ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The football world will have to wait another day to find out if Tim Tebow was only keeping Kyle Orton’s seat warm or whether he’s pushed the veteran to the end of the bench.
Denver Broncos coach John Fox said he’ll wait until Tuesday to announce his starting quarterback.
He gave his players the day off Monday and didn’t want to let everyone else know before Tebow, Orton and their teammates find out.
Besides, he insisted, even he didn’t know the answer yet.
“No. I think, obviously, there is a lot of communication. We have to communicate as a staff, as a building, and go from there,” Fox said.
Tebow replaced Orton after halftime Sunday and energized the Broncos and their fans during a 29-24 loss to the San Diego Chargers that came down to the final play.
Despite flawed footwork and trouble handling the snaps from center J.D. Walton, Tebow threw for a touchdown and ran for another in nearly erasing a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit. After his throw into the end zone as time expired fell incomplete, a thunderous roar of “Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!” rocked the stadium.
Only this time, the appreciative crowd was celebrating his insertion into the lineup and imploring Fox to keep him there.
Fox demurred when asked at his Monday news conference which quarterback gives him the best chance to win — the standard he’s been fond of invoking ever since Orton won the job coming out of training camp.
“That’s something that we’ll evaluate. We’ll meet. I don’t have the team in and with all due respect for what you guys do, the way we’ll operate is we’ll communicate with the people involved and the team long before we announce it to you guys,” Fox told a roomful of reporters. “So, that won’t be happening today because we don’t see the team until tomorrow.”
So, the announcement will come Tuesday then, when the players reconvene for the first of two practices before their four-day furlough for the bye week.
“I’d say there will be a strong likelihood that we will address that tomorrow,” Fox concurred in a playful tone.
One of the things Fox, his staff, and presumably football chief John Elway and general manager Brian Xanders will have to decide is whether they can put the genie back in the bottle if they determine Orton is their better option despite his declining play and nine turnovers.
“You know, that’s a tough spot to put me in especially (because) we haven’t made an announcement yet,” Fox said. “So, whether the genie’s in or out, we’ll just have to wait.”
The Broncos’ next game is Oct. 23 in Miami, where the Dolphins are honoring the 2008 national champion Florida Gators — who were led by none other than Tebow.
The Dolphins and Broncos talked about a trade for Orton in the summer but those discussions broke down, supposedly over Orton’s desire for a long-term contract. While fans in Denver were chanting for Tebow, fans in Florida were grumbling for Orton.
When talks fizzled, the Broncos threw their quarterback job up for grabs and Orton outperformed Tebow and Brady Quinn from the very start.
Orton hasn’t carried over his spectacular summer into the season, however, turning the ball over nine times as the Broncos started out 1-4.
Fox decided late in the first half to make the switch after Orton completed just 6 of 13 passes for 34 yards and an interception, his seventh of the season.
Tebow completed just 4 of 10 passes for 79 yards and a score and he ran six times for 38 yards and a TD.
Before Sunday’s second half, Tebow had only played a handful of snaps, lining up three times as a wide receiver decoy and taking two snaps from under center and gaining 1 yard on two carries.
With Orton playing so poorly, Fox decided late in the first half to make the change and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy told his quarterbacks of the switch as they headed up the tunnel at halftime trailing 23-10.
It was 26-10 before Tebow shook off the rust and led Denver on two touchdown drives, energizing the Broncos and a fan base that’s tired of their team being mired in mediocrity since 2006.
If Tebow stays under center, the Broncos will have to customize their offense to his dramatically different skill set. Not only is he a lefty and Orton a righty, but Tebow is much more mobile but not nearly as precise a passer.
In his career, Tebow has completed less than 50 percent of his passes (45 of 92) when the minimum standard in the NFL nowadays is 60 percent. But he’s thrown for six touchdowns to go with three interceptions. And he’s rushed 50 times for 264 yards (5.28 average) and seven scores. These are some of the intangibles that made him a two-time national champion and Heisman Trophy winner at Florida.
Elway is fond of saying Tebow is a great football player but that he must become a great quarterback from the pocket, and Tebow did show some more patience Sunday, not just tucking the ball and running when his primary receiver was covered.
Still, the Broncos would have to design a very different game plan for Tebow than they would for Orton, and just last week Fox noted how difficult it would be to have his team learn two different offenses.
Going with Tebow might also affect the locker room dynamic.
“I mean, you evaluate everything,” Fox said. “When you make decisions, in your heart and your mind it’s what’s best for the football team. So, whatever direction we go, that will be the No. 1 thing in mind.”
The new collective bargaining agreement stipulates that teams have to give players four consecutive days off during the bye week, so the Broncos will only get two practices totaling about five hours this week, and this could play into the team’s decision.
Only injured players can come in during that four-day period and then, only to get treatment.
What about a guy who was just named quarterback and might need more study?
“I don’t think we lock the building and (not) let him in — whoever that is,” Fox said.
He just wouldn’t be able to do much.
According to the CBA, during that four-day stretch, players cannot participate in club-supervised workouts or practices, meetings with coaches, film study with coaches or playbook study with coaches.
While he might the odd man out in the Broncos’ QB tussle, Quinn at least won points with his girlfriend, elite gymnast Alicia Sacramone, who ruptured an Achilles tendon while in Tokyo for the world championships. Before having surgery back in the U.S. on Monday, she tweeted that Quinn would be by her side.
“Best boyfriend award goes to (at)BQ9 for taking the red eye from Denver to be here for my surgery today...just another reason why I love him,” Sacramone tweeted.