Late last season, the Denver Broncos fired coach Josh McDaniels with three games remaining in the season shortly after team owner Pat Bowlen said he’d bring McDaniels back in 2011. Ultimately, the Broncos knew their rabid fan base was so against McDaniels, the team concluded a change had to be made sooner than later.
Could the same element be in play with the Broncos’ quarterback situation?
Fans have been clamoring for Tim Tebow to start since well before the season. Yet, first-year Denver head coach John Fox has not wavered. Incumbent Kyle Orton has been the starter since the beginning of training camp (as soon as the Broncos decided not to trade him to Miami). Orton remains the starting quarterback heading into Sunday’s home game against San Diego despite being 1-3 this season and 4-13 in his past 17 starts. Denver is 6-21 with Orton as their quarterback since starting the 2009 season 6-0.
No team can allow the public to set its agenda. However, times are dire in Denver.
Fans chant for Tebow to play, home and on the road. Billboards have been raised in Denver asking for the Fox to bench Orton. Fox is asked by Denver media members about how long he’ll stick with Orton almost on a daily basis. Broncos tickets, forever the hottest get in the Rockies, are now being offered on websites that are dedicated to discount prices. Longtime Denver radio announce Dave Logan, a former Broncos player and a Colorado native, said the Orton-Tebow saga is almost “surreal” and he's never seen anything like it in his life.
If the Broncos get trounced by the Chargers and fall to 1-4 at the bye, the quarterback quandary will hit an all-time high. Something will have to give.
Fox always says he is sticking with Orton because he thinks Orton gives the Broncos the best chance to win, compared to Tebow and fellow backup Brady Quinn. But how long will that fly? How long will Fox be able to push a guy who has won four games since the start of last season as his best option? The McDaniels’ factor may finally take over and the Broncos may have to look at other options.
It goes beyond satisfying the fan base. The Broncos will soon have to decide their future at quarterback for the betterment of the franchise.
Orton is a free agent after the season. If he is not winning and this team is still a long way from being a contender, isn’t the prudent move to pursue other options with the future in mind?
The Broncos clearly don’t think Tebow is ready to help them. Denver was trailing by 32 points in the fourth quarter in Green Bay last Sunday. It would have been a perfect time to give Tebow, who started the final three games of last season, some seasoning. Tebow didn’t come in.
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. admits he is far from a Tebow supporter. He thought McDaniels made a crucial mistake when he took Tebow with the No. 25 overall pick of the 2010 draft. Williamson maintains that he doesn’t think Tebow’s awkward style of play will work in the NFL. Still, Williamson thinks Denver needs to see what it has in Tebow.
“I did find it rather telling that he didn’t see any action in a blowout loss. I would have thought that was a perfect opportunity to get some tape on him in live action this year,” Williamson said. “And I do feel like that is something that needs to happen. To me, it would be a crime if on draft day , they didn’t know what they had in Tebow. That is something that they absolutely need to know. I tend to think their quarterback of the future is not on the roster, though. But they need to find out.”
Whether Tebow plays or not in 2011, Denver cannot have the same flux at the most important position on the field in 2012. Even if Tebow is not the answer, someone else will have to be. Will Quinn -- a former first-round pick by Cleveland who has more of the prototype skills than Tebow that Fox and Denver football leader John Elway covet -- get a chance? Even if he does, can he really be considered a long-term solution?
I wouldn’t be shocked if Elway -- who studied every top quarterback prospect in person prior to the April draft -- is already set on taking a quarterback with his first pick next April. With a difficult remaining schedule, it is not out of the question to think Denver will be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, regardless of who quarterbacks the final games of this season. Of course, all of Denver’s worries will end if it gets its hands on Luck.
Uniting Elway and Luck -- Stanford quarterbacks of past and present -- in Denver will be a storybook tale. Mel Kiper has said Luck is the best prospect to enter the draft since Elway did in 1983.
Terrific story aside, Denver will also likely look for a quarterback early in the draft if it doesn’t have the top pick. Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. said this week he thinks the only other quarterback who would fit Denver -- if it has a top-10 pick -- is Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. Muench thinks Jones, too, could be the answer to Denver’s quarterback issues.
“Jones isn't as mobile or as consistent a decision-maker as Luck,” Muench said. "On the other hand, his mobility isn't a liability, either, and he can continue to make strides as a decision-maker. He has the arm strength, frame and accuracy that teams covet at quarterback. He also has the football I.Q to handle more complex game plans and defenses and he's shown good poise in high-pressure situations.”
The Broncos’ brass is in currently in a high-pressure situation. Fans in Denver will demand answers sooner than later.