Was Tim Tebow a Better Fit for Broncos than Peyton Manning?

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It’s been over a week since Denver’s playoff loss to Baltimore, so hopefully by now we have all of the emotional stuff out of our system and can rationally analyze what happened.

Immediately following Denver’s loss last Saturday night, all the comments, comparisons, and jokes involving Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow quickly swept through the Twitterverse, Blogosphere, and an infinite number of message boards.

You know what I’m talking about.

Everyone wants to bring up the fact that the Broncos got as far in the playoffs with Tebow last year as with Manning this year, or that Tebow has more playoff wins as a member of the Broncos than Manning does. Yes, those statements are both true, but for anyone to compare Tebow with Manning, even in a joking way, is completely absurd.

For starters, Tebow was the quarterback of a Broncos team in 2011 that backed up into the playoffs, losing their final three games and winning the worst division in football with a record of 8-8. The Broncos team in 2012 with Manning at the helm won 11 straight games to close out the regular season and ran away with a division title with a record of 13-3. Manning’s team not only won the division going away, but it also tied for the best record in the NFL and was the top seed with home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

Even though Tebow was part of a thrilling overtime victory during wildcard weekend in 2011, Manning and the Broncos spent wildcard weekend at home, resting and preparing for the following week’s game, which is the preferable position for any team. Furthermore, despite the fact that Tebow’s season in 2011 and Manning’s season in 2012 ended at the same phase of the playoffs, there’s no denying that 2012 was the more successful season for the Broncos – one that elicits more hope and promise for the future than the 2011 season. That point is accentuated by the fact that Tebow’s Broncos were blown out in the divisional round 45-10, while Manning’s Broncos lost an evenly matched game in double overtime.

If the differences between the Broncos seasons in 2011 and 2012 aren’t apparent, nothing distinguishes these two players quite like Manning’s arrival in Denver last offseason and Tebow’s subsequent exit. Even after he sat out an entire season and underwent several neck surgeries, teams were lining up to talk to Manning and persuade him to sign with them. John Elway and the Broncos went to great lengths to establish a relationship with Manning and convince him to make the move to Denver, and once the Broncos succeeded at signing Manning, they couldn’t get rid of Tebow fast enough, although there weren’t enough suitors for Tebow to trade him right away.

Ultimately, Tebow was traded to the Jets, a team with an incumbent starting quarterback that never gave him a real chance to be the starting quarterback and secretly had visions of him being a running back. Even after the Jet’s season tanked, they would not give Tebow a chance to play quarterback, showing how little faith they had in his abilities as a quarterback, both in the present and the future.

Finally, when it comes to “where are they now”, there’s a world of difference. Following an MVP-caliber season, Manning will return to the Broncos next season feeling confident that he is healthy enough following his surgeries and missed season to still be an elite NFL quarterback. Once the Broncos get over their heart-breaking loss to the Ravens, they will be in good position to return to the second weekend of the playoffs next season, and perhaps advance even further in Manning’s second year with the team.

As for Tebow, he appears unlikely to return to the Jets, as head coach Rex Ryan appears unwilling to give him an opportunity to be anything but a gimmicky change of pace at the quarterback position. However, his suitors appear to be even fewer than they were last offseason when the Broncos were shopping him around the league. Even with several openings at quarterback throughout the league and a weak class of quarterbacks coming out of college, NFL teams are not lining up to acquire Tebow. It’s actually the opposite, teams are going out of their way to state that they will not be trying to acquire Tebow, both because they are fearful of the controversy and media circus that will follow him wherever he goes and because they have little faith in his abilities.

So while Manning looks like he will spend the rest of his career in Denver, striving, with a realistic chance, towards another Super Bowl, Tebow should consider himself lucky if he’s able to lock down a job as a back-up quarterback by the start of next season.

So while many still insist on commenting and comparing Manning with Tebow, citing only the fact that the Broncos lost in the same round of the playoffs with each as their quarterback in consecutive years, it should be clear that there is no comparison. In terms of talent, the career each has had, and how bright the future looks for each, there is no reason why the two should ever be put side-by-side, or even mentioned in the same sentence. So the next time you or somebody you know is about to crack a joke or make a comparison about Manning and Tebow, think real hard about what you’re saying, because when it comes to playing quarterback in the NFL, these two are a world apart.