Tebow making progress as NFL passer

This is not about religion, praying, belief or lack thereof. This is not about leadership, comebacks or finding ways to win. This is not about underdogs, fuzzy endings or narrative.

This is about the difficult job of playing quarterback in the NFL and why Tim Tebow has a chance to be good at it.

Go ahead and discount this as crazy talk. Most of y’all have.

Just remember that not everybody they say will fail in the NFL does. Nor does everybody who is supposed to be good excel. And then watch the Denver Broncos’ 16-13 overtime victory Sunday again.

The point was not that Tebow was really good Sunday, although he won (his fifth victory in six games since he became Denver’s starter), and winning is always good. The point is he is getting better.

He is making progress as a passer. It was on display late Sunday, in a few of his longer throws. His passes to Eric Decker and Dante Rosario on the game-tying drive were solid NFL throws. So was his touchdown pass to Decker right before halftime.

He is not Dan Fouts. He also can no longer be dismissed as only a gimmick.

An NFL team can win with this guy. One is, up in Denver.

The numbers are what they are from Sunday: 9 of 18 passing for 143 yards and a touchdown. The improvement was in the crucial, big-time throws made by Tebow down the stretch to key the victory, including a 39-yard pass to Decker to set up the game-tying field goal that forced OT.

"Getting better every week," Decker told reporters when asked about Tebow.

The receivers battled for him all day long. The Broncos’ defense — Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil in particular — were beasts. The offensive line played phenomenally. And the quarterback played his role in the win.

Tebow is doing all of the things he did before — the scrambling, the toughness, the ability to engineer comebacks, leadership. What he also is doing is looking better on the things people seem so 100 percent sure he cannot do. I have said before I am not willing to bet against him. What I am seeing now backs that up. He is learning, and that is what you want in a young quarterback.

And the Broncos are so busy wishing he would hurry up and fail already, they are missing it.

Legendary Broncos quarterback and vice president of whatever John Elway seems to be somewhere between distraught and bemused by what Tebow is doing. He practically grimaced when cameras caught him after the touchdown before halftime.

He and Broncos coach John Fox seem to be the only two people in America not mesmerized by Tebow. What I cannot understand is why they are so sure Tebow can never work? Why they are not willing to let this play out? Why they will not at least enjoy the ride?

Elway seems content to dump negativity on every bit of Tebow excitement.

"When you look at our third-down numbers, those have to improve — and that’s the bottom line," Elway said on his weekly radio show in Denver last week. ". . . We can’t go 3 of 13 and win a world championship."

In that same interview, he dropped a “no” on any hint that Tebow’s play had helped clarify his quarterback situation.

The kid responded by agreeing. Tebow absolutely understands that you do not win in the NFL long term with the read option, with running 22 times in one game (more than any quarterback since 1950), with an inability to make crucial throws.

What Tebow is doing is what is necessary to win now because winning matters, and learning.

The comparison keeps being made to Vince Young. He had more talent than Tebow, a less-flawed delivery and an owner fighting hard for him in Tennessee. He failed, anyway. The difference was VY was never going to listen to Titans coach Jeff Fisher. It was not that Vince was a bad kid. He just did not think he needed the help.

Tebow appears to be under no such illusions. He is willing to be coached. He does whatever they ask him. The kid knows what he does not know. The kid learns fast. And he has improved since he first took over for Kyle Orton.

Of course, that is not what the focus was on afterward.

It was all about the prayer he said when San Diego was attempting a 53-yard field goal for the victory. It was the same jokes about God, faith, football and Tebow. It was the same debate that former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer stoked last week.

"I think he’s a winner, and I respect that about him," former Plummer said in a radio interview. "I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ, then I think I’ll like him a little bit better. I don’t hate him because of that; I just would rather not have to hear that every time he takes a good snap or makes a good handoff."

This falls along the same lines as those quoting Matthew 6:5 about Tebow, which exhorts us not to pray "like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men."

The point is missed, of course. The key word is "hypocrites."

What Jesus is saying is do not be one way in public and another in private, which nobody can accuse Tebow of being.

Whenever I see criticism like Plummer’s of Tebow I think of Luke 17:17-18, the story of the 10 lepers. “Were not 10 made clean?” Jesus said. “But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

But this is not about religion, praying, belief or lack thereof. This is not about leadership, comebacks or finding ways to win. This is not about underdogs, fuzzy endings or narrative.

This is about Tebow, and how not everybody they say is going to fail in the NFL does.

Now look at Sunday and ask yourself if you’re sure. Because I am not. Tebow looks to be turning into an NFL quarterback.