Memo to Broncos fans: Give Tebow time to develop

by | Senior NFL Columnist

Tim Tebow combines plenty of unharnessed talent with an unquenchable thirst to improve. (Getty Images)  
Tim Tebow combines plenty of unharnessed talent with an unquenchable thirst to improve. (Getty Images)  

With six minutes left in Monday night's loss to Oakland, disgruntled Denver fans started calling for a new quarterback, but it wasn't backup Brady Quinn they wanted. It was Tim Tebow.

They urged new coach John Fox to do what his predecessor, Josh McDaniels, did a year ago and run the former Heisman Trophy winner on to the field and into the huddle.

Only Fox refused, and good for him. Better yet, good for Tim Tebow.

Because hard as it may be to swallow, Denver, Tebow's only chance of making it in the NFL is through careful study, hard work and, yep, a lot of sitting.

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When Tebow appeared at the annual NFL scouting combine last year, I remember GMs and player personnel directors telling me how he absolutely, positively had no chance at the next level if he didn't go somewhere he could sit and learn.

They suggested places like Indianapolis and New England, where starting quarterbacks were entrenched, the teams were successful and Tebow was not on the clock. There would be no pressure to play because neither Peyton Manning nor Tom Brady was going away -- at least not then -- so Tebow could do what was right and necessary.

Which was to take his time developing.

Well, guess what? That's what he's doing now, much to the consternation of his critics and supporters. Critics charge Tebow's demotion is a reflection of who Tim Tebow really is, a gifted young man who was overdrafted and not equipped to play quarterback in the NFL.


His supporters counter that's not so; that he proved he could handle the job when he started last year and will only improve the more he plays ... if, that is, he plays. I mean, if Michael Vick can take his game to the top, why can't Tim Tebow?

Because he's not ready, that's why, and it's time both sides understand.

The Broncos and their head coach have Tim Tebow doing what he must, which is to stop, look and listen. Tebow has a raft of talent, no one questions that, but it's unharnessed. He also has an unquenchable thirst to improve. Anyone who watches Denver practice can attest to that, too.

So Denver is trying to combine the two, hoping that maybe, just maybe, it can make an NFL quarterback out of someone a lot of NFL people believe wasn't ... and won't ever be ... NFL ready.

They charge that there's just too much there to fix. His delivery. His footwork. His accuracy. Let him run the Wildcat, they suggest, or use him at tight end ... H-back ... heck, running back ... anything but quarterback because his game doesn't translate to the pros. Never did. Never will.

But that's precisely what fans love about the guy. He's different. He's unpredictable. Yes, he makes big mistakes. But he makes big plays, too. And it's that uncertainty fans love. That and Tebow's ability to energize the people around him.

Hey, Denver put up no fewer than 23 points last season in each of the three games he started, and it caught Houston from behind, with Tebow scoring the winning touchdown on a 6-yard run.

Tim Tebow is dynamic. He is charismatic. He is talented. And he wins. But if he's going to have a chance in this league it won't be rushing on to the field; it will be by studying others and waiting for the right opportunity.

When Tebow entered the draft, scouts insisted he needed, one, maybe two, possibly three years of patient handling before stepping into a huddle. And even then, they weren't sure he could make it. Well, this just in: the Broncos are listening. They pushed him back so he's not in line as the next quarterback. They're trying to do for Tebow what McDaniels should have done a year ago.

Which is to be patient.

That's not easy when you're dealing with a first-round pick, and it's more difficult when his name is Tim Tebow. But what is best for this guy is waiting for the right time, and the right time is not now. Tebow remains too unpolished and too unrefined for the pro game, and one bad experience could sabotage years of development.

The Broncos invested a high draft choice in Tim Tebow. They invested a lot of money, too. So they will give him a chance to prove he belongs -- and they're giving it to him right now by holding him back.

I know, John Fox didn't give the people what they wanted Monday. But he's doing something better. He's giving Tim Tebow what he needs.


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