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Both sides of Tim Tebow debate get their wish

Denver’s Tim Tebow runs and passes for scores against San Diego on Sunday to earn a start against Miami on Oct. 23.

Associated Press

Denver’s Tim Tebow runs and passes for scores against San Diego on Sunday to earn a start against Miami on Oct. 23.

For those who see Tim Tebow as a man of faith, this is good.

For those who prefer an infusion of Luck, this is good.

For those who think Tebow is a winner who surpasses his measurables, and for those who think he is a fullback masquerading as a quarterback, and for those who think he is a good man, and for those who think he is a bad quarterback, this is good.

Tebow is a starting quarterback again.

After all of the noise, soon we will begin to find out the truth of the NFL's loudest debate.

And isn't it about time?

Tebow, revered and reviled, canonized and castigated, admired and admonished, is Denver's new starting quarterback.

Good for him and bad for his critics.

It's either that, or it's the other way around.

Regardless, it is time to find out about Tebow. It does not matter if you are among the many loud fans who love Tebow, who think he can heal the Broncos' lame offense with his touch, who think he is capable of winning two Super Bowls between now and the end of the season. It does not matter if you are among the many loud fans who loathe him, who think he will soon be exposed as a college player but nothing more, who think his presence signals surrender. It is time for more evidence.

What else did you have planned for a week from Sunday?

He is a fascinating study, Tebow. There might never have been a more polarizing guy who has played less in the history of the NFL. Rarely has a player had more loyal, more voluminous fans, fans who believe Tebow's intangibles will overcome any wobbly pass he might throw. And rarely has a player had more vicious, more gleeful critics who seem to enjoy pointing out the wobbles.

Both sides, we may assume, will search for new evidence when the ex-Gator starts at Miami after this week's bye.

It is time to begin to find out who is right. Granted, there have been quarterbacks who put up bigger arguments on their way to taking over the starting job. Last week, Tebow hit only 4 of 10 passes, and although the second-year player made the score closer, the Broncos eventually lost to San Diego.

If you are the Broncos, however, the alternative is another afternoon of watching Kyle Orton leading the troops to nowhere. Agreed, there is still much we do not know about Tebow, but we have Orton down pat. He is one of those quarterback who plays just good enough to keep his job but not allow the head coach to keep his. He has won 33 games and lost 33 games, and his lifetime rating is 79.4.

Bless him or blame him, and there rarely has been a reasonable discussion, it's Tebow time.

This time, all he has to do is look better than the Dolphins' Matt Moore. If you are talking about degree of difficulty, that doesn't take a miracle.

You can bet on this: There has never been a quarterback, not even in the Super Bowl, whose performance will be picked apart more thoroughly than Tebow's will be. Jon Gruden? Ron Jaworski? Trent Dilfer? Win or lose, good or bad, those guys are going to be CSI: Bristol.

All of that is totally fair, of course. Other criticism might not be. When I wrote about the noise over Tebow back in August, I was deluged with e-mail. Some of it suggested anyone who criticized Tebow was criticizing organized religion. Some of it ripped Tebow over perceived arrogance and suggested he had made statements that he had not made. No one talked about a quarterback trying to adjust to the NFL version of the game.

For all of those people, too, it is time for Tebow to play.

The thing is, even if the Broncos lose, they can't lose. If the critics are right about Tebow, if his skills simply don't translate to the NFL level, it puts the Broncos in the race for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Faith or Luck? Which do you prefer?

Me? I'd like to be a Tebow guy. Yes, I've seen the big windup on his deep passes, and I've seen the hitch, and I have heard all about his inaccuracy during Broncos practices. I know that when a quarterback runs as often as Tebow does, the linebackers are going to start bringing steak sauce for the pileups.

I also know this. There are intangibles to Tebow. There is such a thing as players who perform better in games than in practices. There is such a thing as spark and focus and making a big play at the big time.

Now that Tebow has a shot, he gets to prove he has all of that. Certainly, Miami's defense (ranked 28th in the NFL) will give him that chance.

Who knows? Maybe greatness starts here. Maybe Tebow will energize his team. Maybe he will bring the Broncos back to respectability and beyond. Perhaps he will play well enough, hard enough to win over his critics and quiet the debate. Maybe he can mean prosperity and peace.

Of course, that would take a miracle.

Both sides of Tim Tebow debate get their wish 10/13/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 14, 2011 7:28am]

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