Broncos' John Elway may as well just start Tebowing

Dec 2 2011 - 2:48pm

MIAMI -- No one can say with certainty when it happened, but Tim Tebow appears to have taken over our world.

Perhaps the Dolphins helped catapult him from interesting topic to unavoidable subject by allowing him to bring the Broncos back from 15 points down, but the former Heisman Trophy winner has morphed from a great college player and questionable first-round pick all the way to the most intriguing conversation in all of football.

He has turned a simple pose into a worldwide trend. He has turned the iconic former champion quarterback John Elway into a divisive figure in his own home city. He has turned the once-wretched Denver Broncos into a serious playoff threat and probably the most entertaining low-scoring team in NFL history. And he has created a firestorm because there is one simple question no one seems to have a convincing enough answer to: "Can Tebow win regularly, and at a high level, as an NFL quarterback?"

It's funny how the question has morphed to what it is now. Because not too long ago the question was a far less flattering, "Can he play quarterback at all in the NFL?"

But now that the conversation has shifted a little more in Tebow's favor, it's even more compelling.

Is it possible, however, that everyone with an opinion on this subject is right?

At the moment, it's hard to disagree with any of the primary arguments about Tebow.

Tebow can't pass well at all, so he can't come close to the level of success of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees in today's NFL. True. His margin for error is minuscule compared to the big-play quarterbacks in the league.

Tebow is unique and a winner, so it doesn't matter that he doesn't play quarterback in conventional fashion. True. His 5-1 record as a starter this season confirms that so far.

Tebow is only winning now because teams aren't accustomed to his style of play or the college-style offense the Broncos are now playing. True. Ask the Dolphins how well the Wildcat offense worked once it was no longer a surprise.

Tebow is making it work despite not having a great supporting cast on offense, and if they commit to him, he will be able to win at the highest of levels. True . . . maybe.

This is where the split is greatest between Tebow supporters and the non believers.

All it takes is a look at his numbers when passing is necessary -- which essentially boils down to his third-down passing numbers -- and it's easy to say Tebow can't truly be consistent when the competition gets consistently better.

When you consider that his defense is the primary reason his Denver team has stayed in games, and his coach is defensive-minded, it only adds to the idea that Tebow's performance isn't that critical to the team's success.

Sure, he's elevating the efficiency rate of a horrible Denver offense with his running ability and decision-making, but if it wasn't for a stellar defense, he wouldn't be able to keep his team in games, as was the case against the Lions in his second start of the season.

But here's where that argument could fall apart, and it's the one question Elway and the rest of the Broncos front office will have to ask themselves when it comes to the future of Tebow with the franchise.

How much better would Tebow and this offense be if he had a couple of elite weapons around him?

Currently, Tebow's completion percentage for the season is an embarrassing 45.5 percent. And anyone who watched his first few games saw some overthrows that made Tebow fans cringe and wide receivers shrug.

But to say Tebow is incapable of passing is ignoring two facts. First, he has improved in that area as he has continued to play. And second, he's not exactly working with supreme talent around him.

Give him a Jimmy Graham, a Greg Jennings, a Calvin Johnson or a Wes Welker and those percentages would easily shoot past 50.

Heck, give him his old receiving pair of Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez and you would see a version of Tebow a lot more similar to his collegiate form.

It's not as if he couldn't throw the ball in college. Sure, his release wasn't nearly ideal, but he never once had a season when he passed at a rate lower than 64.4 percent. And three times he was higher than 66 percent, which came in the difficult Southeastern Conference.

The point is, he might never be able to fling it with the accuracy of Rodgers, but he can hit an open receiver. It just so happens his current receivers aren't open all that often, and it doesn't help that he's only throwing the ball a handful of times a game.

That's where Elway's dilemma comes in. Does he commit to Tebow and draft a playmaking receiver, acquire an athletic tight end, upgrade at running back (Willis McGahee is already 30) and trust that Tebow will elevate them to the point they can score in the 30s on occasion? Or does he go the familiar, probably even safer route, and look for a conventional quarterback who can be a star with his arm instead of his fullback frame like Tebow?

Tebow might have provided the answer himself in what was meant to be a motivational speech he offered his team on the eve of their win against the Chargers.

He quoted Proverbs 27:17, "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

Put a couple of really sharp weapons around Tebow, and you would very likely see a quarterback who would not create this much debate. Only a quarterback who would win, and occasionally win comfortably, for a change.

It's a tough call for someone in charge of a franchise of America's most popular sport.

But Tebow already has taken over the world, so Elway might as well let him take over the Broncos for a while longer.

 

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