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Countdown To Cutdown: The Brady Quinn-Tim Tebow Conundrum

About 12 hours ago, I asked the community of Broncos fans here at MileHighReport to answer a simple, yet challenging question.  Who Should Be The Broncos #2 Quarterback?  I added a caveat to the question, however, one that parallels how coaches think when they are building a team - at any position.  Injuries happen.  There are devastating injuries - injuries that change the focus of a season.  Losing Kyle Orton for the season would fall into that category.

There are also injuries that, while certainly having an affect,  the goals of the season shouldn't change.  To me, that length of time is 4 games - 25% of the season.  When coaches create their depth charts, I believe they use this number a a guide.  I've talked to football people about this - and listened to others that have discussed it - and believe it to be true.  So I asked, if Kyle Orton went down for 4 games, who would give the Broncos the best chance to go at least 2-2 during that stretch? 

The result, which at the time I write this are over 1200 responses, is lopsided.  76% of you say the guy should be Tim Tebow.  You have also asked who I'd go with.  In this case, Broncos Country, I agree with you.

If the Broncos lost Kyle Orton during the season for a month or so, Tim Tebow gives the Broncos the best chance to win.

Secretly, I felt that way the minute I saw Tebow on the practice field.  Not because I am a Gators fan, or huge Tebow fan -far from it, I'm from Ohio, home of the Buckeyes, the Gators are not among my favorite teams.  No, it was because I knew what Brady Quinn was, and has been, and I knew what Tim Tebow could be.

It would be easy to look at good or bad games and make my comparison.  I could skew the numbers to back  my opinion.  Fortunately for me, last night provided all the evidence I need.  Both players played pretty well and finished the game with QB-Ratings over 100.  Look a bit deeper at the numbers, however.

Player Com. Att. Yards Comp. % Y/Comp TD INT Rating
Tim Tebow 12 16 169 75% 13.9 1 1 102.9
Brady Quinn 14 21 149 66.6% 10.6 1 0 103.1

Both players played well.  One number I am really focusing on is Yards and Yards per Completion.  Tebow completed 2 FEWER passes, yet threw for 18 MORE yards.  That is nearly 2 free first downs.  Did Tebow make some mistakes?  Yes he did.  The fumbled-snap could be blamed on him, and the interception was a poor throw.  But here's the difference, and we'll forget the snap for a second since it could, and does, happen to all quarterbacks.  Tim Tebow was looking down-field, and even on the interception it was the RIGHT DECISION. 

If you can, watch the replay of Tebow's pick.  He takes the snap, and fakes the hand-off.  He then looks downfield and sees his receiver splitting a double-team down the left seam.  Unfortuantely, Tebow's feet were not firmly under him and his momentum was going backward instead of forward.  The result?  The throw is short, thus being picked off.  The mental portion of the play wasn't wrong, it was the physical part.  That is correctable.

More importantly, how did Tebow respond?  By completing 10 passes in a row right after the interception.  That shows mental toughness.  All these 'intangibles' everyone talks about?  That is what that means.  Tebow isn't afraid to make a mistake and he isn't afraid to trust what he sees after he makes one.

Let's look at Brady Quinn.  My biggest problem with Quinn, whether it was Notre Dame, or with Cleveland, or what I have seen in Denver has been his decision making.  Sure, there are limitations to his throwing.  Not everyone has a John Elway-arm.  Quinn has struggled against upper-echelon defenses at every level.  Look at the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State,  or the Sugar Bowl against LSU.  Were the Irish outmatched talent-wise in those games?  Yes.  But Quinn didn't play well in those games either.

Even the game that Quinn did look solid - against the Broncos in 2007 - it was mainly checkdowns to Kellen Winslow.  Brady Quinn doesn't attack downfield. 

Now, before you bring up Kyle Orton in 2009, there is a difference between 'checking down' and refusing to attack downfield.  There is a reason that Matt Leinart is losing the QB job in Arizona to Derek Anderson - the same reason Brady Quinn couldn't beat Anderson - they leave big plays on the field.  Coaches, when looking at the game tape, see receivers running open downfield while Quinn, and in this case Leinart, choose to take the low-risk, low reward completion.  It drives coaches CRAZY, and eventually they choose the guy that isn't afraid to take a shot when it presents itself.  Not all bad decisions end with an interception.  Sometimes they end in a 5 yard completion on 3rd and 7 instead of a 25 yard completion and a First Down.

Going back to last night, Tebow actually did both!  His completion percentage - 75% - was higher than Quinn's despite taking more shots down the field.  While Quinn did throw a TD pass - a 14-yarder to Alric Arnett - it was two other times in the Red Zone, when Quinn didn't take a shot at 7, that may have cost the Broncos the game. 

The first, after the Alphonso Smith INT, the Broncos had 1st and Goal from the Vikings 7.  After a running play got stuffed, Quinn threw a 6-yard completion.  The next two plays, 3rd and 4th down runs, were stuffed by the Vikings.  All Quinn's fault?  No.  But it was a golden opportunity the Broncos missed on by not taking a shot.

Of course, the last one, when the Broncos were driving at the end of the game, is a bit unfair to pin on Quinn.  He made some solid passes - mostly to Eric Decker - under heavy pressure.  His 4th down pass was a drop by Riar Greer.  Again though, the Broncos need several plays to move downfield instead of trying to attack the defense.  The drop isn't Quinn's fault, but you keep checking down, eventually you'll be stopped - by the defense or yourself.

I knew when the Broncos acquired Brady Quinn that he would be a total rebuild - mentally and fundamentally.  Training Camp and the preseason has proved that to be true.  In a lot of ways, Tim Tebow is more prepared to be the starting quarterback should Orton go down than Quinn is, despite being a rookie.  In this case, Quinn's experience actually is a detriment.

In the end, I believe the Broncos will keep 3 quarterbacks.  I believe Brady Quinn can be an asset, even if it is to trade at some point.  Right now, however, should Kyle Orton miss time - and we all hope that DOES NOT HAPPEN - Tim Tebow would give the Broncos the best chance to survive, and when you go to the backup QB, survival is all you can hope for.