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Broncos' 'hope' hinges on Tebow making strides with passing

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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John Elway at the combine, on Tim Tebow: 'He's going to do everything he can to get better.' (US Presswire)  
John Elway at the combine, on Tim Tebow: 'He's going to do everything he can to get better.' (US Presswire)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Denver Broncos make no promises about quarterback Tim Tebow, but at least the team's executive vice president of football operations, Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, said, "We're hoping he's going to be the guy for a long, long time."

But read the fine print. The key word there is "hoping."

What Elway told us Friday morning at the scouting combine was what we already know: That until or unless Tim Tebow improves as a passer, the Broncos will temper their commitment to him.

For the moment, they're pledged to Tebow, and that's a start. But they should be. He was 8-5 as a starter ... delivered the team its first division title in six years ... led the club to five come-from-behind victories ... won Denver's first playoff game since the 2005 season ... and beat the defending conference champion in the playoffs.

That should count for something, and it does. Tebow will return to the team's training camp as its starter, and I don't care who they draft or sign, he's the unchallenged No. 1 ... for now.

But that's where Elway hedged his bets, and listen carefully, folks. What he says is that Tebow must improve as a passer ... or else. He didn't exactly put it that way, but that's the way it is.

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"There are things that we have to get him to do within our offense to be more successful as an offense," said Elway. "Tim's strengths are that he's able to run the football, he's a big guy, physical and he likes to run it.

"I think [offensive coordinator] Mike McCoy and the offensive staff did a tremendous job trying to play to Tim's strengths. We'll continue to do that, but we also want to see strides in Tim and his ability to get better in throwing the ball down the field from in the pocket.

"We just feel that's something we have to do to get better as an offense; to be able to add that threat there. It makes everything else he does that much better."

I get that. But I also get that Tebow did something Jay Cutler -- who can get the ball down the field -- failed to accomplish in his three years as a starter in Denver, which is to produce a winning record, put the Broncos in the playoffs and win a playoff game.

And he did all that in his first season as the full-time starter.

But the Broncos are skeptical, and that's clear when you listen to Elway. The club has one quarterback other than Tebow, and that's someone named Adam Weber, so it doesn't take a genius to figure two others will be added before training camp -- with the smart money on a draft pick and veteran (Brady Quinn?). But tell me what veteran wants to go somewhere he could wind up as Public Enemy No. 1 if he were to supplant Tebow.

Maybe that's one reason the Broncos are reserved about the future.

The other is more obvious. As Elway said, the club wants improvement in Tebow's passing, with the emphasis on mechanics, and Tebow has gotten the message. He's working out at UCLA with Noel Mazzone, the Bruins' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and Mazzone's son, hoping to improve on last year's performance, when he completed 46.5 percent of his passes.

Tebow was joined there last week by San Diego's Philip Rivers, Minnesota's Christian Ponder and Arizona State prospect Brock Osweiler, with the Denver quarterback focused on refining mechanics that have been dissected -- OK, torched -- by critics since the Broncos made him a first-round draft choice.

"I know he's going to do everything he can to get better," Elway said.

That's because he must.

"We're happy with his year last year," Elway said. "He added a great spark for us, and we really had some good things happen for us. I was real happy with his progress."

But neither he nor the Broncos will be satisfied unless there's more.

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