Tim Tebow's First Start of 2011 Against Miami Dolphins Is a Must-Win

Jason MuckleySenior Analyst IIOctober 21, 2011

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 09:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos looks on after the Broncos were defeated 29-24 by the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 9, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

As the Denver Broncos suffered their four defeats of the 2011 season, Tim Tebow was the talk of the town. Not only in the Mile High City, but all over the country, Tebow Talk filled the airwaves. However, a recurring theme arose in all the talk. Tebow had resuscitated the lifeless Broncos of the first half to come within a few points of the San Diego Chargers, falling just short.

“Just short” was the biggest knock most analysts had on Tebow, whose two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and desperation heave into the end zone fell “just short” of clinching what would have been an unbelievable comeback.

As we look forward to watching Tim Tebow’s first start of the 2011 season, we have three games of previous experience from last season to look at. In his three starts last season, Tebow led the Broncos to a 1-2 record. Two of those games were decided by less than five points. In his only victory last season, Tebow brought the Broncos back from a 17-point deficit against the Houston Texans to win by a single point, 24-23.

At the time, it was believed that the win over the Texans last season was what kept Tebow’s hopes to remain the starting quarterback in Denver alive. Most expected that Andrew Luck, heralded quarterback out of Stanford, would have been drafted by Denver if they had received the top draft choice in 2011.

However, Andrew Luck decided to return for his senior year. Instead the Carolina Panthers chose Cam Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Auburn. Many have drawn comparisons between him and Tebow.

With only one win this season, the Broncos remain in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Again, it is Tebow who controls his own destiny—whether he is the answer in Denver or he will be looking for a new team once his contract expires after 2012.

In the final game of the 2010 season, it was the San Diego Chargers that the Broncos finished the season against where Tebow got behind early. This time (like in Week 5), he couldn’t overcome the Chargers, losing by five.

Early on this season, when Kyle Orton had the reigns at quarterback, head coach John Fox reiterated the old rhetoric that Orton gave the team the “best chance to win.” But as the losses piled up for the Broncos, he was changing his story and looking elsewhere. Last week at halftime, the Broncos finally pulled the trigger on Tebow.

In the first five games of the season, four of those games have been decided by less than five points. The Broncos' only victory was decided by just two points. This week the Broncos face the winless Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have been mostly overmatched in every game they’ve played (except for their one-point loss to the Cleveland Browns). Their play has been marked by turnovers and missed opportunities, and this game looks to be the perfect situation for Tim Tebow.

In order to begin to prove to head coach John Fox and, more importantly, John Elway and Brian Xanders that he is the solution for the Broncos this season and beyond, Tebow has to win this game. In fact, he has to win every game within reach.

You can’t really blame Tebow for the most recent loss for the Broncos as he inherited a 13-point deficit. However, if the remaining games this season are close, Tebow needs to prove that he isn’t the “just short” quarterback, but that he can pull out the close games and start putting up Ws.

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 9: Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos rushes the ball against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 9, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Chargers won 29-24. (Photo by Bart Young/Getty Images)
Bart Young/Getty Images

Some have projected that Tebow and the Broncos must win five or more of the remaining games on the schedule to remain the Broncos' starter for next season. Otherwise, the Broncos might be shopping around in next year’s draft to find their future franchise quarterback.

Winning this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins would be Tebow’s first step to retaining the starting quarterback job in Denver. The Broncos have a very difficult remaining schedule for the rest of the year. Next week the Broncos face the 5-1 Detroit Lions. After that, AFC West division rival games on the road against the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers loom large. In Weeks 15 and 16, the Broncos face the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills, two teams atop the AFC right now.

It’s a monumental task, but it appears like management wants to see whether or not Tebow can make the Broncos into a contender with his play and leadership.

This week in an exclusive interview with Champ Bailey on NFL Total Access featured on NFL.com’s website, star cornerback Champ Bailey stood up for his young quarterback: “Tebow is a special kind of a player; I’ve never seen a player like him in my whole career…So it’s going to be interesting to see what happens, and I’m going to give it all I’ve got for the guy. I know he’s going to be out there giving it 110 (percent), so I’m going to go 120. That’s just the way I see it.”

With players like Bailey getting behind him, Tim's leadership and charisma already seem to be paying dividends in his efforts to rally the team to turn around their slow start.

That's a good sign.