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16 September, 2011

The Tebow Conundrum

   by Gus Ramsey

   Steve Ramsey. That's my name (Gus is a nickname).
   That's also the reason I am a Broncos fan.
   When I was nine years old the Broncos quarterback was named Steve Ramsey. My dad got me an autographed picture from Steve, which read "to Steve Ramsey, from Steve Ramsey... Best wishes." 
Old Man Morton

  So when I talk about Broncos history, I go back to the mid-'70s. After the '76 season, Ramsey was traded to the Giants for Craig Morton, who, despite his 34 going on 64 body, lead Denver to their first Super Bowl. He was followed by the nearly as ancient-looking, but only 29 years old, Steve Deberg. 
Old Man DeBerg 

 So when John Elway came on the scene, part of the appeal was the Broncos finally had a QB who was a playmaker. They had a guy who could escape pressure, run around the field and take big shots without fans worrying that he was dead. Elway was all that, a guy who could turn sacks into touchdowns. No play was ever dead with #7 holding the ball. There were a million reasons why Broncos fans fell in love with John Elway, but that was one of the biggest. 
The One and Only

  Fast-forward past the forgettable Griese years and the Broncos had them a John Elway light (OK, really light) signal caller in Jake Plummer. Jake the Snake could run around with the best of them. He had a strong arm, escapability and, from time-to-time, could make a play out of nothing. Along came Jay Cutler and the Broncos had the first QB controversy of my football lifetime. Similar to Plummer, Cutler was a playmaker who never gave up on a play. He wasn't as fast as Plummer but his arm was stronger and he seemed to possess more of that magic that elevates a QB to another level. Broncos fans thought they finally had their Next Elway.
The Next Elway? Nope.

Jake the Snake
   One Josh McDaniels era later and now Broncos fans have a QB controversy of epic Sports Radio Talking, NFL Analyst Dissecting, Fan Chanting, proportions. On one side is the Morton/DeBerg-like Kyle Orton. A stay in the pocket, moves older than he is, QB who doesn't usually cost you games (despite game 1 of this season) but rarely wins games. He is not a playmaker in the Elway/Plummer/Cutler mold. In the other corner stands Tim Tebow, the college football king whose best attribute is his ability to run around and make things happen.
   The love for Tebow is a curious case. While he did show some flashes in his 3 starts last season, the Broncos were just 1-2 in those games. His stats in his 3 starts don't jump off the page, 40-81, 651 yards, 5 TD, 3 interceptions and 3 rushing TD's. ESPN.Com's research department reported that Tebow's QBR (which factors in all aspects of a QB's play) in those games declined from 83 to 58 to 31, respectively, suggesting that once teams got some tape of him, Tebow was less effective. But in the game he won, the playmaker rallied the Broncos to two 4th quarter touchdowns, including a 6-yard scramble for the go-ahead score. And a potentially watershed, Shades of Elway, Youtube moment (see the 2:30 mark).
   It's hard to argue that Tebow doesn't possess some kind of "it" factor. The players certainly seem to respond to him when he's on the field. But how long does that last when you aren't winning? 

#8 is no #7
   This week it was learned that some fans who had planned to spend 10-grand on a trip to the Super Bowl are going to use that money to put up a Play Tim Tebow billboard in Denver.
 "We gave Orton two years," one of the fans told USA Today,  "He can keep us in games, but he does not give us the best chance to win." 
Tebow or not Tebow?
  To me, that's the crux of the argument. Who gives you the best chance to win? Not just this week, but long term. I think that's why most fans wanted Cutler over Plummer and why most fans would rather see Tebow play now. A playmaking QB gives you hope. Hope that a play is never over, that a game is never over. Tebow represents hope that a better Broncos future is just around the corner. 

   Presently, I'm not convinced Tebow gives the Broncos the best chance. By all reports, Tebow was struggling mightily in training camp. In passing drills he was reportedly only completing fifty percent of his throws... to unguarded receivers. Imagine how hard it is run a practice when your quarterback is chucking errant throws all over the field. That's got to bog down the process quite a bit.  Also consider that Tebow hasn't rested the #2 QB status away from Brady Quinn, a guy who, by most accounts, has been a disappointing pro. That does not sound to me like a ringing endorsement of Tebow. 
   When I spoke to a former NFL player about this topic, he said the following, "In the NFL, about 60% of the plays you run, go off as scheduled. The other 40% don't. It's what you do with that other 40% that determines how good of a quarterback you can be."
   Looking at it that way, here's what the Broncos have: Kyle Orton is pretty good in the 60% area and sub par in the 40%. Tim Tebow is sub par in the 60% area and pretty good in the 40%. 
   So if you are the Broncos brass, how do you evaluate that? 
  While John Elway obviously has all the cred he needs in Denver, John Fox is trying to build a program. First and foremost, he needs to earn the respect and trust of the players in his locker room. If Fox puts a guy under center that the rest of his team feels is the third best option, Fox runs the risk of losing them all before the autumn wind whips in over the Rocky Mountains. Not something you do in your first year with an organization.
   Here's the other issue; The Broncos aren't any good. If the Broncos talent pool was an actual pool, there would be writings on their sideline that say "NO DIVING" because they have no depth. Watch what happens at home this week against the Bengals when 6 or 7 of the Broncos best players are on the sidelines. Also, their running game, which lead to about a gazillion 3rd and long situations against the Raiders, stinks. None of which bodes well for having Tim Tebow take your snaps.
   In the end, there is one simple fact about this debate that I keep coming back to, and it's this;
   The starting quarterback of the 2012 Denver Broncos is currently not on the Denver Broncos.
   I'll bet my autographed Steve Ramsey picture on it.

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