As the Denver Broncos stagger away from one of the worst playoff thrashings in NFL history, they may take a moment to peer into the dim mists of recent history and ask how they could be blindsided 45-10. Fortunately we have a terrific cultural artifact already whipped up by the always-frothy Woody Paige of the Denver Post. It’s nary a week old, and yet already seems like it was handed down from another era. After TIM TEBOW and the Denver Broncos beat injury-riddled Pittsburgh, old Woody wrote:
Who’s your quarterback, Denver?
Timmy Tremendous threw for a career-best 316 yards and two touchdowns (with no interceptions), and ran for 50 yards and a touchdown to lead the Broncos to their first playoff victory in six years. For all the nay-sayers and horse whisperers, Tebow will be the Broncos’ quarterback next weekend, next season and probably next decade. …
In a season of marvels and miracles, the Magical Mystery Tour of the Broncos goes on.
And Tim Tebow caused time to stand still.
Time stood still, all you horse-whisperers! Say nay to that!
Old Woody was still riding the sugar high of the Pittsburgh game when, a few days later, he wrote:
Tim Tebow is the Broncos’ quarterback.
As during the Elway Era, the scrutiny of, and spotlight on, Tebow will persist, but he’s here to stay. The search by Elway for a long-term successor to Elway is over.
Oh, but then Tebow went out and Tebowed with what by all objective observation was a terrible game of quarterbacking against the Pats. (Frankly every aspect of the Denver Broncos fell apart against the Patriots, with the occasional exception Willis McGahee and the running game.) Tebow attempted 26 passes, of which 9 were caught. That looked a little like his 10-for-21 day against the Steelers, except that the Steelers somehow managed to give up more than 300 yards on those 10 little completions. The Patriots gave up 136, which is more in line with what an NFL defense can be expected to give up when a quarterback throws footballs that blooper around like balloons with the air raspberrying out of them.
When Tebow fans, Paige included, make sweeping statements about how Tebow will be the Broncos’ quarterback for the next decade, they tend to omit the part where he disappears into the mountains for a spell and learns to throw. Not to lead, not to make good decisions — but to throw a hard, accurate spiral that arrives in the hands of receivers as they run. This is such an elemental skill to being a professional quarterback that it hardly seems worth mentioning, except that when professional bloviators such as Paige find an excuse to add a verse to the Book of Tebow they don’t qualify their prognostications. This year Tebow had a quarterback rating of 72.9, which isn’t dreadful for a quarterback making his first meaningful string of starts. But it was only good for 27th in the league, right between Colt McCoy and Rex Grossman. For a playoff team, a quarterback so faulty at quarterbacking was an aberration; the teams with the top 10 QBs by passer rating all made the playoffs. Only Tebow and Joe Flacco (18th) led teams to the postseason without being elite quarterbacks. For as misleading as individual stats can be in a team sport, the correlation between passer rating and wins is still high enough to justify its value.
Paige may be right. Tebow may start the next 100 games for the Broncos at quarterback. Pardon my skepticism for believing that’s about as likely as McCoy starting the next 100 games for the Browns. But there are going to be some rough patches, maybe years’ worth. Riding Timmy Tremendous for the rest of this Magical Mystery Tour will require brass ones from Denver’s front office, Elway included. They cannot falter in the way that, oh, say, Paige seems to have after the Pats blowout. After Saturday’s game, new Woody wrote:
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. —Whoa.
The wild ride of Tim Tebow and the Broncos has been stopped cold. …
Throughout, Tebow looked more lost than found. And the Broncos as a whole were “not up to par,” coach John Fox said. They weren’t up to playing.
Tom Brady wannabe Tim Tebow couldn’t begin to be anything like the Patriots’ extraordinary quarterback Saturday night. He suffered in comparison and in the deep freeze.
Brady completed his first eight passes and was 26-of-34 overall for 363 yards and a half dozen — yes, six — touchdowns. Tebow was 9-of-26 for 136 yards, no touchdown and no life.
“Tom Brady wannabe”? How quickly the coat turns. But at least Paige has “probably the next decade” to make it back onto the Tebow bandwagon, and a helluva lot can happen in 10 years. Maybe another playoff win, even.