NFL Playoff Picture: Why a Tim Tebow Super Bowl Was Never Meant to Be

James ToljCorrespondent IIJanuary 20, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass against the New England Patriots during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Tim Tebow achieved quite a lot in only his second year in the NFL. He helped turn around a struggling Denver Broncos team, but the Super Bowl just wasn't meant to be for the popular but polarizing quarterback. It wasn't Tebow and the Broncos' time.

In his first appearance this season, the former Florida Gators star almost brought the team back against the San Diego Chargers in Week 5. Head coach John Fox benched starter Kyle Orton and replaced him with Tebow towards the end of the game. The team came surging back from a large deficit, but Tebow's heroics were not enough. The team lost 29-24 and fell to 1-4 on the season.

As the playoff picture began to dim, Fox decided to name Tebow the starter going into Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins. From then on, Orton didn't take another snap in a Broncos uniform and was eventually released.

Tebow and the Broncos beat the Dolphins in comeback fashion, beginning the improbable playoff run. Including that win, the team was victorious in seven of 11 games and won six straight at one point. A ray of playoff hope began to shine in Denver.

But even while the team was winning, Tebow had his ups and downs.

He was constantly criticized for his playing style. Experts proclaimed that Tebow would never be good enough. They stated that he didn't have the skill set needed to succeed.

The winning helped quiet some of the clamor, but the debate reignited after the team ended the season by losing three straight games.

In the first loss, the Broncos defense just couldn't stop Tom Brady's offensive attack, while Tebow's side of the ball couldn't keep up with the scoring either. Denver lost 41-23 to the New England Patriots.

In Week 16, the Broncos were destroyed by the Buffalo Bills. The team fell apart playing from behind. It appeared that Tebow's limitations had been completely exposed.

In the last game of the regular season, Denver was up against the Kansas City Chiefs, facing the own recently released quarterback, Orton. The team had a firm grip on their playoff fate. If the Broncos won, they would take the AFC West and gain a playoff berth.

With the Chiefs' normal starter, Matt Cassel, out for the remainder of the season, Orton took over the quarterback position for Kansas City.

Once again, Tebow played poorly. He completed just six of 22 passes for 60 yards, and the Broncos lost 6-3.

However, with a little luck (also known as a Oakland Raiders loss), Denver managed to win the AFC West, and Tebow had a shot at redemption.

Although Denver was playing at home, the Broncos weren't given a prayer against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh was the heavy favorite in the wild card round.

The game was close. Denver took an early lead, but Pittsburgh came roaring back and the game went into overtime.

And with just one stunning overtime play, the Broncos emerged victorious. While they shocked just about everyone with the win, the team didn't have much time to celebrate.

Denver had to fly to Foxborough and take on a team in the divisional round that beaten them only a few weeks prior—the Patriots.

Once again, the Broncos play poorly against New England, and the team went down 45-10.

With no one expecting the team to even make the playoffs, the Broncos truly had a storybook season, but they went as far as they were supposed to. The Patriots were clearly the superior team.

The critics were right in a sense. Tebow does need to improve his passing, but those who say that he can't get better are mistaken. And placing the blame for Denver's losses solely on Tebow's shoulders distorts the season just as much as giving him exclusive credit for the team's wins.

During the regular season, Tebow completed just 46.5 percent of his passes for 1,729 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. In the postseason, his statistics got even worse. He completed 40.4 percent of his throws.

For the Broncos to be successful with Tebow in the long-term, he does need to develop his passing skills. In this case, the statistics don't lie, but it will be good for him to get out of the limelight and focus on his game.

Tebow became bigger than the whole Broncos organization, and that was a problem. While he should be recognized for the hope he has given to Denver and individuals around the country, the fame and attention he has garnered isn't what the Broncos need (not that the hysteria was his fault).

The Broncos need to get better.

Hopefully, the team will draft a few weapons to put around Tebow on offense. Once all the pieces are in place, he can go to work.

Tebow and his teammates should fly under the radar this offseason. He should use every waking moment getting a feel for his receivers and letting them get a better feel for him. He needs to know exactly how they run routes, and they need to know exactly where he likes to place the ball.

With a lot of work, the team could be a serious contender next year. And if he keeps improving, there is a legendary left-handed quarterback that could be a model for Tebow's future success—Steve Young.

Young struggled early in his career and didn't have a high completion percentage, but after a few years, the game came more naturally to him. Now, he is known as one of the best left-handed passers ever to play in the NFL. He could hurt teams on the ground, but he also could carve up defenses through the air.

If Tebow can transform himself into a player like Young was, he will have the citizens of Colorado cheering his name for decades.

The Broncos organization should stick with Tebow for next season. No one has a stronger work ethic. It wasn't time for him and his young team to make a trip to the big game this season, but if he develops over the offseason, the sky is the limit.


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