Quarterback Is Why The Broncos Are Winning, But Not Tim Tebow

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 4: Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos celebrates a two point conversion against the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter on December 4, 2011 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Broncos defeated the Vikings 35-32. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Broncos won their fifth game in a row with Tim Tebow as the starter and everyone is still trying to figure out how this is happening. Bomani Jones thinks it has a lot to do with the QB, but just not the one under center for Denver.

For those who like having the same discussions over and over, good news: the Denver Broncos won again Sunday.

After seven weeks as a starter - and who knows how many years off my life -- there still has not been a game to give either side of the Tim Tebow argument any reason to give ground. Even when he played well, throwing for over 200 yards and 13 yards per attempt against Minnesota, the Vikings' gawd-awful pass coverage couldn't be ignored. Denver won neither in spite or because of Tebow.

You don't win because you're a winner. You're a winner because you won. People tend to get that backwards.


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There is no explaining how Tebow is a winner, except that he wins and gives good speeches. It's logically shaky, but a kindergartener couldn't be shaken from that after a W. Good luck changing an adult's mind. That's why guys like Skip Bayless don't even have to explain themselves anymore. Why try when "all Tim Tebow does is win football games?"

And why are the Broncos winning? There's one big reason that's hardly mentioned, pushed to the backburner as we focus on Tebow.

The answer: quarterback play. No, not Tebow. I'm talking about those other cats.

***

Take a look at Denver's last seven games. In six wins, six times the better quarterback, at least for that day, wore orange and blue.

Tebow's success in the two-minute offense was enough to top Matt Moore's generally pedestrian afternoon for the Dolphins. Yards and touchdowns not withstanding, Carson Palmer should have said, "sorry, but it's been a while," after the Raiders lost to the Broncos. When Tebow famously completed two passes against Kansas City, he average two-and-a-half times as many yards per attempt as Matt Cassel. Mark Sanchez's pick-six was his only noteworthy moment against Denver, and that surely paled against Tebow's ultimate success. We don't even need to discuss that guy in the Philip Rivers jersey. And while Christian Ponder was pretty good before throwing the game away, there's no faulting Tebow's 10-15, 202-yard, two touchdown performance against Minnesota.

Next week: Caleb Hanie and the Chicago Bears, and Denver could be alone in first in the AFC West at the end of the game.

Seriously, how in Hades has this happened? This isn't PlayStation, so it can't be computer assistance. That many 7's in a row at the casino, and they change the dice. We're way past the point of luck. One defensive opponent told me Tebow was "the worst quarterback [he'd] ever seen," but Tebow did outplay his guy. What are the odds a quarterback could complete half or less of his passes for six straight weeks and never be the weaker starter?

The defense has certainly improved, with Elvis Dumervil coming off last year's season-ending injury and Von Miller getting accustomed to the NFL. But if they're so good that they make opposing quarterbacks look like Tim Tebow, they should have a nickname by now. They're better, but they also gave up 45 at home to Detroit.

The Broncos' rise is an unlikely collision of stronger play and better luck. To the untrained eye - and that's pretty much every eye not at an NFL facility right now - it's nearly impossible to explain. And because "shit happens" is an unsatisfying conclusion, we're powerless to stop the masses from saying a bunch of stuff that doesn't make a lick of sense.

***

There are two camps: those who believe Tebow, through force of personality, is winning games, and people who don't think the whole notion is preposterous. It is a thinking vs. feeling argument, because seeing unequivocally answers whether the Broncos success is a direct result of Tim Tebow. It's simply impossible to be so poor at core parts of one's job and be the reason for success. If being so good at being himself trumps being such a bad passer, he may as well play pinball at practice. It's all a waste of his time.

Tebow is still as mediocre as he's been. He may be Superman in the two-minute drill, but he's not even Clark Kent the other 58 minutes. Clark wasn't inspiring, but he didn't write his stories by hand because he couldn't use a typewriter.

Tebow's team, however, is more successful than anyone reasonably presumed it could become. And whether Denver falters or not, the least productive argument in sports, the closest thing to arguing about religion in the toy department, will continue until either Plaschke or I drops dead on television.

Either you see it or you don't, whether or not it's there.

The idea that Tebow turned the Broncos into "winners" is silly. Perhaps his ways are mysterious, but making an offense less potent than it was under his unimpressive predecessor is a peculiar motivational technique.

Then there's the counterfactual case of Cam Newton. He led Auburn to an undefeated national championship with a roster that had just three other players selected in the 2011 draft (two in the seventh round), has accounted for 26 touchdowns on a team that scored 16 from scrimmage in all of 2010, gave life to the once-disgruntled Steve Smith...and his team is 4-8. It's not because he's a loser. It's because there's no Cam Newton on the league's (entering Week 13) 31st ranked scoring defense.

But think about this: if you believe - or want to believe -- there's just something about Tim Tebow that makes his teams win, what reason would there be to change your mind? If you struggle separating correlation and causation, the Broncos might overwhelm you.

For whatever reason, once Tebow showed up, all this stuff that makes no sense started happening, with he and wins being the only constant.

With Orton starting, the Broncos went 1-3 in games decided by less than seven points. With Tebow at the helm, they're 4-0 in the same situations. Orton's Broncos were 1-3 when they scored 20 or more; Tebow's are 4-1 when scoring less than 20. Plus, the last time we saw Kyle Orton, he put up an epic stinker, a 6-13, 34-yard effort as bad as any Tebow performance this season, and Tebow nearly cleaned the entire mess up. Denver, lately, has won with an option attack featuring none of the excitement and explosiveness that makes it a college staple (Denver's version would get a coach fired). Tebow's troops won without Miller, and they won without Willis McGahee. They have simply won.

But Orton, for all his flaws, beat the Bengals. The Lions, about as good as Cincinnati and the best team Tebow has faced, beat the brakes off Denver at Invesco Field. And when you account for three overtime contests in the last seven weeks, total yardage between the Orton and Tebow regimes are a wash (though Tebow has committed far fewer turnovers).

And you're looking for one thing to point to?

It defies explanation. But it also doesn't require one, which is why the rush to give all the credit to a quarterback whose best performance featured, literally, the worst secondary play you'll see this season is so frustrating to watch.

The Broncos results speak for themselves. They don't need a face. That's a good thing because, in the end, they don't have one.

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