The TEBOW REVOLUTION and Denver’s professional football front office management

Living in Denver, you can’t escape being shrouded in “orange and blue”.  It’s literally in the water out here, in the sunrise and sunsets, in the early hints of fall as the leaves start to change and the temperature begins to drop.  You drive as far east as Kansas & Missouri before you run into the “hated” Chiefs, and then head southwest some 913 miles before finding the Phoenix Cardinals.  The Denver Broncos dominate the Rocky Mountains; north & south up I-25, east & west across I-70.

Fans are as “passionate and diehard” as you’ll find in the NFL.  Many have grown up in the region, weaned on “Orange Crush” and the “Mile HighSalute”.  Transplants jumped on the “bandwagon” in the glory years of the mid 90’s and adopted the “horse head” as their own.  They’re a vocal and noisy group, both in and out of Sports Authority Field.  They’ll wait some 45 minutes to express 2 minutes of opinion on SportsTalk radio, or write a 5 page dissertation in the Comments section of the Denver Post.

High expectations

Fanatically loyal?  No doubt.  Obsessively spoiled?  Without question.  This group has taken success for granted almost twenty-five years.  Much of it built around a “yellow jacketed” QB, two “iron-fisted dictators” and five Super Bowl appearances.  Double digit wins and annual playoff trips don’t get it done on the “front range”.  This town demands perfection; by its fans, by its media and from itself.

I lived it for over sixteen years and have not seen Bronco fans as “anxious and agitated” as they’ve been the past few months.  It started with the 25th pick of the 1st round in the 2010 draft – QB TIM TEBOW, FLUN.

It’s all the rage

I’ve done my best to separate from the Bronco organization since leaving in the spring of ’08.  “Ugly breakups” can do that.  But this TEBOW issue seems to be pulling me back into a “predominantly orange” cloud.  People demand to know, “Why isn’t TEBOW our QB?  Why isn’t he the starter?  What are they thinking in Dove Valley?  Play him or trade him!  Why spend a first round pick on a backup?”  Local radio interviews, national publication requests, twitter inquiries and television talk shows.  I didn’t even draft the guy.

TEBOW’s popularity stems from a personality that fits what this town wants from its next“quarterback hero”; competitive, tough, smart, grounded, a winner.   They see themselves in #15 and willingly pay $135 dollars for his Bronco jersey to prove it.  Yep, the Denver Broncos are caught between a “belly and barrel”.  EFX (Elway, Fox, Xanders) have to feel like the court of King Louis XVI during the French Revolution.  Only in this case it’s the fans and not the masses carrying the torches.

Just answer the question

I’m asked time and again, “What would you do if you were General Manager, in charge of football player personnel?”, and this is how I answer;

EFX is tasked with both winning now and building a foundation for winning in the future.  Because of never before seen “futility” last season, there is heavy internal/external pressure to show immediate progress.  But EFX can’t succumb.

Fans and media tend to forget we “don’t see what is seen” inside the walls of Dove Valley.  We don’t watch a complete practice, record the passing efficiency, review the resulting tape over and over again.  We’re not privy to the answers in the classroom, the demeanor up and down the halls of the facility.  We don’t know the “locker room” reaction; what they perceive, who they support.  We’re not aware of game plan “understanding”, the ability to “check off” at the line.

Final assessment

It’s my assumption that because of short term demands and long term goals, EFX is doing what they feel is the best solution to achieve the former, while still assessing the latter.  That is to say TIM TEBOW would be the starting QB if he gave them the best chance to win “now”.  Until there is enough confidence he provides them with that opportunity, EFX owes it to the other 52 to play the quarterback that does.

NFL players are too smart to try and pull something over on them.  I saw it happen when Jay Cutler was given Jake Plummer’s team before he’d earned it.  This was the “beginning of the end” for Shanahan and he too was shown the “guillotine”.

So EFX walks a “tight rope” of patience and hopes they can hold off the masses from storming the “walls of Dove Valley”.  Viva la Denver Broncos!

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  1. Saying that Shanahan starting Cutler was the beginning of the end for him is ridiculous!

    Plummer was playing as bad as any QB in the NFL in 2006, and Cutler performed well when he was inserted in the lineup. He went on to have two great years in Denver before the coach who is not worthy to be mentioned began dismantling the franchise.

    The problem was the defense! You, of all people should know this Ted.

    • Ted Sundquist Ted Sundquist says:

      I hear you, but not all things are necessarily decided on the field. I’m speaking of management and the handling of internal situations. These things ALL have an effect on a football team.

  2. It seems to me that EFX have a vision to how the Broncos need to play now and in the future and what comes with that is a particular type of QB. Whilst he is not a perfect fit I think EFX see Orton as the best fit for their system right now not just to help them win but also help the other members of the roster develop into that system. This is the 1st year of that transition to their way of playing the game and they cant waste a year to find out if one player might fit that way of playing if it is to the detriment of the rest of the roster.

    In my mind this gives Tebow, at best, until next years draft to prove to EFX that he is the type of QB that can play the way they want him to play. If he cant then he becomes expendable if he does develop into the QB they want and they view him as good as anyone else around then they should stick with him.

    EFX responsibility is making the Denver Broncos the best team they possibly can and they are in the best position to make calls on how players fit their way of playing, because as you say they have the means to evaluate that better than any fan. The Broncos fans need to be patient and judge EFX on how this team develops in the years to come not necessarily on how this team plays from week to week.

  3. Tebow will never learn to fit Fox’s scheme. He is ‘standing around all day’. Quinn is QB’ing the scout team. The WR coach (Gase) must be coaching the …WR’s? If Orton AND Quinn are injured I wouldn’t be surprised to see Weber, after all Elway told his pal Silver, Tebow was the 4th best QB on the team. Some development plan going on there.
    Great way to stab Tebow in the back Elway.

    So, ‘no offers for Tebow’? Not sure I believe that but-cut him!!!! He’s taking up a roster spot or he’s the 4th string emergency WR. Oh, and take his picture off the season ticket promotional brochure, that’s false advertising.

    • Ted Sundquist Ted Sundquist says:

      If the Bronco front office has truly made up there mind about Tebow’s future in Denver, then they are protecting the interest/reputation of the club at the moment. Not that that’s the right thing to do, but no one is willing to admit a “mistake” was made by drafting him in the first round. More a PR move than a football one.

      • I disagree. The Broncos were ready to go with Tebow back in TC, then the trade fell through and they saw how much Tebow had regressed during the lockout. People need to stop freaking out over Tebow not being named the starter. He will benefit more by sitting this year and working on developing as a backup than to be starting and having to concentrate on playing games week in and week out.

        Then again, its up to Tebow to prove himself by the time 2012 rolls around. If he is still a long way off – that is when the Broncos may move in another direction. Just my opinion of course. If they have already made up their minds about Tebow then I think its a terrible mistake considering how much progress Tebow had made by the end of last season….

  4. The problem with “win now” is that they aren’t going to win right now with Orton. Broncos fans see a bad team that needs dynamic playmaking ability at the quarterback position, not a game manager. Not to mention the fans are asked to be “all in” behind a QB who is a free agent the end of the season. This team simply doesn’t have the personnel yet to play great defense, run the ball well and protect an immobile quarterback when it counts.

  5. Thanks for the insight — and a lot of great years. I agree Tim isn’t ready to start. But what’s your perspective on his long term prospects — can he be a successful QB in the NFL? And do you think EFX believe in him? Rumors abound that they are not impressed, that the FO is leaking rumors about poor practices, etc. to prepare a smitten fanbase for yet another PR disaster. Bottom line: will Tebow ever be The Man in Denver? Thanks!

  6. You are quite right. Shanny’s impatience (fed by fans flurry over Cutler) led to his downfall – though I think losing Al Wilson also played a role in his eventual demise. I am one of those fans that love me some Tebow, but I also want to win now. I saw enough from Tebow in TC and preseason to jump back onto the Orton bandwagon…if only temporarily.

    The last time I had been so disappointed during a season was the 5-11 campaign back in ’91ish. 1999 did not upset me much because that team finished strong in spite of losing Elway and TD.. Still, I don’t care what rationale people might use to excuse another 4-12 suckery in 2011, I cannot stomach another season like that. Heck, I wasn’t even ALIVE the last time the Broncos had two losing seasons in a row…

    Great write up and thank you.

  7. EFX as a front office are extremely risk averse. I don’t see Tebow having much if any support amongst them or he would be starting now. Fox doesn’t want to put the development time into a player he didn’t draft. Elway seems to be depending on his reputation as Denver’s most beloved Bronco to buy some more time from the fan base. Xanders … who knows. Who created this current controversy? They did.

    There is no logical case for starting Orton now, none. If he plays well it simply drives up his asking price for another team next year. If he plays poorly it reinforces the perception that he isn’t the best option the team has. Does anyone really think this franchise is going to re-sign Orton after this season? Or Quinn? Of course not. So why are the Broncos wasting valuable development time on players whom we all know are not going to be on this team in another year’s time.

    I get that they have to pretend to contend this season until they’re out of it. But every time EFX talk to the media and stand behind Orton or repeat the “he gives us the best chance to win” mantra, they’re only hurting their own credibility, because if this team is 1-4 at the bye week that’s going to ring more and more hollow.

    The fan base will not hold EFX responsible for Tebow if he starts and stinks because they didn’t draft him. They WILL however hold them responsible for not even trying to develop him in favor of a known mediocrity in Orton.

    • You hit the nail on the head. EFX is quickly losing credibility with me and with many fans. They promised to stabilize this franchise, win back the fans and rebuild. Instead, they create more instability and uncertainty, and they piss off a big portion of the fan base. The failed trade of Orton is more of the same mismanagement that we’ve seen in the past three years.

      I have season tickets, and I pay good money for them. I’d rather see us lose games with Tebow at the helm than watch the team do whatever it’s going to do with Orton at QB. The reason is because we are all pretty sure we’ve seen what Orton can – and definitely can’t – do. Tebow is an unknown. As a fan who actually puts my money where my mouth is (pay to attend games rather than watch them for free at home) I’d rather fork over $60 on the remaining six home games and another $30 in food and beer to see if we have a shot at Tebow. Even if we lose and he is a bust, I will believe my hard-earned money is well spent. I do not want to spend that kind of money to see us finish 8-8 or potentially much worse with Orton leading the team. That, to me, would be waste of my time and money, as we are not moving forward at all. Next offseason we’d be in the exact same place we were in this offseason: Not knowing which direction to take at QB.

      Let’s not kid ourselves: We’re not going to the playoffs with this team, and the starting QB will not be here next year. So playing Orton is a waste of everyone’s time and money. It seems that EFX is out of touch with a great big chunk of the fan base, hence the empty seats at the first two home games. Really, you market Tebow as the main attraction on the Broncos this year to sell season tickets and then you have him line up for a few plays at wide receiver? Another terrible move by EFX. Don’t use a backup player as your main marketing ploy!

      I think many fans would be just fine seeing what we’ve got with Tebow and then at least feeling comfortable if we need to move on if he stinks it up. My biggest fear is that EFX has already written him off before we see what else he can do.

  8. Malcolm G. Brown says:

    My biggest concern is that Tebow isn’t currently able to outplay Orton. Orton’s performance has been at his usual level and his upside, if any, isn’t readily apparent. This doesn’t say much for Tebow’s current ability.

    If Tebow were to get put in there and put the receivers at risk with his poor timing and inaccuracy that would cause more harm than help. That would make as much sense as playing an inexperienced offensive lineman and hoping the QB can “make adjustments.”

    Ted, what do you think Tebow’s current trade value is? I realize that his contract with the escalators is a significant factor, additionally the team that wants him needs to have an emphasis on bootlegs and such.

    By the way, I really appreciate this site, sharing your experience with fans is great for the game.

    • Ted Sundquist Ted Sundquist says:

      Thanks so much. It’s a work in progress and I appreciate hearing back from everyone. Let me know what you’re interested in and I’ll do my best to address it from my perspective. As for Tebow’s trade value, not very good. I don’t think most teams had him as highly rated as the last regime did (1st round I mean). They know he’s struggled to get any playtime here and would probably wait for him to be cut. He wouldn’t clear waivers though. Someone would be willing to step up and claim him. So his trade value might be a bit higher to a successful team that was willing to develop him behind an established starter. A bit like the situation here already. Wish I could say, but hard to see anything above a 3rd at best. At best…..

  9. Missed this first time around. Thank you for the insight.

    Interesting point about Jake Plummer and Jay Cutler. Fans certainly aren’t privy to that dynamic…

    Although I thought that Jake got a raw deal after the AFC Championship Game (Shanny ran an offense in 2006 season that Chuck Knox would have considered conservative…), Cutler played well enough in 2007 and 2008 to warrant giving Shanahan a pass for the poor handling of Jake.

    From this fan’s perspective, I have always considered the definitive beginning of Shanahan’s demise in Denver – and the end to the Broncos as we knew them – to be the tragic death of Darrent Williams.

    If Brandon Marshall doesn’t pop off to the gang bangers on New Year’s Eve, just how different do things look right now?

    Of course there were other problems (which are well documented), but the team seemed to be in a fog in 2007 after Williams’ death and suffered its first losing season since ’99. (which happens to coincide with the jerking around of another veteran QB, but I digress…)

    You have to think that with Williams in the lineup instead of Dre Bly, the team finds a way to win ONE more win in 2008 and makes the playoffs. A playoff bid in 2008 means that Shanahan is preparing for a Wild Card game on a Tuesday morning instead of getting fired by Pat Bowlen.

    This would of course mean that Josh McDaniels would have screwed up some other NFL team over past 2 years and Tim Tebow would be in a different color uniform.

    Unfortunately, time machines don’t exist, so here we all are.

    Fast forward to today, this could not have worked out better for EFX. Had they played Tebow over Orton to start the season, they would have lost the locker room. With the team now 1-4 – and the season already in the toilet – they would have lost the fans had they had stayed with Orton in week 7.

    Now, Tim Tebow is the starter until he gives the team a reason to use a top 5 pick on another QB in next year’s draft. If Tebow flops hard in the face of a brutal schedule, it’s a no brainer. However, what happens if Tebow wins 5, 6, 7 games???

    At least it won’t be boring…

    • Ted Sundquist Ted Sundquist says:

      I would have still missed it all in 2008, but that’s another story and a book that is sitting in my Word files. Just sitting.

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