WASHINGTON, March 19, 2012 – No one saw the Tim Tebow era ending that fast.
According to an ESPN report, Peyton Manning has chosen to negotiate a contract with the Denver Broncos, in all likelihood forcing Tebow out of town. Many, myself included, thought that the Broncos had missed any chance to jettison Tebow thanks to the popularity he accrued during Denver’s over-covered, overhyped playoff push last season.
After all, enough people are convinced that Tebow is a superstar; that the only way to replace him would be to acquire a real, bona fide superstar.
Manning is, of course, a proven future Hall of Fame member, meaning that he is at least 20 times the quarterback that people think Tebow is. This is good news for the Broncos and their rush-centric offense that has struggled to field a dependable quarterback during the last decade. This is bad news for the AFC West, a division that up until and including last season was the laughingstock of the sport, a place where teams could go down to the wire chasing a home playoff game and a 9-7 record simultaneously.
This is really bad news for Tim Tebow—who will most likely have to take his talents to one of the few remaining teams that hasn’t yet tried out the “cannot-throw-quarterbacking” model while a large swath of the United States follows the process down to the smallest detail.
Where does this leave us in the maze?
Teams are not going to be lining up to take a chance on Tebow; in fact, the prospective trade partners are going to be the teams who are also pursuing mere mortal quarterbacks. That factor points straight to the usual suspects when it comes to quarterback shopping—the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, and silence.
Visually, it’s a stretch to see Tebow taking his talents to South Beach to join LeBron. But the Raiders, while never hesitant to abandon any player under the Al Davis regime, have turned over a new page in philosophy, and already have Carson Palmer under center.
Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the Browns appear to still believe in Colt McCoy. By elimination, that leaves leaderless Miami as Tebow’s most likely destination.
Moving away from the Tebow perspective, it’s not premature to declare Denver the class of the AFC West. The weakest division in the NFL will be a playground for a healthy top-five quarterback.
The Broncos aren’t going to be able to push the television cameras away, admittedly, as they’ll be out in full force to cover Manning’s triumphant return. But at the heart of it all, the most important quality is who is better and who is best.
At the end of the day, this is a collision of two feel-good stories: Peyton’s return, and Tebow’s ascendance. The probability that both continue into next year is slim, that much is clear from a glance at the receiving corps that Tebow will have to deal with next year should he be dealt.
Considering that list of destinations, the best thing for Tebow would probably be to stay in Denver and learn to beef up the weakest part of his skill set from one the greatest passers of all time. But that’s out of his hands. All we know now is that Peyton Manning is already great, the Broncos are destined for something great, and Tim Tebow’s destiny is riding on someone else’s next throw of the dice.
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