On Jan. 1, 2012, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos made their return to the NFL playoffs, their first playoff appearance since 2005, when the Broncos lost to the Pittsburg Steelers in the AFC Conference Championship. But this playoff entry was rather bittersweet. The Broncos were the champions of the AFC West, a division no one seemed to want to win, as illustrated by the fact the Broncos won the division via an Oakland Raiders loss instead of a Broncos victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. In the 7-3 loss, Tebow finished the game with a meager 6 for 22 passing for a total of 60 yards and a quarterback rating of 20.6. What has happened? Tebow led the Broncos in previous starts to a 7-1 record, and he had games like the one at Minnesota when he had a 149.3 quarterback rating (ESPN NFL). Some people would argue that divine intervention has left him. Others could simply argue that Tebow time has ended.
Let’s look at the facts. During those victories, Tebow first was winning via the option game. The option is a staple of college football whereby an athletic quarterback can successfully hand the ball off either to their running back or, if they feel inclined, tuck the ball in and run for a gain. Tebow was a master of this at the University of Florida and managed the option to his advantage during these victories. But as many NFL coaches have articulated, the option would never last in the NFL. It depends on the play of a highly athletic quarterback and highly versatile running back, and once teams learn to read the option, it will be easy to defend. This is what has happened to Tebow. He now must rely on his passing to win games, an area where he is deficient.
So why is Tebow so deficient in the passing game? Much has been said about this throwing motion, but this is not the root cause. All one has to do is watch him quarterback a game. He orchestrates his passes. He lacks the ability to look for the open man. Instead, he zones in on his favorite target, constantly looks at his favorite target and then launches the ball toward him. A defense can easily telegraph this. Once they see Tebow look toward a receiver, they simply have to cover that receiver and Tebow does not know what to do. The final minutes of the Kansas City game illustrate this. Tebow launched a pass toward a double-covered Eddie Royal when he had a wide open Eric Decker in the middle of the field.
The conclusion is simple. Tebow has the heart of a lion with the determination to win no matter what. He just lacks the fundamental skills to achieve it. With some work in the offseason, is there a possibility he will improve some more? Yes. Is it just as apparent that he still requires a lot more work before he can quarterback a championship contender? Yes. As a Denver native and a supporter of the guy, I pray for both Denver’s sake and Tebow’s sake that he learns the skills needed to return Denver to the glory days it became accustomed to during the John Elway era.
“Tim Tebow.” ESPN NFL. http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/13200/tim-tebow.