There were certainly skeptics, even within his own organization. So far, Tebow’s record is proving that sometimes in sports, the customer is right.
It’s easy to understand the reasons why John Elway and John Fox were reluctant to hand the starting gig over to Tebow. His windmill throwing motion and spotty accuracy pointed to a quarterback who didn't have the refined physical tools to succeed at the highest level.
On the surface, it seemed like Elway and Fox held Tebow back simply because they felt that Kyle Orton gave the team a better chance to win. However, the specific situation they were faced with makes things a little more complicated.
The Broncos organization had to find a way to get the most value possible out of this unconventional, high-drafted, fan-favorite quarterback who had been dropped in its collective lap, surrounded by a mythology worthy of Ancient Rome before he’d even played a down of professional football.
Going into this season, Elway and Fox could very well have thought that Tebow was more valuable on the bench than he could be on the field.
Think about it: Tim Tebow’s greatest strengths (competitiveness, passion, leadership) are all immeasurable. They’re plain to see, but can’t be standardized for dispassionate comparison. It’s tough to place a value on these so-called “intangibles.”
Unlike statistics, which can very easily be ranked and sorted, evaluation of intangibles is inherently subjective. It’s entirely possible for two well-educated minds to have completely differing opinions on importance of any particular intangible characteristic. Perhaps Elway and Fox were trying to use this to their advantage.
Without an NFL stat line to pick apart, rival evaluators could only see Tebow’s infectious attitude and galvanizing spirit. Sure, there was still the matter of that wonky throwing motion, but without a completion percentage or passer rating to prove its ineffectiveness, it still had some potential for success.
From that perspective, Tebow could be more useful to the Broncos as a clipboard-holder. His legend would continue to grow, and just maybe some team in need of a change at quarterback might send over a couple of draft picks and take Tebow off of Denver’s hands.
As logical as that approach may seem, it certainly didn’t sit well with the Denver Broncos fanbase.
The fans continued to clamor for their supposed savior as the Broncos stumbled to a 1-4 start. John Elway and John Fox had backed themselves into a corner. Their approach was failing—something needed to change.
The public pressure finally broke the Denver front office, and Tebow was inserted as the starting quarterback.
From the start, the Broncos smartly adjusted their offense to amplify Tebow’s unique skill set. It immediately paid dividends, as Tebow led his troops to an OT win against the Miami Dolphins.
After a slight bump in the road (a 45-10 home beat-down at the hands of the Detroit Lions), Tebow reeled off six straight victories, launching the Broncos back into the playoff race.
Tim Tebow has been very good, but he does not deserve all of the credit for Denver’s resurgence. He probably doesn’t even deserve most of it.
Von Miller and the Broncos defense have been outstanding in recent weeks (last Sunday’s game notwithstanding). The coaching staff, offensive line and running backs have shown incredible intelligence and flexibility, essentially swapping out their entire offense in the middle of the season without any adjustment period.
Yet, the fact remains, Tebow came in, and suddenly the Broncos were good. At this point, it’s futile to even attempt an explanation.
Sometimes, when you’re 1-4 and looking for any kind of spark, it’s not a bad idea to turn to the fans for help. They may not know the whole story, they may be a little misguided, but sometimes, they get lucky.
It’s an incredibly unique situation—the fan-favorite benchwarmer (who in the case was a first-round pick) was actually given an opportunity because of his fan-favorite status and then went on to actually exceed the irrational expectations of his supporters.
Generally, we as fans are only observers, sitting, watching, hoping, but doomed to ride an emotional roller coaster over which we have absolutely no control. The Green Bay Packers can sell all the stock they want, but we know that professional sports is not a democracy.
We can talk, we can write, we can cheer, but by the time our cries reach the general manager’s box, the many conflicting voices have usually devolved into an indecipherable cacophony.
It’s not often that fans can claim direct influence on their team’s success (beyond the occasional false start penalty), and regardless of whether the Broncos' recent winning is the result of logic, cosmic forces or just pure dumb luck, Denver’s fans deserve to pat themselves on the back.