|Is it the game plan or is it just Tebow? (US PRESSWIRE)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Through no fault of his own, Tim Tebow has become the league's most polarizing figure. He's been thrust into an untenable position; ill-equipped to perform the duties necessary of an NFL quarterback. Yet here he is, entering his third week as the Broncos' starter and so far the results have been disastrous.
Take the same player without Tebow's college pedigree, and the media story line would go something like this: "Young QB not yet ready for primetime, maybe in a season or two." And that would be that, the Broncos would've given Brady Quinn a chance or returned to Kyle Orton, and we could all get on with our lives.
Instead, Tebow, easily the worst of the NFL's 32 starting quarterbacks, remains the story. This is what happens when staunch critics point out he should never ever take another snap and his devoted supporters suggest that this isn't Tebow's fault. This is no middle ground.
And that brings us to this: the Broncos are now having to defend their play-calling. Because that's why Tebow has completed 46 percent of his passes this season and has been sacked 13 times in 10 quarters.
Last Sunday, there was a report that Denver had plans to revamp the offense around Tebow's strengths. According to Rotoworld, "Fox's is now going all-in on Tebow, acknowledging that the move to more of a Florida Gators look will either revolutionize the game or set it back years. As John Clayton suggested [last] week, the Broncos will put Tebow in the shotgun and 'cover their eyes.'"
If the Broncos had a Tebow-specific game plan against the Lions and still lost 45-10 then, impossibly, things may be worse than we feared. Turns out, they have.
Details via the Associated Press' Arnie Stapleton:
A close look at the film, however, shows the Broncos have tailored their offense to Tebow's unorthodox skill set even though the results haven't been pretty.Stapleton notes something we've mentioned frequently in our weekly "Tracking Tebow" updates: Tebow holds the ball in the pocket, either not knowing which receiver to target, or struggling to decipher the defenses he's facing. In addition to the 13 sacks, Tebow's thrown a pick-six, had four fumbles (one returned for a touchdown), and Denver is just 6 for 30 on third downs.
In his two starts, a win over the Dolphins and a loss to the Lions, Tebow has been in the shotgun an average of 40 times. From there, the Broncos have rushed the ball 17 times on average, half of the time on designed runs by Tebow.
And the Broncos have spread out their offense, using three wide receivers, an average of 50 times a game, almost every time with a tailback in the backfield with him. Those numbers are way up from the first month of the season when Kyle Orton was Denver's QB.
Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy stresses patience.
"I mean, look at all the young quarterbacks in the league, how many come out right away and start lighting it up from the first game on?" McCoy said, via the AP. "There aren't many in the history of this game that do that. They all struggle early on, it's an adjustment to them. He's a young quarterback. So, there's going to be growing pains."
After a loss to the Lions last week, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos look to rebound as they prepare to take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan preview this matchup, Watch the game at 4:05 PM ET on CBS.
Fair enough, but the difference is that Tebow doesn't appear capable of making NFL throws. Yes, inconsistency is the hallmark of a young NFL quarterback. And while Blaine Gabbert looks as lost as Tebow on a weekly basis, there are a handful of plays you can point to every game and say, "See, that's why the Jags drafted him. He has the potential to be a really good player in this league."
Save the designed draw plays, or the broken play that Tebow occasionally turns into a big gain, there are no "wow" moments. Put differently: Tebow can't hurt you with his arm. He doesn't have the accuracy, timing or arm strength to regularly make throws that can beat NFL defenses.
If there was on bright spot it came in the fourth quarter of the Lions game, long after the game had been decided. Tebow, throwing on every down at this point in the proceedings, had some success on short routes. Admittedly, his receivers were wide open, but it was something.
John Lynch, the former NFL safety, called the game for Fox and suggested that the Broncos needed to throw more short passes to get Tebow in a rhythm.
"They were part of the game plan," Fox said. "We hit some and we missed some, regardless of what type of passes they were, and we tried `em all."
And while media and fans are looking to assess blame, Fox has already grown weary of it.
“The goofy thing is, it’s almost like if he doesn’t have success it will be anybody’s fault but his. It’s almost that kind of polarizing thing,” Fox told the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer. “They’ll say it could be his supporting cast, or the type of plays. At the end of the day, we are what we are. We’re doing everything we can to win, and we’re finding out about a young quarterback, good, bad or indifferent.”
Fox, by the way, is in his first year as Denver's head coach. Maybe it's a stretch to suggest he's already on the hot seat, but Josh McDaniels lasted a season and a half before getting dumped. And he started his Denver career with six straight wins.
The Broncos travel to Oakland to face the Raiders Sunday and Tebow will face more challenges against a defense that loves man-coverage schemes.
"We're going to do what we think is the best thing for our football team to win and you're always going to have people that are going to point the finger somewhere," McCoy said. "But we're trying to do everything we can to help Tim and the football team be successful."
We don't doubt this. The problem: Tebow hasn't shown any signs that he's a capable week-to-week NFL starter. But it's not like the two-win Broncos have much choice. Orton played his way out of the lineup and Brady Quinn doesn't offer much promise, either. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, John Elway will be walking through that door, but that's only because he's part of the front office. That said, the 51-year-old Hall of Famer still gives the 2011 Broncos the best chance to win.
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