ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Nothing about the future is promised for quarterback Tim Tebow — except that he will begin training camp this summer as Denver’s first-teamer.
“Tim’s earned the right to be the starting quarterback going into training camp next year,” Broncos executive vice president John Elway said as he opened a 40-minute press conference for himself, coach John Fox and general manager Brian Xanders at team headquarters Monday afternoon.
“I think he made some good strides this year,” Elway continued. “He obviously played very well against Pittsburgh and played very well in a lot of football games.”
Yet that is merely the opening chapter of the encyclopedic odyssey that looms for Tebow in 2012. It will begin with the next occasion he walks through the doors of the Broncos’ suburban headquarters, heads for the office of his offensive coaches — whoever they may be, considering that coordinator Mike McCoy has already completed one head-coaching interview in Miami and now prepares for another in Oakland — and begins to study defenses, schemes and himself.
“There’ll be some film study, as far as different reads, where he’s looking with different plays,” Elway said. “He’s going to be more comfortable having worked with this offense now in the second year that he’s going to be more natural with the reads and the things that he sees when he drops back.”
But that study and work during his first full NFL offseason might not include an overhaul of his throwing motion.
“Your release is pretty much natural; you’re not going to change the release a whole lot,” Elway said. “When you pick up a dirt clump when you’re young and how you throw that, is naturally how you do that.
“there’s little minor tweaks that you can put to that, but there’s not a whole lot when it comes down to release.”
Not in the upper body, at least.
“I believe that the release is tied to your legs and your drops and your timing within the offense, which, Tim didn’t have a lot of when he was at Florida, because it was the spread offense and that type of thing,” Elway said.
“There’s a lot of things with how the accuracy and timing is and rhythm of the quarterback position and throwing the ball accurately time in and time out is all tied together and I think those are the types of things that will be one of the main things we work on with Tim, is to tie those legs into the routes, the depth of the routes and when you get there and take a hit and if he’s not there, you take a second hit, you’re moving on.
“Your feet are your time clock, and to be able to tie those things tgether, those will be the main things to work on.”
STATISTICS CAN LIE, but they also illuminate matters of concern, which is the case with Tebow’s completion-percentage numbers.
His season-long percentage of 46.5 is the worst for a quarterback with more than 250 passes since Cincinnati’s Akili Smith in 2000; the only other quarterbacks in the last 20 years with that combination of numbers were Washington’s Heath Shuler in 1994 and San Diego’s Craig Whelihan in 1998.
Then he closed the season with a 34.6 completion percentage on 26 attempts in New England; that made him the first quarterback since Trent Dilfer on Jan. 4, 1998 and the third in the last 20 years to finish with a sub-35 completion percentage on 20 or more attempts.
Considering that 60 percent has become the benchmark — achieved by 18 of 33 quarterbacks with enough passes to be eligible in the regular season — and that no one else was within four percentage points of Tebow, he would seem out of sight from the standards of this era.
But Elway sees a path for Tebow to be successful, even if he doesn’t ascend in the league percentage rankings.
“I don’t know that there’s a certain number,” Elway said.
“What that percentage is, who knows. If we’re taking shots (downfield) and they’ve got nine in the box, your percentage is not going to be 60 percent. If you’re 50 percent, you’re going to be in good shape because you’re making big plays within that 50 percent.
“It really comes down to how the defense plays us. I think if they drop back and play zone, you’ve definitely got to be over 60 percent. But if you’re getting man free or straight man coverage all the time, you’re not going to be a 60 percent passer.”
But if he can hit deep passes — as he did against Pittsburgh in the divisional round, exploiting the Steelers’ run-centric aggression and the man coverage by Ike Taylor on Demaryius Thomas that ensued — then it won’t matter as much.
THE OTHER KEY POINT, of course, is the wording of Elway’s statement — that he will be the starter going into training camp. Beyond that, he will have to earn it.
“Just knowing the person he is and the work ethic that he has he’s going to be hard to beat out,” said wide receiver Eric Decker on Sunday afternoon.
“I think the great thing about this league is that no one’s guaranteed a position. Competition breeds greatness. If you have that at every position and the best guys win out, that’s what makes the best team.
“I know (Tebow) has all the tools, all the capacity to be a starting quarterback, and I think he looks at it, too, that he wants to get better, he wants to come in next year as the all-around leader of this team and I think he will be.”
Soon, the work toward that end will begin.