Posted by Ryan Wilson
Tim Tebow has hit a rough patch. After an offseason in which it seemed he would ascend to the starting job, he's plummeted down the Broncos' depth chart and currently finds himself behind Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, and, impossibly, maybe even Adam Weber.
ESPN analyst Merril Hoge has been scathing in his criticism, and earlier in the week, CBS analyst Boomer Esiason spoke frankly about Tebow's prospects as an NFL quarterback. "He can't play. He can't throw," Esiason said, according to USAToday.com. "I'm not here to insult him. The reality is he was a great college football player, maybe the greatest college football player of his time. But he's not an NFL quarterback right now. Just because he's God-fearing, and a great person off the field, and was a winner with the team that had the best athletes in college football, doesn't mean his game is going to translate to the NFL."
An unofficial Broncos PR campaign on Tebow's behalf followed, and talk of the 2010 first-round pick getting cut or traded has since subsided.
Earlier this month, Broncos Executive VP of Football Operations John Elway told ESPN, "[Tebow's] a great young man who is really working hard. But he didn't get an offseason to work on [playing from the pocket]. He didn't get much of that in college. And it's a completely different thing than the shotgun. Plus, he's only had the one season. But he's an amazing football player. I'd never give up on Tim Tebow."
At the time it sounded like a pretty crappy consolation prize for Tebow, who weeks before figured to open the season under center. But there's a very real chance that 2012 could provide Tebow with an opportunity to win quarterback job.
The nuts and bolts: Tebow is the only Broncos' quarterback under contract beyond 2011. In fact, he just cashed a $6 million bonus check from the organization so it's unlikely he'll be anywhere but Denver for the foreseeable future. Also helping his case for the starting gig, as explained by the Denver Post's Jeff Legwold:
"Failing to convince Orton to redo his current deal was one of the reasons a trade with the Dolphins fell through. Quinn is in the last year of the contract he signed as a rookie with Cleveland, and with his improved play he is itching for a chance to be a starter.
"Orton and Quinn are relatively young, with a chance to go into the open market in 2012. They would need pretty compelling reasons to pass up that potential financial windfall, which means the Broncos would likely have to dangle more-than-market value to them before that. That doesn't seem likely given the team's controlled approach in free agency. … The Broncos appear to be positioning themselves to let him learn this season and see what they can do with him in an offseason that doesn't include a lockout."
This means that our Tebow Tracker wasn't in vain, and more generally, the Broncos have every intention of bringing him along slowly and giving him an opportunity to be Denver's franchise quarterback. It's just not happening this year, which is for the best. Orton is clearly the better quarterback, and Tebow doesn't appear ready for full-time duty. If Philip Rivers can sit on the bench for two years, so can Tim.
And who knows, maybe by then his critics will have come around on the idea.
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