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Published: Sunday, 10/23/2011

COMMENTARY

QB carousel takes a spin for 3 squads

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

It's a guaranteed standing ovation in the home stadium of a struggling NFL team. Send in the No. 2 quarterback.

Backup QBs are the most popular guys in town. They haven't been scarred by the stench of losing, of interceptions and sacks, and too many wasted visits to the red zone.

The No. 2 quarterback is always the answer, always the future. He represents hope in otherwise hopeless situations.

What fans don't see, though, is why their newest hero has been kept in waiting, stuck in neutral. They don't see what coaches see during practices or on film.

This brings us to the Great Tim Tebow Experiment, out of the laboratory and onto the field today when Denver plays at Miami.

For good reasons, the Broncos have seen enough of Kyle Orton as the starter. The once-proud franchise, which has been fruitlessly searching for its next John Elway for a dozen years now, is 1-4 and has won just seven of its last 31 games.

So, it's Tebow Time.

In our nation's capital, it is John Beck Time instead of Rex Grossman, who threw four interceptions a week ago and had nine in the last four games. Beck, who hasn't started a game since 2007 while with Miami, becomes the Redskins' 21st starting quarterback in 19 years.

In Minnesota, it is Christian Ponder Time instead of the ineffective Donovan McNabb after a 1-5 start. Ponder, a No. 1 draft pick, is surely the Vikings' future, but he might find the present to be too tough as he makes his first start against Green Bay.

Tebow also was a No. 1 pick, although a controversial one during the 2010 draft, and his start is the one of most interest.

He should have a better shot than Ponder at a warm welcome, even on the road, going against the winless Dolphins. Ironically, it comes on a day Miami is honoring former University of Florida stars, which should make Tebow the most admired player in a stadium where some "fans" may be more interested in seeing the Dolphins lose for purposes of the Andrew Luck draft sweepstakes.

See, everybody has quarterback issues. Well, not everybody. Out of 32 teams there may be a half-dozen that have truly elite quarterbacks and another 10 whose QBs are considered franchise players and would be hard if not impossible to replace.

That leaves half of the league's teams in a state of quarterback flux. And, remember, in the NFL if you don't have a quarterback you don't have a prayer.

Tebow believes in prayer. He is a proud, unequivocal Christian who has inspired almost a cult following in Denver after doing the same as one of college football's most successful and charismatic players at Florida.

Broncos' first-year head coach John Fox may not be a big Tebow fan, but found he was almost powerless not to make the change in light of his backup's strong late-game effort last week and the renewed, powerful public demand.

The coach sees the odd wind-up to Tebow's throwing motion, the too-low release point, his discomfort in the pocket, a perceived lack of arm strength on deep throws, a less than 50 percent completion rate in sporadic appearances since the start of last season.

Tebow's many supporters respond that the kid, who brings a running dimension to a passing position, is simply a winner.

That intangible, easily the ultimate intangible, may or may not be the difference in the NFL, where talent most often wins out.

Tebow deserves a chance and it's time to find out if he can be the answer in Denver.

If not, the Broncos will find themselves without even a prayer.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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