John Elway may be a great recruiter, he may be a hall of famer, he may be a Super Bowl hero but he is also a big, fat fibber.
The Broncos’ vice-president of football operations told Tim Tebow he would be entering training camp as the Broncos’ starting quarterback.
But that was before Peyton Manning.
Not only will Tebow not be the starting quarterback, chances are, when training camp opens he won’t even be a Denver Bronco.
With the Broncos press conference Tuesday unveiling Manning as the quarterback of the future, it relegated Tebow to yesterday’s hero.
While Elway was publicly portraying Tebow as the club’s offensive leader, he was already forming an alliance with Manning and actively looking to trade Tebow. Reality is that Elway has never been comfortable with Tebow as a quarterback. He wasn’t comfortable with the unconventional NFL offence that was implemented to make Tebow a success. And, he wasn’t willing to wait and see if Tebow could develop a passing game to go with his impeccable running abilities.
Amid the public excitement of acquiring a future hall of famer, there were some calls Tuesday to let Tebow work as an understudy to Manning. “He’s a young man, right?” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said, arguing in favour of keeping Tebow. “And a year or two of working under John Elway and Peyton Manning, you know, I’m not sure any other quarterbacks around the country get that opportunity.”
Tebow is unlikely to get that opportunity, either. Even if Tebow was willing to step into the background, it’s unlikely Manning, or management, would want to start the season with Tebowmania lurking in the background with every loss, every missed pass, every broken passing route.
In the end, this is a divorce that was always inevitable.
”I wouldn’t say I feel bad for him,” Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers said. “It’s a business. And I’m pretty sure Tim understands that. We wish him luck, no matter what he does. I hope he’s here. He’s a great leader, a great locker room guy.”
But it will not be in Denver’s locker room. Not anymore.
Mike Klis of the Denver Post lists Billy Volek, Caleb Hanie, Matt Leinart, A.J. Feeley and Curtis Painter as options to become Manning’s backup.
For Tebow, there is speculation he is headed back to Florida, where he is a college legend, and where he is as ubiquitous as sun and surf, and more popular than string bikinis.
Monica Culpepper told 970-WFLA that Tebow isn’t surprised at his pending trade, or release. The wife of former NFL and Florida Gators player Brad Culpepper, who’s a friend of Tebow’s, said; “Brad and I just had dinner with Tim last week and I don’t think this comes as a shock or surprise to him that Manning was actually going to go there,” she said. “And in all honesty, Tim said, ‘I miss home. I miss the South. And hopefully I’ll land somewhere in Florida.’”
Tebow was a Heisman winner and national champion with the Gators. Jacksonville recently signed free agent Chad Henne, and they have Blaine Gabbert, who struggled last year as a rookie starter. So there are already calls in the local media, and on radio talk shows, encouraging new owner Shad Khan, to change direction again and make the deal to bring back Tebow.
From a business standpoint, it’s a can’t lose proposition for the Jaguars or the Dolphins. Miami has a season ticket base of about 40,000 but they sold 63,800 tickets when Tebow and the Broncos came to town. And, it wasn’t because everyone came out to boo owner Stephen Ross — although it was probably Plan B for a lot of folks.
Tebow’s legend is deeply ingrained at Sun Life Stadium. There was the greatest comeback in NFL history in that game against the Dolphins, erasing a 15-point deficit with less than three minutes to play. In 2009, he led the Gators to a national title there over Oklahoma. And, in 2005, he led his high school team to the state championship.
In Denver, Tebow saved the 2011 season, taking over a 1-4 team and carrying it to the playoffs with six comeback victories. In the playoffs, he threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime to beat the Steelers.
He won. But his overt religious zeal; his crummy passing statistics, poor footwork, elongated throwing motion and sub-par accuracy, provided his detractors — including those in the Broncos’ front office — with too much ammunition.
There was always a sense that Tebow would not be long for Denver; that his was a glory that would fade quickly.
So, to paraphrase a popular truism, when it comes to Tebow: One team’s garbage may become another team’s treasure.