A lot of things have been said about Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow since he was named Denver's starting quarterback eight games ago. Chief among those: "All he does is win."
But Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher made sure to add his thoughts to the mix after his team became the latest victim of Tebow time. His comments? "He's a good running back … He does a good job for them," according to ESPN.
Wait a minute.
These comments made me raise both my eyebrows. One eyebrow raised over the fact that Urlacher made these comments in defeat. He's been known to speak his mind, but his comments are typically more reasonable than this. This came just minutes after Tebow was indefensible by the Bears defense in the fourth quarter and overtime, when the unrefined quarterback went 18-for-24 (75 percent) for 191 yards and a touchdown.
The other eyebrow raised over the fact that Tebow, while he may not be a very good — or even moderately good — passer, he is certainly more than a running back.
Pardon the cliche, but he's a pretty good football player.
Tebow has become a sensation for his ability to capitalize on opportunities to win games, but he's doing it in historic ways. His five fourth-quarter comebacks this season tie him for third all-time in a single season, and that's with a five-game handicap after not starting until Week 6. In fact, according to Scott Kacsmar of Cold Hard Football Facts, he is the fastest quarterback to ever reach his sixth career fourth-quarter comeback.
All this is affirmation to what we already know: Tebowmania is running wild. But what sets Tebow apart? What makes Tebow more than just a "good running back"? He is smart with the football. He avoids dumb mistakes. He doesn't give the ball away, having been picked off just twice and having lost just three fumbles this season.
Take, for example, the final drive against the Bears that put the Broncos in position to hit the tying field goal that sent the game to overtime. Tebow had an easy opportunity to hit a wide open running back in the middle of the field, but ran toward the sideline instead. That decision stopped the clock, and avoided what would have been a hairy situation for the field goal unit.
There are a lot of "good" NFL quarterbacks that don't understand this simple fundamental concept: Taking care of the football and making smart decisions puts the team in a good position to win football games. Tony Romo, Michael Vick and Carson Palmer all immediately come to mind as those who don't always remember that.
Tebow takes care of the football and takes advantage of opportunities to win football games. He does both well enough to avoid the label of "running back," but has he done enough to earn the label of quarterback? You'd be hard-pressed to make that argument just nine games into his NFL career.
Make no mistake — Tebow is far from the only reason the Broncos are winning games. Credit a good defense and a great kicker as the "other" components to Denver's six-game winning streak and 7-1 record with Tebow as its starting quarterback.
As for his future as a quarterback, NESN analyst Matt Chatham pointed out on WEEI.com the absence of cause-and-effect in Tebow's wins. He spends the first three quarters playing terrible football, and the final quarter (and sometimes overtime) making up for it. Accurate passes are one of the most important components of being an NFL quarterback, and Tebow fails in that department for three quarters every Sunday. It's an area that he'll have to improve drastically if he wants to avoid the windfall of cause-and-effect when and if it should make its return.
He may not be an NFL-caliber quarterback just yet, but for now, at least, he's an NFL-caliber player, and that much shouldn't be undermined until he does enough to undermine it on his own.