Tim Tebow scored the first touchdown of his NFL career when the Denver Broncos welcomed the New York Jets to Mile High Stadium on Sunday.
This innocuous occurrence was a minor plot point in what was a thrilling 24-20 victory for the New York Jets.
But as is usually the case with modern sports media, this occurrence got blown completely out of proportion. Suddenly, calls for an expanded role for Tim Tebow are coming from various places.
Not only is this an overreaction, it is an example of shoddy analysis.
Say Tim Tebow's name and the reaction will run the gamut from frenzied adoration to wanton vitriol. Perhaps no less significant of a player has ever been the topic of such hyperbole; this is, without a doubt, because of his faith and great success at a major university that is envied and criticized outside of Northern Florida.
This has nothing to do with any of that. This has everything to do with the what happened on the field Sunday afternoon and the viability of the Broncos offense with Tim Tebow on the field.
Tim Tebow has never attempted a pass in an NFL game. He has only carried the ball eight times in his NFL career. Six of those carries came Sunday afternoon. Since this game has been the only one in which Tebow has received consistent touches, it is basically the only evidence we have to approach the question of an expanded role for the erstwhile Gator.
Tebow carried the ball six times for 23 yards, which is good for a 3.8 yard per carry average, and scored a touchdown. His longest run of the day was six yards.
What percentage of Tebow's moderate success can be delegated to him and what percentage can be delegated to the schemes that were being run by both the Broncos and the Jets?
Heading into this game, it appears the Jets did not game-plan for the looks the Broncos offense gave them through their ground attack; it's almost a certainty that they did not game-plan for Tim Tebow.
The Broncos ran for 145 yards on the ground. That is the most yards the Jets have surrendered on the ground this season. The Jets have faced Ray Rice, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and Adrian Peterson. That the Broncos have been the most successful team on the ground against these Jets seems to be more a product of the Jets game plan.
It was obvious the Jets, with the weakness their pass defense has shown, were keying to the Broncos passing game. If the Broncos were going to beat the Jets, Rex Ryan's defense was going to make sure it wasn't through the air.
So running lanes were, relatively, a bit more open against the Jets than usual.
Tim Tebow took advantage of those opportunities, for that he deserves credit.
However, the Broncos were throwing everything they had at the Jets because they are a tough opponent: end arounds, a change in defensive alignment from a 3-4 to a 4-3, an onside kick and Tim Tebow.
They caught the Jets off guard so often because they were using everything they had to try and beat them. Tim Tebow benefited from this.
Even so, he was not some sort of revelation. On his touchdown run the Broncos overloaded the right side with blockers and Jets backup safety James Ihedigbo was caught too far inside on an outside run, allowing Tebow to scamper outside for an easy touchdown.
The continued success of Tebow running the ball is not guaranteed. All you have to do is look at the Broncos' final scoring drive, when Tebow ran twice in a row from the Jets 35 for just five yards. The Jets knew what the Broncos were doing. When that was the case, Tebow was not a dynamic enough runner to do anything significant, he became nothing more than a glorified fullback.
Expanding His Role
If Tim Tebow is going to continue to have an impact for the Broncos they must expand his role, as so many have said, and allow him to do more when he has the ball in his hands. Five out of his six carries on Sunday were runs to the right. That's a stunning lack of diversity.
The problem is Tebow might not be able to handle an expanded role. If Josh McDaniels trusted Tebow to throw the ball yet, why didn't he have Tebow try to pass it late in the game when the Jets were biting on his runs to the right?
Also complicating things is the fact that the cat is now out of the bag. They've featured Tim Tebow once, now other teams will look for it. And Tim Tebow is not dynamic enough to consistently make big plays running out of the backfield.
Simply put, Tim Tebow is not the Jets' Brad Smith. He lacks the versatility and athleticism to contribute the way Smith does.
This is not to say he can't contribute to the Broncos. But before he becomes a regular contributor he needs to show that he can throw the ball every once in a while. If he can do that, he becomes lethal from 1st-and-goal.
He made that five-yard touchdown run untouched. If he throws a touchdown pass from a similar set the Broncos can have the opposing defense on edge.
That ability should certainly come in time, but until it does Tebow's role should not be expanded. If the Broncos thrust too much on Tebow too soon it could blow up in their faces. They used Tebow out of desperation on Sunday afternoon. They can't make a habit of that because the potential weapon they have, if he is brought along properly, is too dangerous close to the goal line to risk revealing too soon.