Tim Tebow is finally set to make his 2011 debut as a starter in Denver, but the majority of Broncos fans feel that the Tebow era is starting six weeks too late. They’ve been booing Kyle Orton since the first half of the first game of the year and it’s clear that they generally feel they’d have been better off with Tebow during the first six weeks of the season.
Of course, it couldn’t be much worse. Denver is 1-4, a loser of three straight games and stuck in dead last in the AFC West. But the Broncos will never know what might have happened had Tebow been the starter from the get-go.
Or wouldn’t they?
If my childhood taught me anything, it’s that the best way to properly assess what would have happened under alternate circumstances is to make the desired changes in the latest edition of Madden and hit the simulate button.
And so to ease the minds of the people of Denver, I spent some time in theScore’s games room and simulated Denver’s season, and future, with Tebow at the helm. Here’s what went down:
- Instead of starting the season 1-4 under Orton, the Broncos start 3-2 with Tebow running the show. In fact, they win their first three games. Although it should be noted that Orton relieved Tebow in two of those first three games — it’s not clear if Tebow was injured or what.
- During the first five games, Tebow completes only 46 percent of his passes for only 722 yards and three touchdowns. Orton’s passer rating (72.3) is significantly higher than Tebow’s (52.1) during that stretch.
- The Broncos finish 2011 8-8, missing the playoffs. So ultimately, Tebow’s early-season absence has no major consequences.
- Tebow’s final numbers: 48%, 2,537 yards, 12 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, 5.3 average, 56.4 rating. He rushes for only 118 yards and one touchdown.
But what about beyond 2011? While most teams wouldn’t be willing to keep a starting quarterback with a 56.4 rating, Madden’s omniscient simulator tells us that John Elway, Brian Xanders and John Fox stick with Tebow in the offseason and ride with him to start 2012. Here’s a peak into your future with Tebow, Broncos fans:
2012: Denver goes 5-11 but Tebow improves (mildly) with 3,326 passing yards and a 72.6 rating. He throws 24 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions, but an injury to rising star Von Miller hurts Denver’s chances. For some strange reason, the Madden simulation doesn’t think Tebow will run a lot — he picks up just 100 rush yards on 46 carries and scores just one rushing touchdown. Orton sits on the bench the entire season.
2013: With Orton officially gone to become Mark Sanchez’s backup in New York, Tebow finally leads the Broncos to the playoffs. But it isn’t pretty — Denver limps in as an 8-8 wild-card entry, finishing the season on a four-game losing streak. Still, Tebow’s numbers climb (59%, 3,709 yards, 22 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 6.9 average, 80.8 rating) and he even captures an offensive player of the week award for a stellar performance in a Week 9 victory over Kansas City. Amazingly, Tebow also helps the Broncos win their first playoff game in eight years as they upset the top-seeded Ravens on wild-card weekend (although defensive player of the year Von Miller and star running back Noel Devine play crucial roles in the victory). They get crushed by eventual Super Bowl champion Indy the next weekend, but it’s another step in the right direction in the Tebow era.
2014: Denver finishes 8-8 for the second straight year, but this time it isn’t enough to squeak into the playoffs. Tebow struggles a bit in his fifth season, completing just 55 percent of his passes and throwing as many interceptions as picks (17 apiece). Making matters worse, Orton takes over for Sanchez and leads the Jets to a wild-card berth, throwing 18 touchdown passes and just six picks in 10 games. He finishes with better numbers across the board than Tebow.
2015: Tebow fights back with his best season yet, as the Broncos finish above .500 for the first time in his career. With a 10-6 record, Denver draws the Bills in the wild-card playoffs, defeating Buffalo easily before falling to the Steelers in the divisional playoffs. During the regular season, Tebow throws 22 touchdown passes and just four interceptions while surpassing the 3,000-yard mark for the fourth consecutive season despite missing four games due to injury. It’s easily his best year as a pro.
So there ya go, Broncos fans. You wouldn’t have been much better this year had Tebow started from the get-go, and it should give you comfort to know that the future’s is at least a little bright with Tebow under center. If the magic of Madden is correct, Tebow will lead your team to two playoff victories over the next five years, but only one winning season. I stopped simulating after the 2015 season, because I was starting to think something big was about to happen. And you wouldn’t want me to spoil the surprise, would you?