I posted this in the "Trade Tebow" thread, and thought it might be a good fan post on its own. Talk of trading Tebow seems outright ridiculous to me. I don't think Denver, and specifically Elway, could trade Tebow, even if he whole-heartedly wanted to. Here are my thoughts on the subject.
I watched the NFL Playbook show focusing on Tebow. I heard nothing from McCoy that suggested any sort of attitude on Tebow’s future, either way. Good organizations have coaches that coach, and GM’s that work personnel. So it didn’t surprise me.
There are three voices that matter in Tebow’s future: Bowlen, Elway, and Fox.
- Bowlen: These aren’t my thoughts; they are Colin Cowherd’s, who I sometimes agree with. Denver isn’t a national market team. Only in Elway’s time in the 80’s, and then the two Super Bowl years, has Denver been a national market team. Until now. ESPN and NFL network have a Denver/Tebow section in every show. ESPN radio talks about Tebow every day. Tebow has Denver as the subject of every football talk show in America. I’m Bills fan in D.C., and he’s talked about every day on the Redskins radio show. Bowlen’s looking at national exposure, prime times games, etc. for however long Tebow can score enough points to win. Denver is a national team now, and winning enough to be relevant. As an owner, Denver is making money and is going to make more. It's no wonder Bowlen is quoted as wanting to keep Tebow. He's going to take a ton of convincing from Elway to move away from Tebow. I don't see it, especially after trading Cutler and seeing him get to the NFC Championship Game with the Bears.
- Fox: Tebow isn’t really winning the games. The offense is punting over half the time, and isn't scoring a ton. Tebow-mania is derived from the 4th quarter. Fox's style of game makes that possible, and is really the root of Denver's success. Fox wants to play defense, win the turnover battle, win field position, and run. Denver is doing all of this better than any team in the NFL right now. Fox’s Carolina team from 2003 had Jake Delhomme attempting about 28 passes a game, but that team ran more on the season than they threw. And check the scores out from nine of their eleven wins that season: 24-23, 12-9, 19-13, 23-20, 27-24, 20-17, 20-17, 20-14, 37-24. Lots of close games. This should look pretty familiar for Denver fans. I think Fox is willing to ride Tebow as far as he’ll go. Delhomme was good that year, but he wasn’t a franchise QB. I’m pretty confident that Tebow’s upside is at least Delhomme. Fox wants to win using the old 1980's NFC formula, and Tebow can do that.
- Elway: For Tebow-maniacs (I’m one, I’ve got “The Promise” plaque in my house), Elway is the one voice that might move Tebow out of Denver. Of the QB’s that Tebow resembles (listed above, Douglass, Kapp, etc) none won Super Bowl’s. Kapp and Tarkenton got their Minnesota teams to the Super Bowl, but never won. How many of those teams got to the Super Bowl on the backs of the defense and strong running games? Sort of familiar to what we see from Denver. Additionally, the Tarkenton-Tebow comparison is off-base. They both ran, but Tarkenton was a completely different style of player from Tebow.
Elway may not be sold on Tebow’s ability to get Denver a win in the big game. But, what does he do if he wants to trade Tebow? Keeping Tebow and drafting a rookie isn’t realistic. Robert Griffin III or Ryan Tannehill, possibly available when Denver picks in the 2012 Draft, would have such an uphill battle replacing Tebow as it is, that keeping Tebow on the roster would make it almost impossible. Every mistake would be amplified by the fan base to the point that the rookie could be ruined.
If Elway wants someone new, he’s got to trade Tebow. Who’s going to trade anything big for Tebow? A lot of the trade talk from Denver fans is like hockey-talk: tremendous overvalue of talent on one’s own roster. Tebow for Jacksonville’s 4th overall pick? Or Tebow and Denver's pick for Jacksonville's 4th overall? There’s no way that trade works for Jacksonville. They’d laugh, hang up, and continue to start Gabbert. Any team would. No team is trading a first rounder for a still-developing quarterback. Those Rob Johnson-style trades don't happen anymore. There's not one team in the league that would trade a first rounder for Tebow, outside maybe New England at the end of the round. Steve Young was traded for a 2nd and a 4th.
But, there’s the problem. Tebow isn’t going to return a first rounder. Denver fans want a king’s ransom. Elway might be convinced Tebow isn’t the long-term answer at QB, but moving him is a public relations nightmare. If Elway traded Tebow for a 2nd and a 4th, the city of Denver would implode.
If Elway does trade Tebow, who’s the replacement? Free agent Jason Campbell is talented enough to run Fox’s offense. But, if you’re going to replace Tebow, Campbell isn’t going to fill any sort of expectations. Peyton Manning? Indianapolis isn't trading Manning unless they get a couple first rounders coming back, which stunts the growth of a developing team. And Manning might be damaged goods. Bill Polian might not trade him. Elway's options are down to Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley. RGIII’s got similar problems to work through as a pro as Tebow, so it’s sort of a lateral move. Tannehill needs Aaron Rodgers time on the bench.
Luck is the best quarterback to enter the draft since to above mentioned Manning. His upside is good, but his real attraction is the low bust factor. Luck, at worst, is in the shade below elite, game manager category. While that's almost perfect for Fox's offense, Elway would stunt the team's growth by trading what it would take to get Luck.
In any other year, Barkley's the top pick. He's also more than talented enough to run Fox's offense, and wouldn't cost as much to acquire as Luck. It's entirely feasible from a front office point of view to trade Tebow for a 2nd/4th, then use the ammunition to get Barkley.
Options: The Campbell, Tannehill, and RGIII options are discounted due to unacceptability.
Luck option: Trade talks start at two first rounders plus a second round pick. Tebow returns a 2/4. Bowlen might buy off on this. But, Elway guts the team of a bunch of high picks to get this done. Plus, if you were Polian, with your son ready to take over the franchise, would you trade Luck? Would you trade Luck if you were Jim Irsay? I say this option works for Denver, but doesn't for Indianapolis. I don't see any option where the Colts don't take Luck.
Manning Option: Trade talks start at two first rounders. Tebow returns a 2/4. Bowlen might buy off on this. But, Elway guts the team for a 35-year-old quarterback? Indianapolis laughs all the way to the draft. Even if Manning plays into Kurt Warner age, Denver has a five year window to win, without two first rounders to replace age in the secondary. This doesn't make much sense. At the end, I think Denver doesn't win a championship, and has a team that looks a lot like Arizona's: listless without a good QB.
Barkley Option: Two first rounders likely put Denver into position to take Barkley. Teams like Minnesota, Carolina, St. Louis, and Jacksonville should finish low enough to make that type of trade feasible. Elway would again gut the team. Would Bowlen sign off on this? Barkley could be the guy that Elway and Fox want, but he's got no national market appeal. He's a Matt Ryan type of QB: can get the team in the playoffs, but half the country isn't paying attention. I don't think Bowlen signs off on this unless Elway becomes a Henry Kissinger type of diplomat.
Elway really has one option: Barkley. Is the upgrade from Tebow to Barkley worth two first round picks? What if Tebow develops and Barkley doesn't develop? Lots of "what if"s surrounding this option. Bowlen would have to be convinced, beyond a doubt, that Barkley is the guy, and that long-term, Tebow isn't.
Denver has too much going for it with Tebow. Fox can win with Tebow. He could win with Barkley, or any of the quarterbacks mentioned above. But Fox's offense isn't built around a passer. Does Denver mortgage part of their future for a passer it might not need anyway? Denver can win with Tebow throwing 20 times a game.
Tebow is making Denver a national market team with a national following. Bowlen knows he's got someone that makes his team just as nationally relevant as Dallas, New England, the Jets, the Packers, the Steelers, the Eagles, and the Giants. Those teams dominate prime time games and sports media. Tebow enables Denver to join that club. There's tons of money to be had, and every owner wants a good and nationally relevant team.
Elway, even if he doesn’t want Tebow, has to break the bank for an adequate replacement (Luck, Barkley), and will never get anything close in a trade return for Tebow as the fan base expects. Would any of you go to games if Elway traded two first rounders for Barkley, then traded Tebow for a 2 and a 4?
Elway's in a bad spot as an executive. His hands are nearly tied in regards to a player decision. His coach is winning with a philosophy that doesn't require a franchise pocket passer. The owner is getting everything he wants. The fan base couldn't be more behind the team. The only real option is the Barkley option, which only works for the coach, and not the owner or the fan base.
I would be shocked, given the lack of support for the only option that works, for Elway to trade Tebow. I just don’t see Tebow leaving Denver anytime soon.
PS: To answer chikndnnr's question from the thread that was closed: yes, I wanted Miller over Dareus. Dominant edge rushers are way harder to find in the draft than a great defensive tackle. For example, in the 2012 Draft, there are two edge rushers with anything close to resembling a quick first step: South Carolina's Devin Thomas and Virginia's Cam Johnson. And neither of those guys are in Miller's range in terms of talent. Dareus is great at clogging the middle and beating blocks, but Buffalo already had Kyle Williams, and space eating DT's can be found every year (Alameda Ta'amu, Josh Chapman, Dontari Poe this coming draft). Dareus is way better than any of those guys, but for what Buffalo needs, all those guys fit the bill. But, Dareus isn't that far of a drop-off from Miller. It's like having Derrick Thomas drafted ahead of you, but having Cortez Kennedy available with the next pick. About the best consolation prize a team could have.
Additionally, I have a theory regarding the path the NFL is taking. The league is cyclical, and I think the 1980's formula of run, and play great defense is coming back around. Most of the league's defenses are built to stop passing games, which is partially why Denver and SF are having so much success. In that case, having Kyle Williams and Dareus on the interior of a defense is going to be a very good thing in the coming years.