|Tim Tebow in action against the Miami Dolphins,|
mercifully not trying to throw the ball.
Sunday, October 23, 2011—In a display perhaps more dazzling than the Denver Broncos’ improbable fourth-quarter comeback against the still-winless Miami Dolphins, new Broncos starting quarterback Tim Tebow managed to simultaneously fuel the angry, spittle-filled arguments of both his most vocal critics and his most stalwart, possibly unhinged supporters.
|Kyle Orton at full sprint.|
Despite being far more mobile than previous starter Kyle Orton (right), Tebow absorbed seven sacks on the day from a defense that had only eight sacks in its previous six games. With 54:37 elapsed in the game, Tebow had managed only a dismal 4 completions on 14 passes for 40 yards, and the Broncos were on the verge of being shut out for the first time in almost twenty years.
This performance came against a last-place Dolphins team lacking a pass defense—a team for whom the Broncos’ offense had had an extra seven days to prepare thanks to their bye week. Tebow critics were quick but not wrong to note that few teams the Broncos will face for the remainder of this season—or perhaps any season—will be of the Dolphins’ caliber, unless they can schedule a game or two against the PAC-12’s CU Buffaloes.
In the last five-plus minutes of the game, however, Tebow showed his giddy legion of breathlessly optimistic supporters that the inability to be better at quarterbacking the lightly-regarded Orton or the barely-regarded Brady Quinn apparently has no actual bearing on how good one is at quarterbacking, engineering two scoring drives, going 9-for-13 with 121 passing yards and two touchdowns, and showing a thrilling ability to create plays by darting out of a collapsing pocket without necessarily seeing wide-open receivers.
Tebow also scored the game-tying two-point conversion by convincing the Dolphins’ defense that they shouldn’t expect a guy who rushed for almost 3,000 yards and 57 touchdowns in college—and has one of the most suspect arms in the NFL this side of Jason Campbell—wasn’t likely to try to run into the end zone. It is not known at this time whether Tebow is the first NFL quarterback with actual hypnotic powers.
Befuddled Denver fans, hoping to remember witnessing another such improbable combination of simultaneous athletic excellence and utter incompetence, had to think all the way back to January 31, 1988, when a Broncos team led by Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway leapt out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII, only to have nothing else of consequence happen the entire game—especially not in the second quarter.
Despite the uncertainty swirling around Tebow’s play, the gloom of another lost football season in the Mile High City, and the yawning, mostly Tebow-induced gulf dividing the Broncos’ dedicated and emotional fans, a few things can be said for certain: Tebow has or has not proven, without a doubt, that he can play quarterback at the highest level; the Broncos have or haven’t found their leader of the future; the otherwise somewhat unpopular Josh McDaniels’s drafting of Tebow was, or perhaps wasn’t, an act of unqualified genius; and if the team can find a way to play only the worst teams in the conference, they will or won’t sometimes actually barely win, once in a while, in overtime.
And for Denver Broncos fans, that is or isn’t enough.1
NOTES1. We stand by this statement.2
2. Or we don’t.