After watching Tim Tebow enter Sunday's game and miraculously bring the Denver Broncos back to the verge of rallying past the San Diego Chargers, I don't question whether it's time to start the second-year quarterback out of Florida.
Instead, I question why it hasn't already happened.
When the Broncos drafted Tebow with the 25th overall pick in 2010, many scrutinized the decision, which was completely reasonable. While Tebow had earned a reputation as a winner in college, there were some things that didn't sit right with NFL scouts, most notably his accuracy and all-around fundamentally flawed approach to the quarterback position.
Such concerns understandably made most teams shy away from drafting the former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion — especially in the first round. A Heisman Trophy is an impressive and prestigious honor, but it doesn't guarantee a QB's success will translate to the NFL level.
Just ask Troy Smith, Matt Leinart, Jason White, Eric Crouch, Chris Weinke, etc., etc.
But the Broncos have been mired in mediocrity since winning 13 games in 2005, failing to reach the postseason since then. Last season represented the lowest of the lows, as they rode a dismal defense to a miserable 4-12 finish and watched their head coach get canned after a Week 13 loss.
But something changed during the last three weeks of last season. Even as the team was out of contention and easily could have mailed it in in order to secure a high draft pick, which they eventually ended up with anyways, they didn't. And the 180 seemed to come after interim head coach Eric Studesville made the switch to Tebow.
While starting quarterback Kyle Orton had been limping to the finish line, going 28-for-69 with three interceptions in his last two games against the Chiefs and Cardinals, putting up quarterback ratings of 46.3 and 27.1, respectively, Tebow was sitting on the sidelines just waiting for the chance to show the intensity with which he played for his entire four years of college.
When his number was finally called, he did what he had to do. His numbers weren't flashy, as he had a 50 percent completion percentage and five touchdowns to three interceptions down the stretch. But what he did do was restore faith that there was still a focus on doing what needed to be done to win games in the organization.
Tebow led the Broncos past the Houston Texans, 24-23, in Week 16 last season and then gave the same Chargers that he nearly came back against on Sunday a run for their money in the season finale. It appeared as though the Tebow era was set to begin in the Mile-High City.
But new head coach John Fox reverted back to Orton to begin this season in a very polarizing decision.
Tebow is one of those athletes that you hold some sort of feelings for, whether negative or positive, and he also stimulates that kind of response when discussing whether he has what it takes to be a starting signal caller in the NFL.
The apparent lack of faith in Tebow heading into this season is just complicated even more, though, when you consider Denver spent a first-round pick on him. As strange as the decision seemed at the time, it seems even stranger in retrospect if the Broncos are going to continue to roll out Orton on a weekly basis — while losing. You don't spend a first-round pick on a career-long backup quarterback, yet it has seemed at times like that's what Denver has done — and is OK with it.
Orton may be the more fundamentally sound, more accurate and certainly more conventional quarterback, but it hasn't looked like the rest of the team has bought into him as a leader. Of course, we have no idea how each player in the Denver locker room really feels about the team's quarterback situation, but Orton hasn't really shown the "it" factor on the field that Tebow has in a small sample size.
The Broncos' defense is slowly improving, but without faith in who's under center, the team is already at a disadvantage each and every week. It seems like that's been the case — at least until the second half of Sunday's game.
Heart doesn't always get you where you want in the NFL. Sure, it helps, but you still need to be a talented player. Tebow is, although his unique style is often questioned. What can't be questioned, though, is the grit that he's shown on every down he's played in the league thus far.
Pump-up speeches aren't going to get you a plaque in the NFL, nor is a near-comeback on a Sunday in October. But when you're on a team with an average starting quarterback that is 5-16 in its last 21 games, it should at least earn you a chance to start.