The Tim Tebow drama continues — it’s the cover story on Sports Illustrated this week — but the Denver Broncos still need to look for a real quarterback in the draft next April.
Most of Tebow’s famed comebacks have come in low-scoring games such as Sunday’s 13-10 overtime win over the Chicago Bears. Caleb Hainie, playing because of a season-ending injury to Jay Cutler, is an even worse quarterback than Tebow. If Cutler had been playing, or if the Bears had one of the standout rookie quarterbacks like Cam Newton or Andy Dalton, they would have won by at least a couple of touchdowns.
The only high-scoring games Tebow has won have come against the Minnesota Vikings, 2-11 for the season, and the Raiders.
I was at that win over the Raiders, and Oakland was at their undisciplined worst. Instead of staying put, defensive players were moving to where they thought a play was going. The result: Huge holes for Tebow and running back Willis McGahee.
The option offense Denver runs is similar to the old single wing — run on the West Coast by Frank Gifford with the 1951 USC Trojans and Paul Cameron with the 1954 UCLA Bruins. The split-T, a run-first offense, had a brief run — Cal went to the Rose Bowl with that system, run by Joe Kapp, in the 1958 season. The veer and wishbone offenses, also emphasizing running, had their moments, mostly with Southwestern teams.
But both the NFL and colleges now run offenses that emphasize passing. Even past NFL quarterbacks who were outstanding runners, such as Steve Young and Randall Cunningham, were also excellent passers. On his way to the Hall of Fame, Young set a Super Bowl record with five touchdown passes.
The quarterback Tebow most resembles is Bobby Douglass, who had an 11-year career, starting in 1969. Douglass rushed for 968 yards in 14 games in 1972, a quarterback record which stood for 34 years.
But passing? In the cliché of the day, Douglass could throw the ball through a brick wall. Unfortunately, he might not even hit it. He finished his career with a completion percentage mark well below .500, with 36 touchdowns, 64 interceptions and a 48.5 quarterback rating.
That’s the direction Tebow is heading. He’s an excellent runner, averaging 5.5 yards a carry. But he’s only completing 48.5 percent of his passes in an era when top quarterbacks complete 60 percent or more.
Tebow’s future seems to be at running back, where he could use his primary talent, much as Paul Hornung, a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Notre Dame, switched to running back with the Green Bay Packers and made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But the Broncos will make the playoffs this year with Tebow as quarterback, mostly because of the collapse of the Raiders and Chargers in the AFC West, so it will be hard to move Tebow.
Meanwhile, NFL defensive coordinators will be looking at video of Denver games and they will come up with a way of stopping the Denver running game, I guarantee you.
If the Broncos don’t have a quarterback to replace Tebow, they’ll be the ones seeking divine guidance, not Tebow.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.