There, I said it. Denver Broncos cult of personality Tim Tebow is a bad NFL quarterback, and next weekend, when the Mile High Messiah lines up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the results should be nothing short of mortifying.
To be clear, I don't fancy myself a Tebow hater. He works hard, says all the right things in press conferences—notably crediting his teammates even when journalists try to stuff the square he-just-knows-how-to-win narrative down the round hole of the box score—and Tebow, whether he's directing the team on a frenetic game-winning drive in the final minutes or displaying an astonishing, nearly comical lack of pocket presence or accuracy, is undeniably fun to watch.
I'm also not saying that Tebow won't ever be anything in the NFL. I don't think it's likely, but the jury is definitely still out, however briefly. Keep in mind that everyone knew he was raw as a passer and had one of the goofiest throwing motions out there. So evaluating Tebow (or any quarterback) too decisively in just his second season (or reacting too strongly to a limited sample size) really misses the point. The point is that at this particular moment, Tebow really, really cannot play.
Over the last month of the regular season, Tebow averaged a paltry six yards per pass attempt, completed just 45 percent of those passes, was sacked nearly four times per game, and fumbled seven times. Those of you drinking the Kool-Aid on this guy may have been able to ignore the ugly, ominous statistics during Denver's six-game winning streak, but even the most devout among you—those of you who clicked this link because the title alone made your blood boil—must admit now that whether it was superior play by Denver's defense and special teams or unthinkable errors by the opposition (hat tip, Marion Barber), the Broncos weren't winning because of Tebow. They were winning in spite of him.
(And if you're still sipping on the deluded narrative that made every sports writer in America drool just a few weeks ago, and you want to hate me for writing this, I'll flip to a page of Franklin D. Roosevelt's playbook and say that I welcome your hatred. Sure, the Broncos could make me eat crow and knock off the Steelers on Sunday, but that's going to come from a crazy-long field goal from Matt Prater or a strip-sack from Von Miller—something like that.)
More likely, however, is a scenario in which Pittsburgh's defense, the stingiest in the league against the pass, completely drubs Denver and embarrasses Tebow on national television. What do you get when a quarterback like Tebow lines up against a defense like this? A perfect storm of offensive ineptitude.
And it's not even difficult to forecast Pittsburgh's tactics! They'll play man on the outside, because none of the Denver receivers can get separation. They'll bring safety Troy Polamalu down into the box, say, 60 percent of the time to support against the run and guard any underneath routes. You'll also see a lot of contain with Pittsburgh's more athletic linebackers, guys like Lawrence Timmons and Jason Worilds. Finally, they'll blitz, blitz, blitz, because good things happen when you blitz Tebow. (Just ask the Detroit Lions.)
Despite (literally) limping into the NFL Playoffs, all quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his offense need to do is score 10 or 13 points on Denver, because Tebow, despite his perceived heroics earlier in the season, isn't a guy who can play from behind against a quality defense.
Tebow is a compelling player and a fun story, but he's no miracle-worker.