Monday, January 16, 2012


No matter what the pundits say about Tim Tebow -- hero or goat, bargain or bust -- the real dilemma for Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos begins now.  Tim Tebow has really led a life of 'the little engine that could'.  He's used to being told he can't do things, all the way from high school football and up.  He's used to hearing he can't.

But there was always some place to aim for that was higher than where he was.  There was college when he was in high school, there was the Heisman Trophy in college and the National Championship at Florida to prove he could do it again.  There's nowhere higher to aim for Tebow.  Now it's about keeping a job.  Now it's about sustaining a level of play that few believed he could attain.

Now there's a 45-10 loss in the NFL against an elite team that was fully healthy at the time the Broncos faced them.  There's a 9-for-26 for 132 yards passing performance that can't be explained away against what was the league's worst pass defense during the regular season.  That same defense held Tebow to five rushes for 13 yards.  Where the Steelers couldn't make a play on third down to get off the field, the Patriots allowed Denver's offense just 7-for-18 in third down conversions.  While people argue the significance of an entire 60 minutes of Tebow that resulted in the kind of performance T. J. Yates, Jimmy Clausen or even Matt Moore would be benched for, Tebow's next great challenge is upon him.

The media has crowned Tim Tebow their darling, lifting his name into the mainstream.  Lucrative endorsements are going to exponentially increase, and with his popularity, more and more money will pour into his Tim Tebow Foundation.  Tebow's generosity aside, now he faces the true challenge, keeping a job. 

His base salary this year was just over $1.65 million, with incentive bonuses based on the number of snaps he played and whether the team made the playoffs, etc.  No doubt this year he reached a good portion of those incentives, likely elevating his income to above $6 million dollars.  However, for him to really solidify himself, he has to play more than 55 percent of the time two of his first three seasons.  He managed that in 2011.  He HAS to attain that in 2012 or the Broncos could be off the hook as much as an extra $15 to $20 million. 

So the question will have to be asked, in addition to Tebow having to prove his worth repeatedly as most NFL quarterbacks do, why wouldn't Denver have every incentive to remove him from the starting job by Week Seven if his performance is even close to subpar, if for no other reason to than to fatten their pocketbooks?

Tebow's next great challenge is something he can't simply change by willing himself past it to the next level.  It's failure, in the sense that his likelihood of keeping a starting job with the numbers he's put up thus far is slim to none.  In the modern era of football, let's call that since 1970 to the present, only 14 quarterbacks started 20 or more games when posting 50% or less completion rate for their career.  The most recognized name on that list is at the top, Doug Williams, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter who eventually led the Redskins to a shocking Super Bowl victory.  Other recognizeable names include Joe Namath and Bobby Douglass, names for their era who had their share of press, but QBs that weren't mistaken as amazing.  Then their are those that ring true to more of us, Todd Blackledge, Heath Shuler and of course, Ryan Leaf.
Should Tebow be benched during the 2012 season, he faces losses of the kind few of us can fathom.  Not only would his income decrease from his lack of playing time, but likely endorsements would begin to fade away, and as the popularity of his name sinks off the sonar screen, it's very likely his foundation would be at risk for survival.  This time it's about a whole lot more than disproving critics and pundits.  It's about his livelihood.

Barring some freak injury, Tim Tebow is set to begin the 2012 season as the starter for the Denver Broncos.  What lies ahead is likely to be his toughest challenge.  Instead of unseating those ahead of him or disproving the doubters who said he can't, he faces a challenge of a different sort.

Staying where he is.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


ON GRASS1602301,84969.68.0459961095.7

For any other quarterback, completing nearly 70 percent of your passes at over eight yards for a QB rating near 100 would be phenomenal.  But when you consider that the Saints are still a pass first offense predicated on the ability to move the ball quickly through the air, seeing a breakdown that includes only nine touchdowns versus six interceptions and 10 sacks, shifts the entire balance of this game.  Passing offenses thrive even more on turf, a surface that is in part responsible for some of the amazing cuts and moves athletes perform as it is for their future knee injuries.  That lack of give provides greater advantages for the offense, with receivers rarely being pushed off their routes or falling down, leading to the kind of interceptions fan often gawk at in confusion.  Remember the greatest show on turf, Kurt Warner and Mike Martz's high flying offense in St. Louis?  If Drew Brees and company want to defeat the 49ers today, that stat line above can't includ a 3:2 TD:INT ratio.  The 49ers are the most opportunistic defense in the league having created 38 turnovers and the highest give/take ratio in the NFL of plus 28.  Brees will simply have to be better than he has been on the grass surface this year to take apart San Francisco, and as long as the 49ers can shake off a Bye week malaise and their youth, they will compete in this game fiercely.  I'm taking the points and the 49ers.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

SANTONIO HOLMES -- Steelers' actions don't lie

I'm an admitted Steelers homer and no doubt take great pride in being from the Steel City.  However, it amazes me that people won't recognize that one of the reasons the Steelers are where they are is they are willing, even against great criticisim, to cut the head off the snake before it grows into a dangerous sidewinder. 

Santonio Holmes was Super Bowl XLIII MVP after a fantastic final drive that culminated with his tiptoe grab of a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the corner of the end zone.  What should have been a great leap into super stardom for Holmes instead turned into a post-season head-scratcher for most.  The Steelers didn't sign or reward him, but instead traded him to the Jets in April for a fifth round pick. 

That's correct -- Pittsburgh accepted a fifth round pick for the Super Bowl MVP coming off a season of 79catches and 1,248 yards with five scores.  How could this be?  For most teams and their fans, this would have been considered a travesty.  Here's a talented and young former first round draft pick sent walking without the Steelers getting much in return (they traded the Pick to Arizona and re-acquired Bryant McFadden, so maybe much isn't a fair word here).  The Steelers also refused to sign WR Plaxico Burress following the 2004-2005 campaign, and subsequently went to and won Super Bowl XL without him.  That's not to say Burress himself wasn't a fine talent.  It's more a reflection that he wasn't exactly missed in the locker room a year after his departure.  A few years later he would shoot himself in the leg and end up in jail.  Two first round picks, both wide receivers, essentially jettisoned for little payback.

Call me a homer again, but time and time again the Steelers have seemingly been one step ahead of the league in recognizing a "problem" player and relinquishing him of his responsibilities.  Holmes' run-ins with the law are noteworthy, including his own admission to selling drugs during his teenage years. 

Now Holmes (and his attitude) is being blamed as a reason the Jets faltered.  While that may not be entirely fair, Holmes' problems of drug use, possession and spousal/girlfried abuse have seen him in police custody more than a few times.  His lack of professionalism during games and in post-game news conferences recently are reminiscent more of a ten-year-old than a soon-to-be 28-year-old.

It should be noted that when the Pittsburgh Steelers release someone of this magnitude, the NFL should perk up and pay attention.  This franchise has a low tolerance for bad behavior - heck, they almost cut Ben Roethlisberger in 2010 - and continues to be one of the few in the league who continues to stand by their ethics and morals in a day where management comes under heavy pressure and scrutiny almost daily.  This is just one of the reasons the Steelers are perennial Super Bowl contenders.