That news will certainly prompt the anti-Tebow camp to complain wildly, that the Broncos are forever putting themselves in a hole.
However, Elway is not committing to Tebow for the rest of his career. Monday’s announcement doesn’t ensure Tebow will be the Broncos’ quarterback for the rest of the decade. It simply gives him the opportunity to earn it.
All Denver truly is doing is committing to Tebow for the 2012 season. For a player who had had 16 career starts and who has shown both promising and alarming signs, that’s all he can expect. Sticking with Tebow in 2012 is a better option that trying to develop a rookie or finding a stop-gap veteran option. If Tebow doesn’t become a consistent NFL passer in 2012, then Denver can look for a long-term answer elsewhere.
The following are things Tebow and the Broncos have to accomplish to make sure Tebow is the long-term answer in Denver:
Take advantage of the offseason: This will be Tebow’s first full offseason in the NFL. It will be paramount to his future success. Monday, Elway reiterated that he will work with Tebow in the offseason. Elway said he is not as worried about Tebow’s release as he is with his foot work, drops and timing. That is what Tebow will concentrate on this spring and summer.
Tebow’s 13 starts in 2011 were borne out of survival. He wasn’t given much time to work on his own game. Saving the season was the mission. Thus, I think the hard-working Tebow will benefit from stepping back and working on his game with Denver coaches in the offseason without any urgency. He had enough good games passing the ball this past season to show he can succeed. The offseason will give him time to hone his game.
Evolve the offense: The Broncos used a few versions of the option offense. The team must spend the offseason marrying the option and a more traditional offense. Teams were catching up to the Broncos. In a 45-10 divisional playoff loss to New England, the Broncos had 14 negative plays. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the most negative plays any NFL offense had this season. Denver was 1-4 in its past five games and Tebow’s production slid in the losses. The Broncos have to work to keep ahead of defenses. If Denver trots outs the same offense next year, it will be halted much like the Wildcat was in Miami.
Cut down on turnovers: Whether Tebow improves as a passer and whether Denver makes offensive adjustments, a Tebow-led offense won’t succeed with him turning over the ball. The Broncos won with Tebow when he displayed great ball security. They failed when he didn’t.
Tebow had 13 fumbles in his 11 starts (with six lost fumbles) in the regular season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Tebow led the NFL both in fumbles and fumbles lost over the final 11 weeks of the regular season. He has to learn to hold onto the ball better. Denver can’t go into another season with Tebow being so prone to losing the ball.
Find another running back: Willis McGahee, who turned 30 during the season, was one of the best free-agent signings in the NFL. He ran for 1,199 yards in the regular season and he made the Tebow-offense go. This offense must be a run-first offense. The fact that Denver had the No. 1 ranked rushing offense in the NFL helped Tebow immensely. He’ll need more help. With McGahee aging, and dealing with several nicks this season and 2009 No. 12 overall pick Knowshon Moreno coming off a major knee injury and not expected to be a major factor for Denver, it must bring in another top running back to protect Tebow. Whether Denver signs a free agent such as Oakland’s Michael Bush in free agency or spends an early draft pick on a rusher like Miami’s Lamar Miler or Virginia Tech’s David Wilson, Denver needs to address this area.
Improve defense: The Denver defense made great strides in 2011 after being the worst defense in the NFL in 2010. Denver wouldn’t have made the playoffs in 2011 if it weren’t for the defense. Yet, it was crystal clear in Saturday's loss at New England, that the Denver defense still has work to do. Tebow may have fourth-quarter magic, but he isn’t the type of player to overcome falling way behind early. Denver needs a few more impact players on defense to ensure it doesn’t get blown out in 2012.
Tebow needs to make his own improvement in 2012 to make Elway’s commitment to him work out, but the rest of the Denver roster needs to be improved to help Tebow as well.