By now you know that Tim Tebow is the newest member of the New York Jets, shipped their this afternoon for a 4th rounder, a 6th rounder, a hope and a prayer. The last couple of days have been extremely difficult for me as a fan of the Broncos, so much so that I refused to write a piece about the actual trade…until now. After way too much reading and reflection, I’ve finally been able to isolate just what it was about Tim Tebow that converted me, the most skeptical, number-driven sports fan that I know. It was the most improbable of relationships, and like 99% of all improbable relationships, it’s now over.
I wish that I could claim that my conversion to Tim happened the second Josh McDaniels traded up to take him three rounds early back in 2010. That’s not the case though. I defended Kyle Orton to the death and even wondered whether Brady Quinn might be a sneakily awesome possibility at starter. The real person I was rooting for was Andrew Luck though and that my beloved franchise would intentionally tank the season last year for the right to draft him. Six games and 46 minutes into the season last year, all was going as planned. Then this happened:
I was watching that game live and I confess that I was livid. How dare this Tebow guy come in and ruin the Broncos chance at the greatest QB prospect since Elway himself! I was begging for the Broncos to quit when Tebow of course delivered on one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history. Rather than celebrate it, I mostly pouted to my fiancee about how the Broncos were ruining their future and had no shot at Luck anymore. A drubbing the following week at the hands of the Lions confirmed my suspicions.
And then a funny thing happened. The Broncos spent the week between Detroit and Oakland, their next opponent, conducting the biggest experiment in the history of the NFL—they actually tailored the offense to Tebow’s strengths. You’re never going to believe this….but it worked.
Of all the improbable comebacks, miraculous fourth quarters, and game-winning drives, the not-even-close biggest miracle that Tim Tebow accomplished last year was getting an actual NFL franchise led by a respected NFL head coach to dare to think outside the box. It is quite possible you will never see anything like it again. This was number one I fell in love with Tebow. That, and beating the living piss out of the Raiders.
You know what else happened over the next few weeks. Tebow and the Broncos went on an improbable win streak where nearly all the games were decided by the QB on the final drive of the game. America was swept with Tebowmania. ESPN started devoting entire hour-long episodes to Tebow-related material only. Skip Bayless ran to his defense. Colin Cowherd blasted him. The fans were kind of just left shaking our heads wondering what in the hell happened.
These past couple days I was sad. What frustrated me though was that I was unable to pinpoint exactly what I was so emotional about. I will certainly not miss defending Tim Tebow every week. During the season I resigned myself to telling friends that you just simply couldn’t understand how pleasurable it was to have Tebow as your quarterback. It was all exhausting because, well, look at him when he’s on the field at any point not in the final two minutes of the football game. I will not miss the missed receivers, the looping throws that sail out of bounds, or every NFL defender taunting him in order to get their face on SportsCenter. It got old.
There was something about it all that I really, really, really enjoyed though.
I have no idea how I connected these events, but it happened yesterday as I left work. The first event was somehow remembering a random column I read during the NFL season last year. I don’t remember the writer nor do I remember the site. I think it was theclassical.org, but to be honest I’m really not sure and a quick search through their archives yielded no results. More to the point though, that column was the collection of thoughts of a Patriots fan and what that team has done to him as fan. On the outside, it appears awesome to be a Patriots fan, or so it seems. The writer then launched into a story describing how ugly he feels as a fan now. Because of the 2007 Patriots and their success leading up to that year, he said he is now never satisfied by the Patriots exploits on the field. He explains that no win is ever satisfying enough, no Tom Brady performance is ever perfect enough. In fact it had gotten so bad he actually yearned for the days of their first Super Bowl back in 2002.
The reason was simple. The Patriots weren’t expected to win that year. In fact, they were expected to be blown out by one of the greatest offenses ever assembled in the St Louis Rams’ “greatest show on turf.” Instead Bill Belichick orchestrated one of the greatest upsets of all time and America was introduced to Tom Brady. He’d go on to have an argument as the best quarterback ever to play the game. The writer argued that 2002 was the pinnacle of being a Patriots fan and that nothing would ever compare.
It all actually makes a ton of sense when you think about it. The best things in sports are those that are unexpected. Nobody really cares who the Patriots beat in their next two Super Bowl victories. They’ll always remember them beating the Rams though. They’ll also always remember when they lost to the Giants, perhaps the greatest upset in NFL history.
It’s why we remember the United States upsetting the Soviets in the semi-finals, but can’t remember who we went on to defeat in the gold-medal game. It’s why Villanova defeating Georgetown is a must-have in any March Madness compilation.
It’s why I’m going to really, really, really miss Tim Tebow as the quarterback of the Denver Broncos.
Think about what the Denver Broncos accomplished last year under Tebow. They went 7-4 down the stretch in the regular season. They won the majority of those games on their last possession of the game. They backdoored their way into the playoffs. They upset the heavily favored Steelers in the first round. They won that game against the Steelers on the first play of overtime. It is literally impossible to write a worse script for a movie. While this was going on, nearly every team had players taunting the Broncos, nearly every outlet had outspoken critics mocking the Broncos, and almost everyone in this country had an opinion about what was going on.
Despite all of that, the Broncos won anyway.
Before this past MLB postseason began, I recall a number of Cardinals fans remarking that this year’s squad was by far their favorite team of all-time. This was at a time when it was still uncertain whether they would make the playoffs or not. They didn’t yet know that the Braves would complete an all-time historic collapse and lose their Wild Card slot to a St. Louis team playing with way too much pride. They had yet to come within a single strike of losing the World Series…twice. And how can you not agree with that assessment?
I found myself multiple times this year calling Tim Tebow and the Broncos the most fun I’d had as a sports fan ever. I often compared it with the memorable Colorado Rockies run to the World Series back in 2007. That year the Rockies famously won 14 of their last 15 games and went 20-8 in September to clinch a one-game playoff where they then defeated the San Diego Padres in extra innings. It was only appropriate that the win came in the bottom of 13th off future HOFer Trevor Hoffman when the Rockies trailed by two to start the inning. They then breezed through the playoffs before eventually losing to the far superior Boston Red Sox.
Those two seasons are my all-time favorite as a sports fan. Neither ended with a championship. Both left me absolutely grateful for sports and the emotions they are capable of producing in me.
Now Broncos fans are left with Peyton Manning and to be quite honest, it’s depressing. As they all mentioned in the press conference yesterday, it’s Super Bowl or bust now. There is no learning curve or witnessing of player growth. There will be no moments where Peyton endears himself to the fans of Denver. He’ll always be a Colt, forever synonymous with the blue horseshoe. We expect to win eleven games next year and if we miss the playoffs all hell is going to break loose.
There will be nothing satisfying about having Peyton as our quarterback. I’m going to get angry about not beating opponents by enough points. I’m going to get mad when we inevitably lose two rounds too soon in the playoffs next year. I’m going to be livid if Peyton’s neck decides to give out earlier than planned.
Guys, sports are rough.
I’ll withhold names for all the guilty parties involved but if you’re really curious to find out who these guys are check out Denver’s CBS affiliate…
It became official this morning. From ESPN:
The Denver Broncos have confirmed Tim Tebow will be their starting quarterback after the bye week in a game against the Miami Dolphins.
The Broncos (1-4) say they will have two practices for him this week as the starter before taking the bye and will install training-camp like practices to facilitate the change in starting quarterbacks.
The timing of the move is unique. The Broncos play the Dolphins on Oct. 23 in Miami, and the Dolphins, who lost Chad Henne for the season with a shoulder injury, were trying to trade for benched starter Kyle Orton before the start of training camp.
Next Tuesday is the trade deadline, but it would seem unlikely the Broncos would trade Orton to Miami and have him potentially start against Tebow.
The best argument I’ve heard (beyond my own) was actually by the Rockies beat writer Troy Renck this morning. Renck said something to the effect of players in the lockerrom support guys who make plays. And there’s no argument that Tebow made plays while Orton did not.
I broke one of my cardinal rules about modern day professional football and actually attended the Broncos/Cowboys game last night in person. My rule was that I’d never attend a game in person again and let’s just say that vow didn’t last very long. I accepted the invitation to go in about .03 seconds (all times approximate) and was happy to get the chance to witness the Broncos quarterback (non)controversy in person. I’ve been there three times previously, but all of those games were for college football (two Big 12 Championships and the TCU/Oregon State game last season). Little bit different crowds between the pro and college level.
First of all, let’s get one myth out of the way real quick. Everyone who says that modern day stadium is pricing out the blue collar fan couldn’t be further from the truth. Well over 50% of the fans at the game last night were of the blue collar mold and I don’t think that’s because it was a preseason game. While the modern day stadium might carry ridiculously high costs and the unforgivable concept of a PSL, all that’s happening instead is Jerry Jones is playing Ebenezer Scrooge to the Bob Cratchit lower-middle class families of the Metroplex. Way to go Jerry, you crook! People will try to tell you the white collar fan is the only person attending NFL games anymore, but that’s not true at all.
Of the stadium experience itself, you can’t do much better than the deathstar, but it always puts you in the awkward position of having to choose between the world’s greatest television or watching the live action from a distance (where you can actually see the entirety of the play unfold like in a video game). It’s the biggest pickle ever for a sports fan because although the JerryTron is badass, you find the little guy in the back of your head starting to ask why you even went to the game in the first place if you’re just going to watch it on TV. Let’s just say I forced myself into watching the live action (begrudgingly). One last note, the biggest atrocity the Cowboys committed in the construction of this wonder of the world was that the parking situation is criminally bad. It’s not that there’s not enough parking. Far from that, there’s actually way too much. The problem is that the infrastructure cannot handle the amount of congestion and makes it impossible for the season ticket holders with parking passes to leave the game in a timely manner. The set up can only be compared to that of a shopping mall which, in a similarly ridiculous practice, always makes it impossible for you to leave the parking lot while making it amazingly easy to get in (it’s the reason you don’t see a single stop sign on the way into the mall but then have to wait at six consecutive of them in 1/8 of a mile in order to get out). So basically what happens is you can drive in relatively easy but then it takes you an hour to reach the interstate on the way home despite the stadium being maybe a quarter mile from I-30.
But who wants to hear me wax about the little details on the stadium itself, let’s get to the game!
Last night can best be described as the battle for the belt of the best third-string quarterback in the NFL. The Broncos’ Brady Quinn and the Cowboys’ Stephen McGee put on a dazzling show in the second half last night and made that game about as entertaining as a pre-season game can be. McGee of course drove the length of the field in the final four minutes and converted on a two point conversion with about 15 second left to beat the Broncos by one. It was a great, great game, or as great as any contest can be between guys who will be stocking groceries in three weeks time.
But onto the storyline that dominated this game: the QB situation in Denver. I made it to the game a little late so I actually didn’t get to see Orton play. By all accounts he was typical Kyle Orton, carving up the Cowboys defense on his lone drive but failing to punch the ball in despite having first and goal at the one-yard line. Can’t wait for another season where Orton puts up absurd fantasy numbers but leads his team to a losing record. Ladies and gentlemen, the Denver Broncos!
But the real fun began late in the first quarter when Tim Tebow got to control the offense. I’ve already read like five columns this morning, all of which have this same theme: “Tebow may suck in practice, but that’s because he’s a gameday quarterback! Duh!!” Let me tell you how it actually went down. Tebow was mediocre, at best. He simply cannot sit still in the pocket. It’s like he has football ADD. He takes every snap back, looks at his first read, and if that isn’t available he just starts churning his legs. While one out of every five of these scrambles ends up working out, there’s also the four other ones where he took two sacks, threw a couple incompletions and a pick. The guy cannot handle the speed of the game yet, unfortunately. If there’s one bit of optimism to be had, Tebow is severely underestimated when it comes to throwing the deep ball. He converted a beautiful 43-yard play action last night where he carved up a blown double coverage on the Cowboys part. But that of course neglects the fact that he can’t hit a 7-yard out pass or find his second read. Lots of work young ahead for that young man.
I hate to type out this next part, but it’s true. Brady Quinn is a way better quarterback than Tim Tebow right now. Sure, Quinn was going against the Cowboys backups’ backups whereas Tebow only had the backups, but I have to vouch for the incredible amount of poise shown by the former golden domer. There was this awesome presence Quinn had on the field last night where you could tell the game was really slowing down for him as he exposed the Cowboys weak secondary. He threw for 120-yards in his limited time in the second half along with a brilliant touchdown pass where he delivered a strike to the back of the end zone. This guy may just end up being a good quarterback in this league one day which sucks because it only furthers the QB mess of the Broncos.
All in all I was extremely pleased with the performance last night by Denver. I fully support the move back to the 4-3 defense and you can tell Fox actually has a clue what he’s doing on that side of the ball. The Cowboys have a couple of future players in McGee and receiver Dwayne Harris, but the defense still needs a lot of work before this team makes the jump back into contention. Where you at Rob Ryan?
The NFL is back!
Generation Y, where the prospect of another player winning his first major does not get our juices flowing.
This was one of my biggest fears about the Fox hire. He’s had to deal with a horrible QB situation the past three years in Carolina and I had a feeling he wasn’t ready to start with another young player like Tebow. This is going to get him off on the wrong foot with Broncos fans. From NBC Sports:
In a somewhat surprising statement at the NFL Scouting Combine, Broncos coach John Fox named his starting quarterback: Kyle Orton.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s under contract and he’s the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos,” Fox said of Orton, according to multiple reporters passing along his comments on Twitter. “Kyle Orton is our starter.”
Fox downplayed the possibility that Orton could be traded.
That comment comes less than a week after Orton said he had barely heard from Fox and had no idea what his future held in Denver. Those comments suggested that Fox wasn’t overly enthusiastic about keeping Orton around.
But this week’s report that Tim Tebow doesn’t have much support in Denver suggests that Orton won’t be losing his job to last year’s first-round draft pick. Fox’s comments today would seem to confirm that.
I know the stability and consistency that Orton offers is appealing to a lot of coaches across the NFL, but we’ve seen everything he’s going to give us. We are not winning playoff games with him under center for the Broncos. Tebow is nowhere near as developed as a guy like Orton but his upside, by my advanced calculations, is about a million times higher than Orton.
Let’s hope Tebow is able to earn back the job that every fan wants to be his.
Okay so I made that last part up but apparently they did get a little misty-eyed after Pennington was named the starter this past week. From the Miami Herald:
“Chad Pennington just got done talking to the media at Dolphins camp. That’s what the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback does every Wednesday around this time, so yes, you should know by now that Pennington is the starter.
He got a text from coach Tony Sparano Tuesday, asking when he was coming to work. Pennington texted back, saying he expected to be in by 10 a.m. Then he asked if Sparano needed him earlier. The coach said, ‘sure, a little sooner.’
‘I’m on my way,’ Pennington texted back.
After meeting with the coach for 45 minutes, he was returned to the job as the Dolphins starter. Pennington left the facility and took his dog to the groomer, which also conveniently gave Sparano an opportunity to speak with Chad Henne about being benched.
Then Pennington returned around 11 a.m.
‘Chad and I talked for about an hour, got teary-eyed because we have a good relationship and we’re good friends,’ Pennington said. ‘And it’s a situation that’s not fair. I’ve been there before. I’ve been benched when it wasn’t really my fault. I understand every emotion he has and I understand everything he feels. He has every right to feel everything he has. We talked about it.’”
Dolphins fans, may I present your new starting quarterback!