NFL Playoffs: Is Tebow’s Time Up?

At the beginning of this NFL season, I wrote an article singing the praises of Kyle Orton and the Denver Broncos. I acknowledged that Orton wasn’t going to be anything special, but that with Denver’s defense and renewed running game, his veteran leadership offered the team the best chance for victory.

As Orton’s shaky play continued through the start of the season, I wrote another piece explaining the benefits of having Tebow on the bench, letting him take in the speed of the game and refine his skills during practices.


Tebow, in case you missed any of the bajillion stories in the press, strung together an improbable 6-0 run that featured the improbable, the unlikely and the flat out amazing. An entire football nation swooned under the auspices of Tebow’s GQ looks, his aw-shucks demeanor and a ripped physique. Mix all of that with a healthy dose of religious fervor of an old school tent revival and Tebow-mania arrived. His supporters sang his praises from the mountaintops. Indeed, it really seemed like all that Tebow did was win.

And yet, at the peak of the hype, something strange happened. Reality intervened. It turns out Tebow went from NFL phenom to NFL failure.

Somewhere along the line, NFL defenses peaked behind the curtain of the all-powerful wizard of wins and exposed him for what he was back when Orton was named starter – a young, raw talent with more questions than answers as far as quarterbacking an NFL team is concerned.

For all of the cancer kids Tebow visited, for all of the hours he stayed after practice to work on his throwing mechanics and for the tsunami of attention and photo ops he received, the last three weeks of the season have seen Tebow play like a second-year quarterback. As defenses have stacked the line against him and forced him to throw, Tebow has lived somewhere between erratic and errant. During the 6-0 winning streak, Tebow kept turnovers next to zero. In the three losses, he’s been haunted by interceptions and fumbles.

The bottom line is that Tebow is doing the exact same things that got Orton an express ticket first to the bench, then to the waiver wires.

For a kid who only wins, suddenly it’s been a month since he’s won. The losses are piling up almost as fast as his incompletions and turnovers.

For a kid who managed games and then won them with a mix of guts and pluck, his team has lost games with their young QB looking lost himself.

In the Kansas City game in week 17, everything was set up for Tebow to mimic his previous successes. The defense kept the game close. The running game worked reasonably well. The chance to win against the odds was within his grasp. On a critical fourth-and-two, Tebow scrambled – his signature improvisational style taking over – and threw. The ball fluttered into the hands of a waiting Chief defender.

Drive over. Game over.

Doubts rising.

And yet, there is still hope in the land of orange and blue. Thanks to the San Diego Chargers and a not-so-surprising collapse by the penalty-prone Oakland Raiders, the Broncos won their division and made the playoffs to meet the battle-tested Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs.

And in an oh-by-the-way moment, the Orton-led Chiefs beat the Broncos in that last week of the season. Turns out that the answer to which quarterback was best lay in the reality of the 7-3 score on the board at the end of the game. Irony, anyone?

The bottom line though is that Tebow’s Broncos are the AFC West champions. Tebow’s Broncos won enough games to make the playoffs. Kyle Orton and the Chiefs can return home thinking of next season.

A win next week against Tebow’s toughest defensive foe yet will go a long way to erasing the doubts and questions that the month of December hath wrought.

Another ugly performance from Tebow next week, and the Broncos may find themselves in another off-season filled with quarterback questions.

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