Over the years, the NFL has seen quarterbacks with tremendous hype that could succeed from day one as a starter.
The NFL has also seen quarterbacks with tremendous hype that flopped immediately and can lead a cattle drive better than a touchdown drive.
The NFL, however, has never seen Tim Tebow.
Coming into the NFL Draft, the media had never been as polarized on a player’s prospects as they were with Tebow. Some said he has no chance of ever starting in the NFL, while some think he could be the next John Elway.
And when Broncos’ coach Josh McDaniels drafted him 25th, everyone started going insane.
On Thursday, Tebow officially became a member of the orange and blue, signing a five-year contract worth up to $33 million, with $8.7 million guaranteed. Sounds like a sizable investment for what appears to be the gamble of the decade.
So what’s the best way to protect a gamble? Make sure it’s a safe bet.
Let’s face it; Denver’s quarterback situation is as stable as Chernobyl. Current starter Kyle Orton had his best year in the NFL last season, but it’s almost a lock that no one in the Mile High City wants him to lead the Broncos for the next five years.
Or even one.
Brady Quinn isn’t exactly the future either. His years with the Cleveland Browns have made the Dawg Pound wish Michael Vick came around more.
If Orton reverts back to his earlier days and starts the season with a handful of losses, which is definitely possible with four of the Broncos’ first six games against teams .500 or better last year, the chants for Tebow will start quickly.
Jesus never got this many shout-outs at a football game before.
But McDaniels cannot give in to the fans heckling at any point in 2010. If Tim Tebow starts in any meaningful situation during his rookie season, the ex-Florida Gator hype machine could crash immediately.
Sure, there have been rookie quarterbacks who took to the position immediately. The Falcons Matt Ryan and Steelers Ben Roethlisberger were outstanding in their inaugural seasons under center, with only a few growing pains.
Tebow, however, couldn’t be less like those to guys.
First off, Tebow is clearly a project, no matter if you think he’s will meet the hype or not. A new throwing motion may look good in workouts, but until he gets some full speed preseason attempts, there’s no way to know his confidence in it.
He’s also playing in a much different offense in Denver than he did in Florida. Even when he gets on the field, he won’t be jumping in mid-air and tossing to a tight end like he did under Urban Meyer. Give him time to learn the system, and he’ll be ready.
Second, Broncos’ fans are insane. Say what you will about the Rockies and Nuggets success lately, but the Broncos could be 1-15 and the team would still be Mile High’s favorite son.
If they were 0-16, however, the Avalanche will take over
Tebow knows about die hard fans, but the NFL is brutal. If he replaces Orton and has a couple stinkers, there will be effigies and riots that could shake even the hardest of men.
But not Chuck Norris. He can riot by himself against the city.
Third, and most importantly, if Tebow starts this year, the cat’s out of the bag. People will see him for exactly what he is, and the speculation will go away.
Obviously, he could be a fantastic quarterback, and he’d be just as popular as ever. But the interesting part is if he’s awful. He loses a lot of admiration from the city and can be seen as a waste of pick for a team that needs to go back to the playoffs.
Just ask Ryan Leaf.
Without even setting foot in an NFL game, look how much he’s already done based on hype. His Denver jersey is one of the highest sellers in the entire league, and he’s already got deal with companies like Jockey to be a spokesperson.
That all goes away if people find out he stinks. Sure, there will be people who reminisce over his Gator days, but few people remember Leaf for his Washington State days.
McDaniels is doing the city and the team a big favor by not playing him. Everyone can still speculate over how good he is, and McDaniels buys himself another year on the job for not looking like a fool in the draft.
Although, after getting rid of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, his Fool Meter is near full.
So while it might seem like the Broncos need a change to avoid missing the playoffs for five straight seasons, the change shouldn’t involve Tebow. The Broncos need to pull a Jon Kitna-Carson Palmer deal and sit Tebow until his sophomore campaign.
Or they can pray he’s the second coming. It’s their choice.