Desperate times call for … Tim Tebow?

Everything about the Carson Palmer deal -- the Raiders giving up a 2012 first-round draft pick and another potential first-rounder in 2013, this for a 31-year-old quarterback whose résumé includes a "retirement" holdout and knee and elbow procedures -- smacks of desperation.

Pure, unadulterated desperation.

Frantic, awesome, entertaining, season-changing, good-for-the-soul, can't-wait-to-see-whether-this-thing-blows-up desperation.

May it never wane.

Let's face it, sports get fun when competitive people get a little ragged. Desperate teams do crazy things, and sometimes those crazy things turn out to be the inspired measures that alter franchise destinies.

Or, to put it another way: Maybe Tim Tebow really is that good, and maybe he is about to embark on a stunning NFL career that shatters the stereotypes about his game. On the other hand, maybe Tebow is about to prove definitively that Josh McDaniels was cuckoo to draft him 25th overall last year.

Maybe Elway, Fox and Friends are turning over the reins to Tebow because he represents their best option to win. But maybe, as the darkest corners of the ballroom whisper, they're throwing Tebow out there (without the just-traded Brandon Lloyd, by the way) in a sink-or-swim mode, thinking he'll fail and the mania around him will finally abate.

Both are weird enough to be fascinating as concepts. But without the Denver Broncos already mired in a desperate state this season, we'd be deprived of the sensational entertainment of finding out, beginning right now.

Let me personalize that: I now have a reason to watch the 1-4 Broncos play the 0-5 Dolphins this weekend.

God bless you, desperation.

That borderline that teams cross, bad teams and good teams both ... it's the line that separates reasonable, prudent and often uninteresting decision-making from the true risk-taking that shakes up the sports world. The Raiders are a good team that nevertheless made a desperate move to close out a deal for Palmer, and they did so for all the right reasons, regardless of whether time and detail suggest they overpaid.

Oakland got out to a 4-2 start in coach Hue Jackson's inaugural season, and the Raiders did it with Jason Campbell behind center. Save for a memorably nasty interception against New England, Campbell ran the offense well enough that the playoffs were swinging into view for a franchise that hasn't seen them in nearly a decade. Then a broken collarbone last weekend put him on the shelf.

What to do? The Raiders could have tried to muddle through with backup Kyle Boller. Instead, Jackson, acting as de facto GM in the wake of Al Davis' passing, ramped up the risk factor and dealt prime future draft choices to Cincinnati for the idling Palmer.

That is desperation, but of a different sort. It's a lunge toward keeping a good thing going. Not every team that takes an outrageous chance is doing so because it can't think of anything else to do. Sometimes, franchises are desperate to maintain momentum.

If the Tennessee Titans wind up courting Terrell Owens, well, the Titans are in a surprisingly winnable position in their division, resurgent behind quarterback Matt Hasselbeck but still looking for a reasonable facsimile of injured receiver Kenny Britt. Pursuing a 37-year-old, balky-kneed T.O. might strike some other franchise as desperate -- sort of like the Vikings throwing Christian Ponder into his rookie debut against the undefeated Green Bay Packers. But in both cases, it might just be lightning in a bottle.

Sometimes, of course, desperation just looks and sounds ridiculous. (See files on the Big East and Big 12 conferences, among others in the NCAA's bizarre game of musical chairs.) But too often, we rush in to give the notion of desperate measures a bad rap. The Redskins turning over the QB job to John Beck might sound reactionary after Rex Grossman's four-interception belly-buster last weekend; the other way to look at this is that Washington, despite everything, is 3-2 in the NFC East, with a chance to surprise people. The Redskins are trying hard not to blow a decent thing.

Watching the World Series on Wednesday, I was reminded that a year ago, the San Francisco Giants rode the exploits of theretofore unheralded Cody Ross to the NLCS title over a stunned Philadelphia team. Ross, who clubbed two home runs off Roy Halladay in Game 1, was voted MVP of the series. He batted .350.

How did Ross wind up in San Francisco? Easy: In August of that season, the Giants were so desperate to prevent the NL West front-running San Diego Padres from adding Ross to their roster that they placed a waiver claim on him even though they had no intention of actually using him much. Of such a stab-in-the-dark moment was a championship born.

That's not to say that Tebow is suddenly destined for greatness, or that Palmer can walk out of his self-imposed hiatus and immediately propel the Raiders to playoff glory. But the NFL just got more interesting. You can thank good old desperation for that.

Mark Kreidler is a longtime contributor to ESPN.com. His book, "The Voodoo Wave," is in international release. His work, "Six Good Innings," was named a Top 10 Sports Book by Booklist. Reach him at mark@markkreidler.com.