Embracing the future is easy if you’re a fan cheering wildly from the stands. It’s not quite so easy when you’re the head coach of a football team whose future in his position is tied to the abilities of a quarterback who may or may not have the tools to be successful at the NFL level.
Perhaps that’s why Broncos head coach John Fox stalled until halfway through Denver’s Week 5 game before giving Tim Tebow a shot despite the struggles of Kyle Orton. But a 1-4 start has a way of making eyes drift toward the future, even the eyes of a leery head coach.
Fox reportedly told his team that Tebow will start Denver’s next game against Miami in Week 7, according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports and NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora. Fox was undoubtedly motivated by the simple need for change after Orton led a Broncos passing offense that through five weeks is ranked 27th, and is only narrowly above the five teams averaging fewer than 200 passing yards per game.
But from a teaching standpoint there’s a practical element to the timing of this move, as it’s the logical time for a transition in the Broncos’ schedule. Their Week 6 bye gives Fox and his staff 12 days to prepare Tebow for his first start of 2011.
Tebow’s mere presence on the field fills Broncos fans with hope, which is both natural, and sometimes delusional. Under Orton there’s been a stagnant and stale passing offense in Denver, so at worst Tebow’s promotion gives the franchise 11 meaningful regular-season games to assess their direction with the young quarterback. They’ll be able to either flick the eureka light bulb switch on Josh McDaniels’ draft experiment from two years ago, or watch the lava erupt.
Orton threw seven interceptions, which ties him for the league lead, and if anyone on the Broncos’ quarterback depth chart is going to lead the league in that category it should be Tebow while he’s given an opportunity to mature and learn by making mistakes. If that’s the mindset of the Broncos’ fanbase, then by all means please strap on your Tebow Jesus jerseys and enjoy the ride.
Fans aren’t always rational creatures though, especially not the kind who spend $10,000 on a billboard. Denver’s problems–like their 23rd-ranked run defense, or rushing offense that’s barely cracking the 100-yard mark–have always run far deeper than any quarterback on the roster.
We know what Tebow is, we just don’t know what he can become yet. The small sample size between his three starts last year and one half of football this year has done nothing to shed his stereotype as an inaccurate quarterback whose first instinct is to tuck and run.
Sunday, Tebow averaged 6.3 yards per carry on his six carries and scored a touchdown. That’s great, Tim, but we know you can run. You’ve always been able to run, and run well. Completing passes with some degree of consistency is the next step, and through his seven halves of NFL football Tebow has completed just 48.9 percent of his passes. Again, we can’t make a firm judgment because of the small sample size, but that number needs to at least start to rise by the end of the season.
Tebow’s newest learning process may start out easy against the Dolphins, but games against the Chargers, Jets, Lions, and Raiders are lined up in his first six starts. They shouldn’t be a problem, though, for a man who once killed a life-threatening pathogenic infection with a stiff-arm when he was just a human child…