There is an age-old saying that goes a little something like this: "There are no atheists in foxholes." Whatever your religious or non-religious persuasion is, one has to agree that throughout history, more often not the individual who attempts—and often accomplishes—great things and great achievements usually has a reservoir of great personal faith in a higher power, be it Gandhi's Hinduism, Martin Luther King's Christian faith, Bonhoeffer's Lutheranism or the quiet heroism of the Jewish Anne Frank in standing up to the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.
We can, at times, see the same principle in athletics. Take Kurt Warner as an example, who seriously would have thought that a guy who bagged groceries for a living and played arena football in his spare time would ever get a shot on the roster of a pro football team? Yet, largely because of his personal faith and his talent, here we are are about 15 years later, after two Super Bowls (a victory and a loss), and a myriad of achievements as an NFL quarterback, we are all considering Kurt Warner as a strong contender for the Hall of Fame, even doing so with a straight face for this once third-stringer.
What does this introduction have to do with what Tim Tebow has to offer the Broncos that Kyle Orton does not? Well, once again, let us look to (more recent) history: consider that most of the greats have had leadership ability. Joe Namath and his "guarantee." Joe Montana. Johnny Unitas, who much like Tebow was told that he had no skills either. John Elway. Tom Brady. And once again Kurt Warner, who after his rather rough experience with the Giants saw his career resurrected in the desert with the Cardinals, and nearly upset the Steelers in the Super Bowl just by his presence on the field. All of these men had leadership ability.
After watching the last three games of the 2010-11 season with the Broncos, I am convinced that Tebow has that same leadership ability as well. Although it is awfully early to put him in the same company with legends such as Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Brett Favre and the like, the fact of the matter is, the greats of the game make all of the team, from the defense, offensive line, all the way up to receivers, play better simply by their presence on the field.
The Broncos struggled last year for 13 games with some very lackluster play, and to be fair, it wasn't all Orton's fault. A poor defense and a poor running game had a large role in the poor season as well. Yet, at the same time, most of the blame or kudos for a team's success or lack thereof falls upon the quarterback.
The Broncos were 3-10 with Orton at the helm and 1-2 with Tebow. So, on the surface, there was not much difference there. But...we must read between the lines here. Let's consider something intangible, such as the quality of the team's play during these spans. In a lot of the games with Orton at QB, the Broncos in all honesty weren't even in contention. For example, the Broncos lost 35-14 against San Diego, 43-13 against the Cardinals (the Cardinals?!), and most notably the 59-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders, rivaling the Broncos' 55-10 loss to the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV as one the worst losses in history.
Although he only played three games at the end of the season, Tebow played in a couple of rematches with the Raiders and the Chargers. How did Tebow fare against these teams? In the Raiders game the end result was a 39-23 for Oakland. On the surface, it would appear that there was not much difference between Orton's performance and Tebow's performance. However, if we dig deeper and look at the games, we realize that in Orton's game everyone knew the outcome by halftime. Tebow, on the other hand, helped to hold the Raiders to only a three-point lead before they pulled away in the fourth quarter.
In the San Diego game, we have a 35-14 loss earlier in the year by the Orton-led Broncos and a 33-28 loss at the end of the year by the Tebow-led team. Once again, when Orton was the QB the Broncos lost by a wide margin. However, when Tebow led the team, the Broncos were at least within striking distance. Granted, the "spark" in this situation did not come from Tebow, but from undrafted Rookie Cassius Vaughn's 97-yard return in the midway point of the last quarter. The next Denver possession, however, was where Tebow engineered a 92-yard scoring drive to pull within five.
Finally, there was the 24-23 victory against the Texans, whom the Broncos only played against once, with Tebow at the helm. This game was a pure, come-from-behind victory for Tebow and showcased the leadership ability that he has on the field. As stated previously in this article, all of the greats have that leadership ability.
Don't get me wrong. This team has a lot of problems, and to blame Orton for all of these problems would be ignorant at best. But if Orton wants to continue to be the starter of this team, he must show more clutch ability. To rack up 300 passing yards in a losing effort is value-less. Orton has to deliver a better performance than he did in the most recent 23-20 loss to Oakland. He has to show that he can deliver a comeback victory. If the fact that the football simply dropped out of Kyle Orton's hand during a potential game-winning drive is any indication, then the Broncos are in for a long year with Orton at the helm.
Although Tebow has a long way to go before he is considered in the company of Elway, Favre, Montana, Brady, Brees or even Warren Moon for that matter, he has that ability in the clutch, much like a certain other well-known Denver Broncos QB who is now in the front office.