While I admit I have been a big fan of his since his freshman season at Florida, I have tried to maintain objectivity when forming an opinion on Tim Tebow’s pro potential. Upon his arrival in Denver, unlike some of my fellow Florida fans, I did not automatically believe that he would be the second coming of John Elway. At the same time, I also disagree with a number of analysts (see Merril Hoge) who dismiss the notion that Tebow can have even the slightest amount of success in the NFL.
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, and given the fact that the former Gator has only played a handful of games against professional competition, no one outside the Broncos organization should make any kind of sweeping statements at this time (Merril Hoge obviously disagrees).
All this said, it is in Denver’s best interest to start Tebow at quarterback in 2011.
Coming from Urban Meyer’s spread-option at Florida, Tebow has had minimal experience in a pro style offense in actual game situations. The transition from college to the NFL is difficult for any quarterback, but this is especially true when the player comes from a system in which even basic things like taking a snap from under center are virtually foreign.
The debate as to whether a young quarterback is best served playing early or sitting on the bench and learning is a different issue for a different day, and there is enough evidence to make a case for either side (Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers come to mind). With a player like Tebow, however, there is a clear cut answer, as actual game experience would be invaluable, and considerably more useful than practice reps and holding a clipboard on gameday.
Of course, from an organizational standpoint, taking this approach would almost certainly mean another losing season for Denver, as Tebow would face the difficulties all young quarterbacks inherently must deal with.
Still, starting Tebow would benefit Denver in the long run, as even if the worst case scenario is a reality and Tebow is not an adequate NFL quarterback, playing him would make this fact evident, allowing the Broncos to move on, as opposed to letting the question linger.
Right now, it is hard to deny Kyle Orton, the established and consistent veteran currently sitting atop the Broncos’ depth chart, gives the team the best chance to win games right now. At the same time, it is equally difficult to see Denver being a legitimate contender in 2011, so the franchise should use what will likely be a rebuilding year to see what it has in Tebow.
Sooner or later, Denver must decide whether Tebow is truly their quarterback of the future, and practice and preseason reps can only go so far towards determining this. Starting Orton this season will ultimately only delay this process, leaving Denver with the same questions it now faces heading into 2012.