The success of Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos is not a miracle. It is definable and explainble, no matter how much we might wish otherwise.
The beauty of sports is built upon a foundation of the moment.
We live for the moments that make us look back years later and say to ourselves, “Did that really happen?” Often times, due to the magnanimous nature of the event, we do not even attempt to explain the how or why because, quite frankly, we just do not care.
To establish this premise, one can harken back to the great sports calls of our time and they can still hear Jack Buck’s exasperated, “I don’t believe what I just saw” after Kirk Gibson’s sensational game winning home run in Game One of the 1988 World Series. Likewise, one can still hear Al Michaels emphatic rhetorical, “Do you believe in Miracles?” and the resounding “Yes!” as the U.S. Hockey team defeated Russia in the semifinals of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.
Yes, these are just a sample of those magical moments in sports. Are they explainable? Probably. Yet we just leave it up to the gods of sports and call it a day. They’re too great to attempt to articulate into words.
There is something “un-explainable” that is going on in Denver. One of these “magical” moments occurred in October and, much to the surprise of everyone, has occurred on several more occasions since then. Unfortunately, in the parliament of our times, the words “inexplicable, amazing” and phrases such as “It’s a miracle” and “I’ve never seen anything like it” are used so often these days that they almost serve as mere punch lines and diminish the moment rather than allow us to relish in it.
Even when we know that Ruth is still the best, as is Jordan, and the same goes for Jim Brown and Gretzky.
Many say what is going on in Denver—particularly after last night’s victory—is a miracle. Even Trent Dilfer, a staunch Tebow critic, has now capitulated to the notion that it is “unexplainable”.
Nobody can explain it. It is utterly unexplainable.
Well, I can explain it.
And I will.
“I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It…”
Admittedly so, after the victory over the Jets, and then again with the win against the Bears yesterday, maybe even the win in San Diego, I found myself expressing this notion. However, it was after I thought more about it that I was reminded that I have seen something like this. Every Bronco fan that didn’t migrate here from Gainesville—or get baptized in the name of Timmy—has seen it before.
Long before Tebow conquered the college ranks in the same fashion that David conquered the Philistines (I read that comparison in an article—no joke), there was a guy named Elway who led more of these very same comebacks that we are seeing now. Only he did it about 40 more times.
Yes, I have seen it before.
I saw it when I was in the South Stands at Mile High Stadium (there was no other name attached to it back then) when Ernest Byner inexplicably fumbled on the Broncos 1 yard line before vaulting into the end zone. Denver went on to recover that fumble and go on to its second Super Bowl in as many years. I saw it again when the Broncos were down 19-6 to the Chiefs with 2:00 minutes to play and Elway hit Vance Johnson for a game winning TD. As a young child, I saw it when Louis Wright blocked not one, but two, field goal attempts on back to back plays to secure a victory for Denver. I was about seven years old then.
So, yes, I have seen something like it.
As a matter of fact, we all have. We are just so involved in the “moment” as it happens, that everything that happens now is always going to be better than what happened then. This is a societal flaw of life, not a sports flaw, so not much can really be done about that aspect of the “inexplicable” nature of Denver’s resurgence.
Yet, there is still so much more to explaining the “unexplainable”. How have the Denver Broncos gone from 1-4 to 8-5? For those who are keeping score at home, that is a streak of 7 wins in 8 games; including 6 in a row. Could it really be “Tebow Time”, or “Tebow-mania”, or whatever other aphorism, euphemism, or cliché one can surmise?
Not to Get Defensive…
As we begin to examine the explainable reasons for the resurgence of the Denver Broncos, one must acknowledge the play of the defense. Rookie phenom (oops…even I’m guilty of attributing arbitrary adjectives and labels) Von Miller is the best defensive player in the league that nobody is talking about.
In having this discussion last week while on the FanMan radio show, I impressed this veritable truth upon my colleague Jesse Golomb. I maintained if Von Miller were playing for the Jets right now, or any team on the eastern seaboard, he would have already been on the cover of every major sports publication in the country. Unfortunately, west of the Mississippi and east of Las Vegas tend to get overlooked. Well, that is, unless your name rhymes with Rambo.
But I digress.
The simple fact is, and this is a fact that every analyst and fan has acquiesced to, the defense has to keep Denver in the game for ‘Tebow time” to even happen. Well, they have done just that—and more.
Consider this: last season Denver held their opponents under 20 points exactly ZERO times. This season they have accomplished this feat six times; with five of those six coming with Tebow under center. Last season, Denver recorded 23 sacks all season; this year they already have 37 with three left to play. The same correlation can be said for turnovers. Denver already equaled their number of fumble recoveries from 2010 (8), and are one INT shy of tying their total output from last season (10).
More succinctly, during the course of their current win streak, the Broncos defense has held their opponents to a mere 17 points a game, while forcing a bevy of turnovers, punishing quarterbacks (see Sanchez, Ponder, Cassell) and scoring on defense.
All of these stats could be viewed as mere numbers in the grand scheme of Divine Intervention. Or, they could rationally be viewed as a means to explain the “unexplainable”.
Is it really all Tebow?
However, in one regard, I will give Tebow all the credit in the world. His humility and genuine nature toward the “team” element with regard to the game of football is indeed inspiring. This is able to be explained as well, but this is a sports site and I will leave it as such. Tebow is quick to admit that it is not all about him, stating on more than one occasion that it is not “Tebow Time” in as much as it is “Broncos Time.” Tebow is always quick to give credit to his teammates and His God well before he will ever bring praise on himself.
90% of professional athletes could attend the Tebow conference on humility and his understanding of how to act like a grown man in a team sport (I’m talking to you, Desean Jackson).
Yet, why the incessant desire by the media, the fans, and the flock to make it all about Tebow? Even those who would rather castigate and admonish Tebow than shake his hand make it all about him. They carry so much disdain on their faces every time Tebow is able to win another game that I am waiting for the magic kool-aid to be passed out as they wait for the mothership. It is senseless.
Aside from that, let’s be honest.
In most of the games that Tebow has played in during this streak, he really has not played well for the majority of the game. Moreover, he maintains a consistent improvement as the teams enters into the fourth quarter—in most instances trailing. In the past three games Denver was trailing at the 2:00 warning only to take the lead in regulation or tie the game and emerge victorious in the extra period.
But how does it happen?
Well, the prevent defense definitely helps.
After watching—and re-watching—the last few fourth quarters of Broncos games, it occurred to me: every team’s natural instinct is to venture into the prevent defense and not give up the big play. By this rationale, they are not giving up the deep ball from Tebow (who doesn’t throw a deep ball, save the game in KC), and they are giving him everything he wants underneath (which is pretty much all he completes anyway). I liken this to putting eight in the box and forcing Aaron Rodgers to throw deep.
It doesn’t make any sense either and the result: Tebow starts 3-16 but completes 75% of his passes for close to 200 yards and a TD in the fourth quarter. Is it really Tebow?
Tebow is an unconventional QB who has made some very amazing plays with both his feet and his arm. His work in the lead option has forced teams to adjust their entire defensive schemes for a week. One would think that a team would extend that to every aspect of their defense—meaning they would not fall into a prevent at the end of the game.
Again, consider this for arguments sake: the Bears, Jets, and Chargers do not play it “safe” with the prevent; which is ironically the biggest oxymoron in football. Does the game end the same way? It’s hard to tell because every team still falls into prevent. Also, I believe the teams who say “if only” are the ones who are golfing in January.
Tebow Tebows them and they get Tebowed by the great Tebowest of Tebow’s—he’s a Tebow’s Tebow.
Matt Prater kicks the game winners (every OT victory, four game winners total—including a 59 yarder to tie and 51 yarder to win yesterday) and Tebow gets the girls. The lonesome kicker syndrome strikes again.
It is all that matters. Period.
In reading this, some may misconstrue my sentiments and believe that I dislike Tebow or that I am being uber critical of him. First and foremost, Denver is winning, and as a Broncos fan that really is all that matters to me. I think back to what Nuke says in Bull Durham, “I love winning man. I f—king love winning. You know, it’s like better than losing”. I could care less if it is pretty, ugly, 3-2, 20-19, or 59-57. This is not the BCS and style points are not awarded at the end of the week. Green Bay crushing Oakland looks the same in the won-loss column as Denver winning a nail biter.
Tebow is playing better every game. I am not that obstinate. Furthermore, I am compelled to say that, given a full offseason under Elway’s tutelage, he will be even better next season.
However, we do not need to become mesmerized by the grandiose notions that God is helping Tebow win with Divine favor (what about the Christian athletes on opposing teams?). Nor do we need to exacerbate the situation with fallacious notions supported by the ever-present colloquialism, “I’ve never seen anything like it. I just can’t explain it”. Enjoy the moment, sports fans. The world of sports is full of these fleeting moments that we wish would last forever.
It can be explained and it will be further explained. Probably better than the way that I have done.
Even if it comes down to good old fashioned luck (not Andrew).
However, the great Branch Rickey stated, “Luck is the residue of opportunity and design.”
It is not that we cannot explain these moments, rather it is we choose not to explain these moments. We do not have to explain them.
And that is the greatest thing about sports.
We should enjoy it while it lasts.
Agree? Disagree? Angry? Drop us a line in the comment box below.
Daniel Bogaard writes for TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter @bogie711, and follow the entire team @TheFanManifesto.