Retired scramblers weigh in on Tim Tebow debate

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 6 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) celebrates his two-point conversion in the fourth quarter to tie their NFL football game at 29-29 Sunday Dec. 4, 2011 at Mall of America Field.

The Denver Post, John Leyba, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Nobody knows what will come of the Tim Tebow experiment, not even those scrambling ramblers who came before him.

Yet it seems like everybody wants to talk about it.

Retired QBs who made a living with their legs, and who also turned the NFL on its ear in their day, have strong opinions about what's happening in Denver, where Tebow has led the once lowly Broncos to six wins in his seven starts.

Randall Cunningham loves it.

Steve Young hates it.

Bobby Douglass admires it.

While they debate whether Tebow can morph into a prototypical pocket passer, they're all pulling hard for the Broncos' quirky quarterback who defies his messy mechanics and flawed footwork with grit and last-minute magic.

"I think what we all ought to do is enjoy the circus while it's in town," suggests another former NFL quarterback, Joe Theismann.

Tebow has brought the option back to the NFL and while he usually struggles for much of the day to move his team downfield, he keeps coming up big in crunch time, guiding the Broncos to second-half comeback wins against the Dolphins, Jets, Raiders, Chargers and Vikings since taking over as the starter two months ago.

On Sunday, he won a shootout in Minnesota, propelling the Broncos (7-5) into a first-place tie with Oakland atop the AFC West.

"You've got Aaron Rodgers, you've got Drew Brees, you've got Tom Brady that set a standard of excellence in football that we haven't seen," said Theismann, now an NFL Network analyst. "What makes 2011 so unique is we have seen quarterback play in this league at such a high extreme and in Tim's case, the bottom rung when it comes to completions."

And yet the Broncos are also in the playoff hunt in this pass-happy league because of an old-fashioned formula based on stout defense and a strong ground game.

"That defense is as good as any in football right now," Theismann said. "The offense doesn't turn the ball over. There's been one interception in seven games. I say this tongue-in-cheek: The way Tim throws the ball sometimes, nobody has a shot at getting it, his guy, the defenders. It's either bounce it in the ground or throw it in the third row."

Tebow is completing just 48 percent of his passes.

"And what's his winning percentage?" retorts Cunningham.

It's 85.7 percent, second only to Rodgers, whose Packers are perfect at 12-0.

Still, Broncos boss John Elway won't publicly commit to Tebow for 2012 and beyond. Coach John Fox, who told NFL.com last month that Tebow would be "screwed" if they were running a conventional offense, is living in the moment, not focused on the future.

"The guys wins.How can you not be a fan of that?" Fox said. "He does it with his feet, with his arm, just with his competitive greatness, really. That's what you're looking for in a quarterback."

The Broncos have decided not to try to fix Tebow's throwing troubles now but try to accentuate what he already does well, which is running a ball-control, low-risk, no-frills offense heavy on the option while sprinkling in some downfield passes.

"He's in a sweet spot right now," said Young, "but I don't know if it's developing him to go do it long-term in the NFL."

Tebow is coming off his best passing performance as a pro — 10 of 15 for 202 yards and two TDs — but Young would like to see him sling it 20-25 times every Sunday.

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