After the embarrassing loss to the Lions, I wrote a pretty strong article exclaiming my feelings that Tim Tebow simply wasn’t ready to be an NFL quarterback, and especially proclaiming that I felt it unlikely he would be ready this season or the next. I fully expected Tebow haters to come and hate on me (they did) and take my words deeper than they meant (they did) but no one can deny that my point was that I didn’t think Tebow could consistently win.
Now, 4-1 is a pretty small sample size. Remember the 2009 Broncos that went 6-0. That record made the Kyle Orton haters (me included) doubt their opinions. If we take that record by itself, that team was pretty darned good. Of course, that record doesn’t stand by itself. It takes all sixteen games in a season. We can always drop a couple of outliers. The games where a team had a particularly good or particularly bad day tend to be deviations on how the team will truly perform. And as defenses get more film, things change.
So I’m not standing here before you today, so to speak, to proclaim that I’ve come around and joined the Tebow bandwagon. Not yet, anyway. I am still concerned that we are winning by luck and surprise and that neither of these two elements are keys to long term success.
I am certain that we are winning because our defense has awakened. Elvis Dumervil wasn’t himself for the first quarter of the season. Is anybody really surprised? The dude tore a pectoral muscle and was out of football for a whole year. And there were no OTAs and a shortened training camp. So of course he needed some time to get his football legs — or in his case, chest, I guess — back to form. But Ladies and Gentleman, Elvis is with us. And with Doom on one side and Von on the other, the opposing offenses are having trouble adjusting. Just when they think they’ve got an answer for both of these men, Dennis Allen is able to take advantage of a soft middle and…Ryan McBean or D.J. Williams can sneak through and get a sack. Or a hurry and maybe a knockdown.
Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets recovers a fumbled snap in the second quarter against Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Dumervil and Miller are beasts individually. As a duo, though, the whole is greater than the sum of their parts. So yeah, put me in the camp that credits a surprisingly resurgent Denver defense with the wins.
That said… I am much more impressed with Tim Tebow than I expected to be.
For one, I’m starting to doubt the accuracy issues a little. Yes, he’s missed some passes that he absolutely should make. But you know what I’ve noticed? When he misses those passes, it’s because he’s erring on the side of caution. He’s putting the ball where the defender can’t get it. So maybe his receiver can’t get it either. Maybe that’s a timing issue, maybe that’s an accuracy issue, and maybe that’s just Tebow playing that he’d rather punt the ball because he missed a pass than throw a pick. The exact opposite of Jay Cutler and Brett Favre. Maybe he still hasn’t learned the difference between open in college and open in the NFL. It’s a really fine line between open and picked off. That’s fair. I don’t know everything that’s going on there. It is, however, the most important area in the game that Tim Tebow has to improve at. And I’m not saying he has to become a 60% passer; his other important skills are such that maybe it doesn’t need to be that good. But he absolutely does need to be able to hit the simple routes. The bread and butter routes. Those passes mean the difference between three and out and six and eight play drives.
Not every drive has to score, but you can’t squander good field position and you can’t leave your opponent with good field position because you couldn’t move the ball at all.
Second, did you happen to see the post-game interview with the NFL Network guys? Near the end, Eisen asked Tim to walk them through the last drive. Sadly, they showed video of the last play of the last drive, so we only got one play but clearly they were hoping for more, and I think we would’ve got it. But even so, what we got was a very coherent breakdown of what the defense was doing. He whipped it out like he’d practiced, but who practices that kind of thing for the media? Football people rarely tell the media technical details about plays. They know that it’s above the heads of most of the audience. But there was Tebow on national television explaining, in football terms, what he saw on the field and which defenders were going which way.
I don’t need proof about how hard Tebow works. You can see that it’s part of the very core of his being. But right there, I think we saw it. It’s a glimpse of the kinds of things he knows he needs to do to succeed.
The question remains: Can defenses figure out how to defeat a Tim Tebow led offense? The Jets are one of the top tier defenses in the league. For 55 minutes, they had that offense shut down. But thanks to a stout defense, a little bit of luck, and one 95 yard amazing drive (that you can credit equally to the offense clicking on all cylinders and the Jets defense making boneheaded errors) that much-maligned offense came out and won. Tebow threw more again, but missed a few passes that we really need him to make. The defense isn’t going to hold every offense to 13 points. The Jets offense struggles and as much as the defense was dominant, it was also that the Jets are having some problems that allowed that to happen.
During that aforementioned 6-0 streak in 2009, many of the same questions were being asked. The defense was winning games because the offense couldn’t hold onto the ball. That’s great while it lasts, but defenses wear down. There’s a very real worry about sustainability. Just three games ago, all the Tebow supporters were talking about how bad the defense is. Maybe they heard you, but let’s be realistic: that defense is currently outkicking its coverage. We cannot expect dominating performances from them every time. And we shouldn’t. I expect competence out of them, and I expect our star players to step up and keep things going when things get tough.
I’ve been reading that Tim Tebow is so polarizing that there’s just no middle ground. Either love him or hate him. That it’s not about his skill that it’s about his religion. Well, both of things are wrong. I neither love him, nor hate him. I’m on the fence about him. I’ve always known he had the potential, but you have to be a believer to just assume that potential is going to turn into greatness.
And it’s not about his religion. I’d like to say to put the religion thing aside, but you can’t. As Crash Davis once said in (in my not so humble option) the best sports movie ever made, “If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you are! And you should know that!”
Tebow believes he plays well because of his Faith. Well, he does. That’s the thing about sports at that level. If a player believes he does well because of something, whether it’s big and serious or trivial, but if he really believes…then he’s right. Because to do otherwise would be to doubt, and on the field, no player has the time for doubt. That split second hesitation is the difference between a successful play and a loss of yardage. Or a pick-six. So yeah. I believe Tim Tebow does well because he is a man of Faith, and I’m okay with that. It doesn’t matter what I personally believe, or what you, Pat Robertson or Richard Dawkins (no relation; and look him up if you don’t know the name) believes. What matters is what the 53 players in the locker room believe.
So after all this, what do I think? The sad fact is, I don’t know anymore. I honestly didn’t believe the team could simply be willed to win — and I don’t think that is exactly what has happened — but every time, it’s like something crazy happens, and the unbelievable happens. Because they believe that they can. And winning cures everything. At the end of the day, I just want my team to win. And they’re doing that. So I’m along for the ride. I’m trying not to think about the fact that we are currently half a game back from being the division leader. But try as I might, I can’t help thinking about it. There’s a lot of hope. But hope is dangerous, because while winning cures everything, there is absolutely nothing worse than getting your hopes up only to have them dashed.
So I’m going to remain doubtful, and hope that I am pleasantly surprised.