Welcome to the NFL, Mr. Tebow!
Tim Tebow's much anticipated initiation into the speed and power of the NFL happened Sunday night in the Queen City.
The most ballyhooed debut in recent memory has been met with mixed reviews up and down the media spectrum. "Tebow was awesome! Tebow was awful! Tim’s throwing motion is still flawed!"
The critics ran the gamut looking for the Achilles heel that would cripple the expectations that Denver fans have for their new quarterback and put the nail in the Tebow controversy.
Here is what we actually may have found out about Tim Tebow
Tebow came into the game late in the third quarter, the third quarterback “under center” of the evening. He entered the game with his team down and somewhat beleaguered. The Savior of the Broncos and the NFL stepped confidently onto the field.
While focusing on the drama and pageantry of the moment could easily take up several stories, what is more important is the details of his performance. Several questions have been, at least for now, answered!
Question ONE: Arm Strength
Tebow’s first real moment was the deep pass to Matt Willis that was dropped, right on target and with Willis in full stride, a former NCAA track champion stride. Consider if Tebow’s second pass attempt had been a 45-yard pass and a 60-plus-yard touchdown. As Skip Bayless stated on ESPN’s First and Ten Wednesday morning, that could easily been the preseason lead story of the week and the “pass heard ‘round the world.”
Nevertheless, Tebow proved doubters wrong about his pro game arm strength. He threw that strike on the move and on the money. If they needed more proof, there was also Tim’s move outside the pocket and throw back against his body, on a rope, tight spiral to the sidelines, again right on target.
These two passes highlight another of his supposed deficiencies...
Question TWO: Accuracy
Both were difficult throws under difficult conditions. The Florida standout put both the mentioned passes on a line and on time, in a small window that allowed only his receiver to make the play. One did, one didn’t.
The fact remains, he put them where his receivers could make the play, and unlike another quarterback on the roster, he did his part instead of forcing receivers to make big plays just to get the catch. What he could do with the top receivers on the team remains to be seen.
Even the “dropped” TD catch by Marquez Branson was in a spot that protected it from the defenders but still gave him a chance to make the play.
Question Three: Durability and Taking a Hit
Much has been said about said about Tim’s toughness and ability to take NFL punishment. Let’s look at the “punishment” of Sunday’s game. Two plays come to mind.
First, the “sack fumble” and subsequent scoring return by Frostee Rucker. With a massive defensive lineman hanging on Tebow’s passing arm and the ball coming out, the world and the referees assumed that no mere mortal couldn't have done anything but fumble. (For the record, the incidents had nothing to do with his "motion"; when he got hit, Tim’s arm was high and tight.)
The automatic challenge instigated in the last two minutes showed that Tim not only managed to get his arm forward with a player hanging on it, but also controlled the ball actually through the throwing motion and into the ground.
Also of note: Tim was the first one up off the turf and pursuing Rucker—none of which has been typical of recent occupants of the position in Denver.
Question Four: Want to and the Will to Win
When the pressure was on, time ticking away, and the team needing a score, Tim Tebow stepped up to the challenge. That “it” factor was front and center. Tebow controlled the huddle, commanded his troops, ran the two-minute offense with precision, and made plays when he needed to, with his arm and his legs.
Tebow’s throw back across his body to his receiver on the run and then his seven-yard romp to the end zone showed that he could and would do what had made him a winner in Florida: EVERYTHING!
Many critics still point to the level of competition he faced to achieve his success in the game. One must also consider that while he was facing second and third team resistance, he was also surrounded by second and third string support.
Jabar Gaffney wouldn’t have dropped that bomb on his second pass attempt, first string would have given him more protection on the “fumble,” and Daniel Graham wouldn’t have dropped the TD pass in the end zone.
Oh, and then there is the touchdown run against the third-teamers.
Say what you will, but Abdul Hodge, a 6'0", 240-lb. fifth-year linebacker who played all 16 games for the Bengals last year, and Kyries Hebert, a 6'3", 225-lb. third-year corner who played in all but one game for the Bengals over the last two years, were no slouches, and as the replay showed, a combined weight of 465 pounds of pro athlete converged on Tebow to deny him the end zone.
When the dust settled, Tebow was in the end zone and back on his feet, and the defenders were still on the ground trying to regain their senses and their dignity.
That and the rest of Tebow’s debut, temporarily for some, and permanently for others, settled a lot of questions. You can also bet many more questions will be raised before it's all over!