The Denver Broncos have one of the biggest dilemmas in the NFL heading into the 2011 season.
What should they do with Tim Tebow?
Last year, Tebow was one of the most polarizing players to enter the draft in recent years. Teams either liked or disliked the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. There was no gray area. The person who most believed in Tebow was former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. He traded three draft picks to move up to No. 25 so Denver could draft Tebow. McDaniels has since been fired, leaving Tebow in Denver without his biggest supporter.
Now, the new Denver regime has a raw former first-round pick in whom the team has a lot invested.
The Broncos have denied rumors that they are not fans of Tebow. Recently, new Denver coach John Fox has maintained that Kyle Orton -- whom Tebow replaced for the final three games of the 2010 season -- is the starter, as of now. Fox did say there will be competition.
What should Denver do? Here are the pros and cons of Denver starting the Tebow era now.
Pros of going with Tebow as 2011 starter:
The timing is right: Heading into the 2010 season, McDaniels had a clear plan. He gave Orton a one-year contract extension for 2011 for $9 million. The idea was for Orton to lead Denver’s offense in 2010-11 and for Tebow to get two years of seasoning. Long waiting periods worked well for Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers and Tebow appeared destined for that route. However, McDaniels was fired in December and all bets were suddenly off. Now the Broncos open the Fox era after a 4-12 season. Everything is fresh. It’s the perfect time to give the keys of the offense to Tebow. Let’s see what he can do. This team is rebuilding anyway. A young quarterback is not going to be the main reason for a playoff-less season. Denver is clearly going to give Tebow a chance to show whether he can play. So it might as well get it out of the way. If he is a failure, at least the Broncos would know early. Perhaps if Denver decides Tebow isn’t the answer, John Elway could make a run at fellow Stanford star quarterback Andrew Luck in the 2012 draft. Or maybe Tebow would show in 2011 that he is the answer and the team could build around him. We won’t know unless he gets the chance.
Fans want it: Fans should never dictate a team’s decision-making process. But the Broncos are aware of the importance of marketing, and the pulse of the fans is important to this organization, especially after the disaster that was the McDaniels era. There were more empty seats in Denver last season than in recent memory. However, there was an excitement in the air during the final two weeks of the season when Tebow played in front of the home folks. The kid could be a marketing cash cow for the team. Why waste time waiting?
Orton has taken the Broncos as far as he can: Orton, 28, is a solid player, but he was 3-10 last season. The Broncos know what they have in him. He is probably not the player you want to rebuild around. Orton struggled when Denver was behind in the fourth quarter last season and on third downs. He wasn’t clutch. It could be time for a change.
Orton has trade value: Although Orton may not be the best man for Denver, he would be popular on the open market, even though he may have to restructure his contract for any team in 2011. There are several teams that could use a veteran and Denver could get a decent draft pick for him assuming a CBA will be agreed upon before the draft. I don’t think Denver could bypass a chance to get a good draft pick and not trade Orton. His value would be at its highest before the draft. Denver needs to take advantage of that.
Cons of going with Tebow as 2011 starter:
Tebow may not be ready to start: Elway has said this offseason that the team has to make Tebow a good quarterback and that he is green. Tebow played to mixed reviews in 2010. He moved the ball, but his mechanical flaws were glaring at times. He likely won’t be a ready product when the 2011 season starts.
It would set the organization back if he fails: It would be a crushing blow if Denver started Tebow this season and he was a disaster. The Broncos will be back to the drawing board at quarterback and the team’s rebuilding phase will likely be extended. It could be a real setback and it could destroy morale.
Orton is better for the short term: The bottom line in 2011 could be better with Orton than Tebow. This is not a good roster and Orton alone would not make it a playoff contender. But Denver could be more competitive in 2011 with Orton than Tebow.
Fox likes veterans: Fox developed a reputation in nine seasons in Carolina as a veteran-friendly coach. That’s one of the reasons his time in Carolina expired. The Panthers were going for a youth movement that Fox wasn’t thrilled about. He may not be comfortable with Tebow, and the man who stuck with Jake Delhomme as his quarterback for years may feel more comfortable with Orton in his first year in Denver.
Conclusion: Considering both the pros and the cons, I think it is in Denver’s best interest to start the Tebow era now. It comes down to the timing being right. Fox has nothing to lose, and if Tebow is a bust, Denver can move on. It is invested in this player regardless of who picked him. The Broncos must see what they have, and delaying the Tebow experiment would only create more questions and uncertainty.