every year that get a favorable string of games like this rise up and do very well: the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills at the beginning of this year. The Kansas City Chiefs last year rose up when they had the chance to play against the woeful NFC west; the only good year the Cleveland Browns have had in the last seven was in 2007 when they got to play against the same bad division.

But to this pastor’s point, there are a string of unusual breaks in games that have allowed Denver to win. Recovering an onside kick against Miami, San Diego loosing yards and then missing a field goal that would have won the game, and Chicago, first when Marion Barber didn’t go out of bounds when the Bears had the lead in regulation and again when Barber fumbled just as the Bears were getting into field goal range. No, I personally don’t want to deny any chance of divine intervention in any subtle act in our world. I don’t want to limit God. But I would also point out that all these event, and others I haven’t mentioned, are all signs of a team who has bought into its quarterback and who are making their own luck. When I watched Iowa State play against Oklahoma State, I saw nearly the exact same thing: an underdog team play up when it felt like it had a chance of an upset, making the most of their opportunities. Now is there some element of luck beyond the Broncos’ in this? Yes, there is, but again, I’m not saying where it comes from. And again, I see it every week in both college and pro football.

Tebow, part 2: the offense, and its sustainability; and why the Broncos are unable to trade him

So yesterday, I hoped in the Tebow-mania, and published my initial thoughts. Now, I’ll move on to the Broncos’ offense and why there are no trade parnters for Tebow

Of course one of the oddities of the Tebow phenomenon is the Broncos have opted to run a college-style option, that features Tebow running on average eight times a game, and sometimes more than twenty. This does beg some interesting questions on the part of Jon Fox. Clearly, Fox is showing by running this kind of offense what matters the most to him is winning right now, which Denver is. But one must ask themselves this: if Denver’s goal is to win long-term, wouldn’t they be better off having Tebow throw more often? And also, if Elway and Fox’s collective goal with playing Tebow now was to show the fans that Tebow isn’t a long-term answer at quarterback, wouldn’t they be better off just asking Tebow to throw 40 times a game?

My best guess as to why Denver is doing this is simple: Josh McDaniels spent a first-round draft pick on Tebow, and the current regime feels like they just can’t throw it away. It is probable that Denver did shop Tebow in the off-season; Elway admitted that he’d been hoping that McDaniels would get an offensive coordinator job on a team that needed a quarterback, so he could trade Tebow. Perhaps by playing Tebow in this offense, Elway and Fox feel they can at least keep Tebow’s value consistent, so they can get something out of him. And in their poor division, if they could get at least two playoff years in five and be close to .500 in the other three, that may be their best value for Tebow.

But is it worth their time to try to make Tebow into a thrower? When you look at other quarterbacks who’ve come into the NFL, most of them are not protected. Sam Bradford, Christian Ponder, and other rookie quarterbacks were throwing 40 passes a game early in their rookie season, even before they’d been established. Steve Young even said on ESPN that Fox was doing Tebow a disservice by not having him through the ball more. That is certainly possible that long-term, Tebow may not be able to succeed running the option, but let’s at least look at the sustainability of the offense.

Many analyst compare Denver’s offense to the wildcat and say, eventually, teams will see it enough times and figure out how to defend it. I would say, yes, that is partially true. But consider: the wildcat broke into the league with the Dolphins in 2008. By the middle of the season, half of the league was running it, which meant teams were seeing it on a consistent basis. Eventually, it faded out. So far, Denver’s offense has been wildly successful, but no one has copied. No one can: they don’t have a six-three, 235 pound quarterback to run it. In a league were defense are built to cover four wide receivers and show exotic blitz schemes, the discipline to face Tebow’s offense is hard to find. That doesn’t mean it will be successful long-term, but it may have a chance at least. And indeed, it will be curious to see if how the Chiefs are able to defend Tebow when they see him for the second time in Week 17.

While thinking about Denver’s peculiar offense, I wondered if Georgia Tech and their triple option offense would give us a good comparison as to how it would work long-term. So I decided to look at Tech’s record over the last two years against teams who saw their offense every year. There were seven teams who’d played Tech every year, the other five teams in the ACC Coastal division, their protected rival Clemson, and in-state rival Georgia. The record against those seven teams the last two years is 6-8, with only win against a winning team on the road.

One of the problems for this offense is that, it’s hard to get better at it in the off-season. The NFL off-season is designed for teams to make gains in the passing game, to practice with 7-7 and work on routes. With OTA’s, training camps, and in-season practice time cut back, it may be harder for the Broncos to perfect their run-oriented offense, and it may take a while for it to get going at the beginning of the season.

But the off-season may provide Tebow with the time he needs to improve as a thrower. Clearly, as I stated before, Tebow has what many of the athletic quarterbacks who came before him didn’t have: incredible leadership and work-ethic, first person in the facilities in the morningand the last to leave. If he doesn’t succeed as an NFL passer, it won’t be because he didn’t try. And with unlimited practice for Tebow and his receivers during the off-season, it does mean that he has the chance to improve his throwing motion and his passing skills. If Tebow’s success on the field can be carried into an off-season program, it could be enough to at least maintain the success the Broncos are having.


As I wrote before, I think that Tebow has won enough to merit another. Aside from on-field though, I also think it has a lot to do with the trade possibilities that are out there. As I mentioned before, Josh McDaniels took Tebow in the first round, making it impossible for the Broncos to get value for him.

If Tebow had been picked in the third round or lower (as many experts suggested, since he wouldn’t have been a sure-fire starter even if he changed positions), this wouldn’t have even been an issue. In fact, it would have been easier for Elway to trade him, because he could dump him for a low round pick or release him outright. But since Tebow was a first-round pick, Elway would likely have to get a second-rounder just to get value, and that’s not happening. Here’s why.

The only places in the NFL you could trade Tebow to now are places where the fans aren’t going to get fooled by Tebow, meaning they either have a good entrenched quarterback or have seen enough good football not to expect Tebow to be the hero. That list would be the Patriots, the Steelers, the Ravens, the Eagles (although unlikely, given their current mess), the Falcons, the Texans, the Packers (although doubtfully a fit with Rodgers), and possibly the Cowboy, Jets, and maybe the Bears, although I’d doubt Jay Cutler has enough good will to withstand Tebow mania. The problem with any good team is though, Tebow would be a side player and isn’t worth more than a third-rounder. The best Denver could do in this scenario would be to trade Tebow and possibly a sixth-or-seventh-rounder for a 2012 fourth-rounder, a marginal player, and a conditional pick in the 2013 that could become a third-rounder depending upon incentives (basically the Brady Quinn deal).

Denver’s best option would be to get a pick out of a sucker team who is desperate to sell seats and get publicity. Buffalo isn’t likely; while they were devastated when McDaniels beat them to Tebow, they’re committed to Ryan Fitzpatrick, for better or worse. Ditto for Jacksonville with Blaine Gabbert, but the necessity to sell tickets and make a splash certainly would appeal to the new Jags owner. Miami and Steven Ross, never one to pass on celebrity, might be enticed, but there is a coaching vacancy that has to be settled their. Dan Synder also favors celebrity, but Mike Shanahan would likely shun such a move. Probably the biggest sucker for Tebow out there would be Pete Carroll in Seattle, a big fan of flash over substance who likely wouldn’t have a problem fitting an offense to Tebow.

But what is most likely is that Tebow will return for at least another year to the Broncos. What might dictate whether or not Elway feels he has to make a move is who takes the open jobs in the AFC West. If both the Chiefs and the Raiders hire coordinators and not experienced coaches, Elway might as well just stick things out with Tebow. But if Bill Cowher is enticed out of CBS’ studio to the Chargers, a team that runs his style of defense and has a quarterback in place, that could change the game for Elway.

Tebow and the Broncos: Part one, the perspective of Elway and Fox

So since I have a blog and like to write about topics, I suppose I now have to write about Tim Tebow, if for no other reason than to draw more people to this blog. Seriously, I do like Tebow and am grateful that a Christian person has such a visible platform in the NFL. Tebow is becoming one of the driving figures of sports talk radio, going on their Mount Rushmore with Bob Knight, Pete Rose and Brett Farve. I began writing my thoughts on Tebow, and it turned into about three thousand words, so I think I will publish them in at least three installments. The first entry are my initial thoughts on Tebow when he entered the NFL, and the perspective of Denver personnel head John Elway and head coahc Jon Fox.

Full disclosure, I never understood why NFL teams thought they had to pick Tim Tebow. Tommie Frazier, the first football hero I can remember (and one of only four or five college football players comparable to Tebow) was barely sniffed by the NFL and quickly retired. Nor did I understand why Tebow wanted so badly to play quarterback in the NFL. Sure, I understood the desire and the want-to; heck, Eric Crouch is still chasing a shot at quarterback ten years after finishing up at Nebraska. When a quarterback has been the man in high school and in the NFL, of course he automatically thinks he’ll succeed in the NFL. I just did see it. Tebow, which every analyst pointed out, didn’t have the throwing motion and ran whenever he was in trouble. I also thought that he was too big and would get sacked a lot, ALA Byron Leftwich.

As far as the intangibles that cause Josh McDaniels to pick Tebow late in the first round? I thought those would make Tebow’s fall even harder. Reading Peter King’s Sports Illustrated article on the Broncos mini-camps after Tebow was drafted, I almost started to feel sorry for him. Here he was in this football camp, with a coach teaching him how to remake his throwing motion. I felt great that he was trying, but I was afraid that Tebow would spend ten years bouncing around the NFL, the CFL, and whatever league replaced UFL, trying to play quarterback when it was painfully obvious he couldn’t, ALA Crouch. If he just switched positions, he’d probably have a really productive NFL career; but if he kept trying to play quarterback, he’d waste years of his life that he could be spending pursuing other goals.

Going into this year, I actually did think that Tebow should have played. The Broncos, with new coach Jon Fox and John Elway returning to head the personnel department, had new leadership who wanted their own quarterback. Honestly, the best thing that could have happened with the Broncos is that Tebow looked incompetent and was awful, and they got the top pick in the draft and took Andrew Luck. If Tebow played and failed, then at least Elway and Fox could go to the fans and say, “See, we gave you what you wanted. We played Tebow, and he’s terrible and can’t play quarterback. We’re moving on.” Perhaps there’s some mild dissent because of Tebow’s popularity, but if Elway finds a successful quarterback in the draft, then everyone forgets about Tebow-mania.

But Tebow is winning games! He’s turning the Broncos around! Isn’t it great!?! Actually, the worst thing that could have happened to Broncos did happen: they got a string of beatable teams around beat them all but one. Now the fans are on board, and Elway and Fox have an even bigger dilemma: Tebow setting them up for long-term failure.

Sticking with Tebow in the short-term may some good results, but it could also yield some very damaging results. Take his starts, in which Denver is 6-1 and all six wins have been close. But the one loss was a blowout loss to Detroit. One side of a fraud good team: when they do loose, it’s bad. Last year, the Falcons went 13-3 but were blown out twice on the road; the Packers went 10-6 but never lost by more than a touchdown. In the Packers shelled the Falcons in Atlanta. But the fans say, Tebow’s winning close! Yes…against bad teams.

Here’s the flip side of those close wins against 4-9 Miami: Jon Fox works all the harder. Think about it: Fox knows he has a good defense and his defense would give him a chance to win eight games a year at least the Broncos were viable at quarterback. But instead, Fox has to run a college offense suited to Tim Tebow’s strengths and hope that Tebow is consistently money in the clutch. So, Fox will have to invest more time and energy to beat the bad teams and have nothing left for when they play the good teams.

And beyond that, what happens when Denver has to play a string of good teams in a row, or happens to loose some close games?After four blowout losses, the fans will turn, likely not on Tebow, but on Fox and Elway. They’ll say that the play-calling stinks, and that Fox has to go. The player whose jersey they buy in record numbers will be the last one to go. Take it from me: with the style of football Denver is playing, it is likely to breed the same kind of angst that has been bred into Nebraska football fans. Because of Nebraska’s run-oriented offense, they often wouldn’t stand a chance if they got behind in a big game, and, after a string of large losses in the early 2000’s, Husker fans watch their team with a “nervous energy” as Steve Sipple describes it. It is as if there’s one big mistake in a game, and the whole thing falls apart because the offense is run-oriented, and can’t comeback. If Denver’s offense wins a lot of close games, but looses a lot of blowouts, the big looses could be the thing that turn the fans against Elway and Fox.

The difficulty of Elway and Fox’s decision isn’t just because of public perception: it also exists in the Broncos’ locker room. This one thing I admit I had wrong: I thought pro players wouldn’t buy into Tebow because they’d see his obvious physical limitations. But Tebow is a film room-junkie and has changed the Broncos’ attitude on the field. When I watched Denver played at Minnesota, they were third most emotional team I’d seen in football all year, after Georgia Tech and Iowa State against Oklahoma State. (By the way, I watch 10-12 college games every weekend.) It is shocking to me to see this kind of emotion from a pro team, and nothing almost ever shocks me. Clearly, Tebow’s leadership skills are overcoming his physical limitations.

But happens when Denver looses the close games or gets blown out? If they keep getting good game plans from Fox, but are limited by Tebow? Trent Dilfer talked on ESPN Radio as relates to game planning: teams who are given horrible games plans by bad coaches don’t even try, while teams that are given good game plans by smart coaches (Mike Holmgren in Dilfer’s case) always go into the game believing they have a chance. Players are not fans and are not easily fooled; if Tebow makes them work really hard to beat bad teams, which leaves them no energy for the good teams, they will know who is at fault.

As side note, Tebow’s leadership and work-ethic is clearly making a huge impact on a team that has had little success over the last five years. That in and of it itself is astounding.

So now, Elway and Fox have a dilemma: Tebow is winning, and their fans and their team is buying into him as well. After this season, if the Broncos got rid of Tebow after he turned their team completely around, it could implode their locker room, at least in the short term. And if Tebow is traded and the next quarterback who comes in doesn’t work out, the implosion will only be worse. I’m not sure what I would do in their shoes; depending on where the Broncos finish after the season, if I were Elway, I would hold a meeting with Fox and my top personnel lieutenants and say, “Listen, can we take the hit if we get rid of Tebow? And if not, what do we have to do to succeed with him?”

Really in this situation, Tim Tebow should thank Josh McDaniels and Jay Cutler for their ugly split, which is going to force the Broncos to hold onto him as long as he’s winning. But in the Broncos’ division, Tebow is winning, and now he’ll have to improve his passing in the off-season and get his teammates working alongside him if he hopes to keep his job. And really, that was what Elway and Fox intended when they started to run the Tebow-offense; but its success has become a monster they can’t control.


Tomorrow, I will share my thoughts on Denver’s offensive philosophy with Tebow, and the Broncos’ possibilities if the Broncos traded Tebow.


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