Starting Tebow is the right call

BY foxsports • October 10, 2011

Denver Broncos head coach John Fox wouldn’t announce his decision on a starting quarterback — Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton — until Tuesday, after addressing the players themselves.

That speaks to his honor.

In fact, as of Monday afternoon, he said he hadn’t even made a decision.

If he was telling the truth, I thought, that spoke to his judgment. Or lack thereof.

If Tebow hadn't been named the starter, Broncos season ticket holders would have been well within their right to demand refunds. Same goes for fans of the winless Dolphins, who will host the Broncos on Oct. 23, after Denver’s bye week.

Call it the Andrew Luck Bowl. Just understand that, one way or another, Tebow will command the most attention. As fortune will have it, the game at the former Joe Robbie Stadium will celebrate the University of Florida’s 2008 championship.

The Broncos are 1-4. Worse still, since coming out 6-0 under Josh McDaniels a couple of seasons ago, they are 7-24. In other words, ever since Nov. 1, 2009, they have been the very worst team in football. Starting Tim Tebow isn’t going to hurt. But not starting him very well could.

You know what you’re getting with Kyle Orton, which is to say, not nearly enough to turn around a troubled franchise. In the past two seasons, Orton is 4-14 as a starter.

At least he’s a quarterback, some say. Isn’t that more than Tebow?

Sure enough, Tebow's flaws are well documented. An NFL franchise wants a quarterback who avoids contact, not one who thrives on it. Then there’s Tebow’s elongated arc of a throwing motion. Not for nothing did the prognosticating classes speak with such unanimity upon the conclusion of his career at Florida.

He was the first sophomore to win the Heisman trophy. So what? He was the homeschooled son of missionaries. So what? His own good deeds were too numerous to mention. So what? He was a virgin. Really? OK. So what?

He’s not a pro quarterback, they said.

Maybe they’re right, still. They probably are. But maybe it’s just that Tebow doesn’t look or play like a conventional quarterback. Only one thing is certain: Quarterbacking is less than a science. It should not lend itself to such fearless predictions.

The most recent example is Cam Newton. It was said that Newton’s career would be prematurely imperiled by the lockout. He was supposed to need more reps in training camp than any rookie, ever. But now, just months removed from his euphemistically termed “college experience,” Newton is averaging — averaging — 322 yards a game, passing.

Newton was a No. 1 pick, of course. As was Alex Smith. And JaMarcus Russell. And David Carr.

Point is, if you can be wrong about the first pick, you can be wrong about the 25th as well. But you’ll never know unless you play him.

Tebow, who came on to relieve Orton (and everyone else who was watching, for that matter) Sunday against the Chargers, completed 4 of 10 passes for 79 yards. His touchdown didn’t exactly show him to be Johnny Unitas, as it came on a screen pass. He also ran six times for 38 yards. The Broncos still lost, though not as ignominiously as they might have.

“A lot is made out of the quarterback position,” Fox cautioned on Monday. Still, in his very next sentence, the coach conceded, “No doubt, that did spark our team.”

A spark is more than the Broncos have had going on two years now.

More than likely, as I quipped the other day, Tebow is merely the best fullback in the AFC. But maybe, just maybe, he’s something else.

“He’s the most mobile of our quarterbacks,” Fox said. “But that doesn’t really define him.”

Next, the coach was asked about Tebow playing under center.

“Like any young player, they all need the experiences,” Fox said. “That’s something he hadn’t done a lot in his background, whether it be in college or even in his short stint in the National Football League.”

What’s the problem? Orton’s contract expires with the end of the season. Give Tebow his reps. At long last, it would be nice to know if he’s an H-back, a Wildcat back, or, in violation of just about every prediction, an actual quarterback.

I’d refer Fox to “Raging Bull,” which says nothing about quarterbacks but offers great counsel for this occasion. It was Joe Pesci’s character who said to Robert DeNiro’s: “If you win, you win. If you lose, you still win.”

So what’s to lose, John Fox? What’s the worst thing that can happen?

You sell a lot of jerseys, and you still suck?

Which is to say, you still got your shot at Luck.

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