Monday, March 26, 2012

Unexpected Comings and Goings of Tebow and Manning

It's hard to really understand all of what goes on in professional football. It seems there are hundreds, if not thousand of stories, written about every major development. In the past year, there are two stories that no one would have gleamed before the start of the 2011 season.

Peyton Manning Gone from Indianapolis

Peyton Manning underwent a couple neck operation that kept him off the playing field for the entire season. Colt fans saw Manning miss the first game of his career and then go on to miss the entire season. The 36-year-old four-time league MVP and Super Bowl XLI MVP had a “single level anterior fusion” on September 8th. He ended a streak of 208 regular season starts that began in September of 1998. The Peyton-less Colts fell from a perennial playoff team to the weakest team in professional football.

The Colt's season tanked. First, the team notched 13 straight losses. Then they finished the season with at 2-14. The Colts were the worst team for the 2011 season, earning the right to the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Who would have imaged the Colts would be so bad without their quarterback? Colts owner Jim Irsay fired Bill and Chris Polian--key members of his front office and then fired coach Jim Caldwell as well.

There are two excellent, seemingly "sure-thing" QBs in the draft this year: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Having the first draft pick, the Colts new front office decided it was time to move away from Manning, his salary, and the inherent risks in retaining an older quarterback coming back from neck surgery.

Manning to the Mile High City

Manning was released by the Colts and picked up by the Denver Broncos. According to Manning, his own doctor as well as doctors from the Broncos, Titans and 49ers all think he’s going to be perfectly fine to play football for years to come. Denver was listening.

Denver Tires of Tebow

Despite all the great things the Denver Broncos said about running quarterback Tim Tebow, it is likely the front office is glad to be rid of him and focusing now on a conventional offense. John Elway experienced a wild first season as Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Denver Broncos. He was named to that position by Owner Pat Bowlen on Jan. 5, 2011. According to the Denver Broncos web site, Elway calls the shots when it comes to managing the team.

Some have suggested that Manning's release by the Colts gave Elway an opportunity to go against the fans' love of Tebow. Only by acquiring a first-class talent like Manning, could Elway have traded fan favorite Tebow--at least that's how some of the sports writers see it. Remember, Denver's starting QB Kyle Orton was having a respectable career for the Broncos when he was sacked for the free-range running Tebow early in the 2011 season. Orton was no Elway, but few are.

Some suggest that the move was driven more by the fans looking for a Tebow miracle than by calculated football strategy. Tebow did go on to lead the Broncos to the playoffs with a series of unexpected victories and a first round playoff win against the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers. But the miracles ended after the first playoff game.

Jets Take on "The Saint"

Elway traded Tebow to the Jets. Tim Tebow's place on the Jets' depth chart is the No. 2 quarterback, behind starter Mark Sanchez. When you see the Jets coaches talk about Tebow, they are very clear to say that Sanchez is their number one guy.

Jets Coach Rex Ryan said that the team will be creative with Tebow. Having Tebow on the Jets will tax opposing defensive teams as they will have to prepare for two different offensive schemes. Of course, at the same time, it will take time and attention on the Jets part to add plays for Tebow and to plan for his style of play.

Sanchez Performance Has Been Good

Some in New York have grown impatient with Sanchez at times, but his passing percentage and quarterback ratings have climbed from one season to the next. Physically, he is gifted with a great arm and he is also known for his calm approach to the game. Just what will happen between Tebow and Sanchez is anyone's guess. No doubt if Sanchez has a couple bad games, the fans will be shouting for Tebow, regardless of whether it makes much football sense of not.

Best Fit for Tebow?

One has to wonder if the Jets are the best fit for Tebow. To think of Tebow in New York and working for Rex Ryan seems a bit out of character for everyone. Tebow might do best with a franchise that was willing to develop an option type attack, not just with Tebow, but with a second quarterback who would back Tebow up. The problem teams had when looking at Tebow was they had a tendency to look at him as a one-off. Long term they were unwilling to develop an offense that would feature his strengths not just when he is in, but committing fully to a different style of play for the offense with other option type QBs backing up Tebow. My sense is this is the only way Tebow would be used to his full potential.
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Patrick McCaskey's Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout and other fine sports books. Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout is a personal chronicle of Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey that looks back at decades of spiritual enrichment and life lessons from athletes, coaches, religious and everyday people. McCaskey recalls the stories of those who strived to make the cut on and off the field—plus people who left comfortable lives to serve the under-served in extraordinary ways.

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