Tim Tebow's play in Broncos' loss to Jets sets up quarterback controversy of a different kind

No denying that the Jets' 24-20 win over the Broncos yesterday was agonizing. But it was also predictable. Point blank, a good team would have won that game -- and that the Broncos didn't provides a mighty clear indication of where they stand on a qualitative scale.

Meanwhile, the play of Tim Tebow sets up some interesting questions about the QB position and how best to utilize his skills down the line.

Glass-half-full critiques by Broncos fans are focusing on an improved showing by the squad's running game. But while assorted backs finally managed to push into cumulative triple digits, with Knowshon Moreno looking more serviceable than anticipated coming off an injury, Denver still can't impose its will on opposing defenses.

Case in point: Early in the fourth quarter while leading 17-10, the Broncos had the ball on their own seven-yard line. They desperately needed to improve their field position and chew up some clock, but two rushes netted approximately nothing, setting up a must-throw third down the Jets managed to disrupt with ease by blitzing practically everyone in the stadium wearing green. As a result, New York got the ball back far too close to the Denver end zone and quickly evened the score. Had that not happened, the Jets wouldn't have been in a position to transform a long interference penalty into a go-ahead TD.

As for Tebow, he got onto the field for the first time since week one and proved fairly effective -- particularly on his first regular season NFL touchdown. But at this point, coach Josh McDaniels seems to see him as only a glorified extra running back, not someone capable of actually throwing the ball. And unless I'm very much mistaken, he'll have to pass every once in a while if he's ever going to become the Broncos' signal caller of the future.

Using Tebow was a smart idea -- but he's got to be treated as something other than a gimmick or a ploy to jump-start the ground attack. If defenses know he or someone else will run 100 percent of the time he's in the shotgun, their job becomes more simple than necessary. But if he's actually given permission to take to the air -- and if he has at least a modicum of success in this area -- he can become a legitimate weapon capable of supplementing Kyle Orton, rather than supplanting him.

Should McDaniels unloosen Tebow's handcuffs a bit more, we'll be able to look back on the Jets game as the start of something, rather than one more indication that the Broncos can't compete with the NFL's elite.

More from our Sports archive: "Broncos' running game running out of excuses after Ravens loss -- but who deserves the blame?"

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts