Thursday, November 17, 2011 Updated: November 18, 8:15 AM ET
Tim Tebow's magic doesn't make sense
By Ian O'Connor ESPNNewYork.com
DENVER -- As a professional football player, Tim Tebow makes no sense.
He is among the most unartful dodgers in NFL history, a god-awful quarterback for about nine-tenths of your average game before voila, just like that, he is magical enough to make a New York Jets season go poof in the night.
With 5:54 left and the Jets leading the Denver Broncos by a 13-10 count, Tebow stood as the worst player on the field. His own coaches had spent the game running away from him, making him hand off in third-down situations that screamed for a pass in a pass-happy league.
He was exactly what Darrelle Revis said he was -- a short-term option and a long-term bore. It didn't matter if Tebow was throwing to Eric Decker, or Brooklyn Decker, not with that amateur-hour windup of his overly muscled left arm.
But then it happened. Tebow stepped into his huddle, and he might as well have been the man upstairs. No, not Him. John Elway, the executive watching from his suite above.
"You could just tell he was very amped up, very emotional, but in control," Denver's Dante Rosario said of his quarterback. "You could tell he had that excitement in his eyes, like he knew what was about to happen."
Andre' Goodman, the cornerback who had intercepted a Mark Sanchez pass and returned it for a touchdown, Denver's only touchdown at that point, felt that unmistakable Tebow vibe near the bench.
"Everybody was kind of like, 'Watch this,'" Goodman said. "On the sideline, it felt like we knew something was going to happen."
Yes, Tebow had gone 3-1 in relief of the 1-4 Kyle Orton. But even in that prosperous four-game stretch, Tebow delivered long periods of unwatchable football.
He completed all of two passes against Kansas City. He looked like somebody's idea of a hoax in the loss against Detroit. He appeared hopelessly lost against Miami before, of course, finding his inner Gator in the nick of time.
But again Thursday night, Gainesville felt a million miles away. Rex Ryan, who had written a book -- or at least a chapter -- on defending the option, had the beleaguered option quarterback pinned against his own goal line.
A mere four nights after surrendering their divisional aspirations to New England, the Jets were about to go 6-4. They were about to re-establish their wild-card candidacy before Tebow morphed into a modern-day Red Grange.
"He did it," Revis said. "Tim Tebow did it. He shocked me. He probably shocked a lot of people, but he did it."
Tebow drove 95 yards in just under five minutes. He actually completed a few passes, including a huge 18-yarder to Rosario, and he ran right, left and down the middle against a Ryan defense that suddenly looked worse than Tebow did across the first 54 minutes.
Tim Tebow did the unthinkable again. This time, it came at the expense of the Jets.
On third-and-4, already in field goal range, Tebow finished the job Tom Brady started the other night. Ryan had badly mismanaged the clock throughout, but his all-out blitz against a severely limited passer with severely limited receivers was the one decision that really cut against the grain of common sense.
The Jets' attack only encouraged a dangerous runner to run. "I didn't necessarily want to throw up a jump ball because they were playing so far off," said Tebow, who read the blitz and realized that the safety flying in from his left, Eric Smith, had taken a tight angle to the pocket.
"I figured [Smith] wasn't going to think I was trying to get outside and escape," Tebow said.
So the NFL's reigning MPP -- Most Polarizing Player -- raced around Smith and down the sideline as if he was chasing another Heisman. Smith couldn't catch Tebow from behind, leaving the quarterback an open road to the end zone and the most improbable 5-5 record in sports.
Tebow was mobbed by his teammates as Elway, orchestrator of The Drive, stood and applauded in his suite. Tebow took a knee and struck his signature prayerful pose, and soon enough the Jets were running out of plays and out of time.
"You're always going to have naysayers," Tebow said. "I've had them since I was 7 years old trying to play quarterback at Lakeshore."
As Elway all but sprinted through the winning locker room, his chest bursting through his suit jacket, he said, "Just give him a chance to win the game." Asked what it was like to watch Tebow perform an endgame act he himself had mastered, Elway said, "It was great. Awesome."
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was heading for a different exit door when he stopped long enough to declare that Tebow would be his man for many moons to come.
"He's a quarterback, and believe me he's going to learn," Bowlen said. "I believe he'll be a great one. Better keep him around."
This is the same quarterback neither Elway nor the head coach, John Fox, seemed to want around. This is the same quarterback Fox said would be "screwed" if he had to run a conventional offense.
This is the same quarterback who just delivered the Jets a loss that wasn't as painful as the AFC title game defeat in this town in January 1999, but close enough.
At his own 5-yard line, season on the brink, Tebow initiated a hopeful dialogue in his huddle. "What you want is an opportunity like this, because this is an opportunity for greatness," Tebow said in describing the conversation. "As an offense, we haven't done anything this whole game, but we have an opportunity to do something special right now, and let's go out there and do it."
On that final drive, Tebow plowed through a soft arm-tackle attempt by Revis, who did indeed look bored, and ultimately landed the Broncos ahead of the Jets in the wild-card race.
No, none of it made any sense. Tebow is either the NFL's best bad player or worst good player, take your pick.
It didn't matter Thursday night. If Tim Tebow isn't going to the Super Bowl, he made sure the Jets aren't going, either.
Ian O'Connor is the author of "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." "Sunday Morning With Ian O'Connor" can be heard every Sunday, 9 to 11 a.m. ET on ESPN New York 1050.