For more than 57 minutes of football last Sunday afternoon, Tim Tebow looked like nothing more than an embarrassing disaster.
He had been handed the keys to the Denver Broncos' offense, if not the entire franchise. He had an off week to adjust mentally and to prepare himself as Denver's starting quarterback on the road against winless Miami. And then, for nearly the entire game in his 2011 starting debut, Tebow stunk. Yes, he stunk.
The rest of the world might look at the Broncos' 18-15 overtime victory at Miami as validation that Tebow belongs as an NFL quarterback. But that's far from true.
Consider: Until the closing minutes, Tebow directed 11 offensive possessions, resulting in eight punts, a lost fumble and two missed field goals. Those two errant kicks were the only threats into scoring range, reaching the Miami 31 and 26.
After supposedly having the chance to make halftime adjustments, in the third quarter Tebow was 0-for-3 and took a sack, adding up to minus-4 yards net passing. On Denver's first five series of the second half, Tebow totaled one completion and seven net passing yards.
He didn't look comfortable in the pocket. He didn't make enough good reads, often not seeing open receivers. His throws rarely were on target, and he could have had several intercepted. He even had trouble eluding the Dolphins' pass rush, resulting in seven sacks.
That's nowhere close to reasonable expectations. All you had to do was watch a later game Sunday, with Minnesota rookie quarterback Christian Ponder making his first NFL start against Green Bay. Ponder had his shaky moments, but he had the Vikings in position to pull off a big upset, leading 17-13 at halftime before the Packers ran off 20 straight points, and still losing only 33-27.
Ponder looked like an excellent NFL quarterback in the making. Tebow, despite the game-saving comeback, looked more like a backup who doesn't have the finesse or touch of an NFL passer.
There's no questioning Tebow's leadership traits or his positive impact on teammates (and fans). But this is his second pro year, and if he couldn't look any sharper than that, you have to wonder. He was totally throttled for 57 out of 60 minutes by Miami, which still hasn't won this season.
Something else: Whatever happened to Brady Quinn? For most of the preseason, Quinn outplayed Tebow and looked far more likely to emerge as the starter if Denver had traded Kyle Orton. Yes, Quinn was shaky in the preseason finale at Arizona, but that was with all the Broncos' starters watching (on purpose, as head coach John Fox chose to hold them out). Nothing about that Arizona game should have been considered an audition, or a reason to pass judgment on Quinn.
The former Notre Dame star, who had made extensive offseason progress, showed better instincts, maturity and accuracy than Tebow. So, after Fox and the coaching staff gave up on Orton, why not create their own quarterback competition on Sunday afternoons?
Sure, go ahead and start Tebow against Miami. But when he struggled so much, why not insert Quinn at some point? In fact, since nobody has seized the job, why not give both extensive playing time and see what happens?
The schedule practically demands that Denver have more than one quarterback ready and available. After hosting Detroit this Sunday, the Broncos go to Oakland and Kansas City, face the New York Jets at home, then go to San Diego and Minnesota before two home games against Chicago and New England. That's a killer stretch, to say the least.
So it makes sense to give Quinn an equal opportunity. If nothing else, taking that approach could showcase Quinn in case Denver wants to trade him later.
Another issue looms: What should the Broncos do about Tebow? Stay with him, no matter what? Make sure Denver's fans understand that he's not the Broncos long-term answer for the next decade?
The best option would be to give Quinn another legitimate chance, but sharing the opportunity with Tebow.
Then perhaps the Denver brain trust will learn enough to make the right choice for 2012 and beyond.