Tebow good when and where it matters the most
Tim Tebow's passes aren't pretty, his stats aren't spectacular, his footwork is flawed and his mechanics are a mess.
Terrible in these metrics, he's terrific in the only measure that really counts in the NFL: he's 4-1 since supplanting Kyle Orton as Denver's starter and has three fourth-quarter comebacks.
Yet, the Broncos front office isn't sold on Tebow being the long-term answer at quarterback.
During John Elway's weekly radio show on 102.3 FM The Ticket in Denver on Monday morning, host Gary Miller asked the Broncos' chief of football operations if he were ''any closer to feeling if you have your quarterback on this team?''
Elway paused and answered, ''No.''
He pointed out that Tebow has to do better on third downs and improve as a passer.
The Broncos were 3 for 13 on third downs in their win over the New York Jets on Thursday night and Tebow has completed less than half his passes since replacing Orton.
Behind Tebow, the surging Broncos (5-5) are back to .500 as they seek to avoid their first consecutive losing seasons since 1971-72, and they've already won more games than they did last year when they went 4-12.
Yet, even after Tebow guided the Broncos on a game-winning 95-yard drive in the closing minutes against the New York Jets on Thursday night, his critics howled about how he can't throw the ball like a standard NFL quarterback and he'll never succeed long-term if he can't improve his accuracy.
Only Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers, however, sport a better fourth-quarter passer rating than Tebow's 107.0.
Tebow is 28 for 50 for 399 yards in the fourth quarter with five touchdowns, one interception and three comebacks in his five starts.
So, he can do more than just run the option, although he beat the Jets with his legs and not his arm when he ran 20 yards for the winning TD in the final minute of Denver's 17-13 thriller.
''Sometimes he did it to us in college and he's doing it here,'' said Broncos defensive end and Tennessee alum Robert Ayers. ''It doesn't have to be pretty; it doesn't have to be Aaron Rodgers-like, as long as we get it done, that's all that matters.''
''Everybody talks about what he can't do,'' cornerback Andre' Goodman said, ''no one talks about what he's doing, which is winning games.''
While winning is the bottom line in this league, Tebow, coach John Fox and Elway all agree he has to get better.
Denver was just 1 for 11 on third downs before Tebow converted twice on the game-winning drive when the Broncos spread the Jets out with an empty backfield and multiple wide receiver sets. The drive followed a string of eight straight punts, seven of them three and outs.
''When you look at our third down numbers, those have to improve, and that's the bottom line,'' Elway said on his radio show. ''... We can't go 3 of 13 and win a world championship.''
Elway, who, along with general manager Brian Xanders, has been watching some of the best college quarterbacks in person this fall, including Andrew Luck, Nick Foles, Robert Griffin and Landry Jones, sprinkled in praise for Tebow with some dollops of pragmatism.
Tebow has a 44.8 completion percentage. The silver lining is that the opponents aren't catching his passes, either. He has just one interception to go with his seven TD throws.
Look closely, though, Fox suggested, and you'll see improvement.
''He's gotten better every week. I don't know if y'all see it, but we see it, and he was better (Thursday) night than he was the week before as far as passing the football,'' Fox said. ''He'll continue to do that, there's no doubt in my mind. Just like any young player, any young quarterback, it's going to take some time and some experiences.''
Former coach and current CBS commentator Bill Cowher suggested Sunday that maybe the Broncos should consider using backup Brady Quinn or even going back to Orton in special packages to jump-start their offense before Tebow's fourth-quarter heroics.
''I'm sure those things will be thought about,'' Elway said. ''In the game planning going into the next two days, I'm sure that will be something that we'll talk about. ... We'll continue to think outside the box. Obviously, if you do that, the defense has to think about that many more things.
''All those things are on the table. It's a matter of if it gets in the game plan or we see it on Sunday.''
Tebow said he's under no illusions as he works day in and day out to prove he can play at this level.
''I've just got to get better,'' he said, ''but it's a lot more fun to do that after a win.''
Notes: TE Daniel Fells, who sustained a concussion Thursday night, was cleared to practice Monday. ... DB-KR Cassius Vaughn (hamstring) didn't participate in drills during the 20-minute media access period.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton