"Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods." — C.S. Lewis.
This whole Denver Broncos season has been about faith, "leaps of" and "keeping the" and mostly "putting theirs in," a phenomenon that defied logical football explanation, and oftentimes was done in spite of mounting evidence that such belief was folly.
Whatever you think of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, two incontrovertible facts remain:
1. The Broncos were a bad football team without a chance in hell of the playoffs before taking a leap of faith and starting him.
2. That faith has been rewarded in a playoff berth. (1)
Faith is a funny thing, though. Like a thought, it is easily lost, as was demonstrated Sunday in Denver.
Broncos coach John Fox played a coward’s game in a 7-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He never has seemed to particularly like the idea of Tebow as his quarterback, famously telling NFL.com "if we were trying to run a regular offense, he’d be screwed."
The wins only seemed to chip at this belief slightly. Sunday, though, with a playoff berth on the line, Fox called plays like he does not believe his quarterback can throw. He coached like his team was screwed. He coached like he did not have faith in his quarterback.
If Fox does not, he should not play Tebow in Sunday’s playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And if Fox does not believe, he is an idiot. (2)
My stance on Tebow has not changed all season. I do not know if he will be a great quarterback, or even a good one. What I know is he has an intangible that defies explanations. He finds ways to win. And I would not bet against him.
Let me add this to my list: If Tebow is your quarterback, you have to give him a game plan with a chance of success.
And this brings us back to faith. If Denver is to have any chance Sunday against Pittsburgh, Fox has to display faith in Tebow even though current conditions would suggest against doing so. Let’s be real, Tebow was awful Sunday. They lost to an awful Chiefs team because he was somehow worse. Tebowmania became Tebowmelancholia rather quickly.
It was not new. The Broncos are losers of their past three games in large part because Tebow is 30 for 73 with one touchdown pass.
As my mom loved to say, faith isn’t faith until it is all you are holding onto — which, coincidentally, is exactly where the Broncos find themselves after crawfishing into the playoffs.
The Chiefs were horrible. The Broncos were worse. And the Raiders were themselves in losing to the Chargers.
Only Oakland ineptitude allowed Denver in, and always-honest Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey properly summed up chances of success based on what was displayed Sunday.
"For us to go out there and play like we did and expect to do anything in the playoffs, it’s not going to cut it," Bailey said. "We have to find a way to get better."
“What has to improve?” Bailey was asked, even though the answer was as obvious as it was unlikely to be verbalized.
"Everything," Bailey continued. "When we look at our team, we can’t say ‘This is our strength’ because everything is mediocre. It’s got to get better. If you want to make any kind of fuss in the playoffs, we have to get better."
It was at this point Broncos public relations booted the media from the locker room. The Oakland loss had just become official and Fox wanted to address his team. What he probably told them was, "Everything Champ said, do not say that," because upon our reentry there was a lot of talk about how making the tournament is a big deal and it does not matter how they got in and how they have a chance.
"Absolutely," Broncos linebacker Mario Haggan said. "If I do not believe that, then I should not play next week."
Somebody needs to tattoo this on Fox’s butt. Coach like you have a chance to win.
The essence of football — sports, really — is belief that the impossible is possible. This is how the four-minute mile was run, how the Mavericks beat the Heat, how the Cardinals won the World Series.
The Broncos’ problem may indeed be the quarterback. It is not the only problem or the biggest at the moment.
That is Fox himself. So Tebow has been bad lately? What are the Broncos going to do? Tuck their tails and run into eight-man fronts to no avail and lose 7-3? Or is he going to put his tee in the ground and take a whack?
The truth is Bailey was wrong. The Broncos are not mediocre at everything. It was hard to tell from Sunday, but this defense is damn good. They came up with big plays in what everybody calls TebowTime to give Tebow a chance for his patented magic. And Broncos running back Willis McGahee has been in absolute beast mode despite facing eight men in the box.
The cheap second guess is to say "What if Denver had a better quarterback?" Which is funny because the Broncos did, or at least one many like to pretend is better in Kyle Orton, and they were worse. You cannot explain it, but this team got better under Tebow. Orton was across the line of scrimmage Sunday, playing for KC, thus leading to comparisons. The accuracy and look of the passes were better, as were his numbers: 15 of 29 for 180 yards, vs. Tebow’s 6 of 22 for 60 yards.
But the Broncos have won with Tebow. The players know this, too, as crazy as it probably is to them as well.
"We have to believe in Tim Tebow," defensive end Elvis Dumervil said.
Belief is not easy. Oh sure, it is easy when the Broncos were winning and during the fourth-quarter comebacks and when the W’s rolled up. It is not as easy now as he struggles to complete even the safe stuff, as his usual magic runs were swallowed by a patient Chiefs defense that had the good sense just to wait for him to come to them.
It is not easy to believe. Cynicism is our religion. Mocking tweets began as soon as the game ended.
The cynicism that is killing them is coming from their coach. You cannot win in this league if you do not have faith in your quarterback. You certainly cannot if you coach like a coward.
You have to coach like you believe your team is capable of greatness. And if you cannot do that, you need to try just having a little faith.
Two quick addendums:
(1) Making the playoffs is not a small thing. It is an accomplishment however you get in because not everybody does. It is easy to dismiss the Broncos and they may indeed get rolled. But they have a chance, which is more than a lot of other teams can say.
(2) Idiot may seem harsh. But if Fox does not appreciate that Tebow is a big reason why the Broncos are in the playoffs, this applies. The reality is they became a playoff team with him. They started winning once he played. To dismiss this as a coincidence is idiotic and reeks of an agenda.