The Dude’s Mail Revue: Tebow, Elway, and things that do not matter

Dude's Mail Revue 400x145Fat Man writer TJ “The Dude” Johnson posts The Dude’s Mail Revue on Thursdays whenever the hell he gets around to it.  He takes your questions and gets your opinion about the state of the Broncos and the NFL. You wanna tie the room together?  Or say what you'd like about the tenets of national socialism? Drop TJ a question:

(NOTE: Marmots were harmed in the writing of this Revue)

TJ, your bias and persecution against Tim Tebow is becoming more evident every week.  What did he do to you? By the way, if you ignore this email, I'll just send it again next week.  God Bless.

--Alexandra Forrest, New York, New York 

Alexandra:  Here we go again, Barlow Girl.   Fact is, I've slammed Kyle Orton badly when he's played badly. Why wouldn't I do the same with Tebow?

Of course, Tebow did nothing to me. In fact, I found his lip lock with Demaryius Thomas downright progressive, to be honest.


Magic Johnson and Isaiah Thomas were soft core compared to that man-on-man action. Tebow's kiss of Thomas probably did more to advance gay rights in the NFL than any interview with Michael Irvin or fictional show called Playmakers ever could.  

How many more haters like you are out there, Alexandra?  I feel like this is a bad zombie movie. Eventually, the zombies just surround you, suffocate you, and rip you limb from limb.  It's too bad really.   Killing us humans only gets blood on your promise rings, and eventually, there's no one to read the billboards.

I took the time and did a napkin probability calculation of what the chances are of recovering an onside kick, making a 2-point conversion, and then hitting a 52-yard field goal.   It's about 4 times out of 100.  It's even less when calculating the probability of winning.  That's camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle stuff.  If you want me to believe that this is the sort of thing I should expect week after week, then we're simply not going to see eye to intangibles.  

Last year, John Elway told Peter King that Tebow was "not a good NFL quarterback at this time."  I was curious if he'd made any progress in the offseason.  I thought he showed good progress in his three-game stint as a starter last year, so I had expected progress again because Tebow says he works on his passing every day for hours.  However, his game against Miami was a regression.  Blame it on the lockout, blame it on his book tour or DVD, blame it on the devil, I don't care, just don't try and pawn last week's performance off on me--and other heathens like me--as improvement.  It wasn't.   That performance was worse than he was last year.  There were a few passes in last week's game in which Tebow's upper body and lower body weren't even pointed at the same zip code.  At least in last year's games, he stepped in the direction he was throwing.  As Mark Schlereth bluntly said, for 55 minutes it was the worst quarterback performance ever seen in an NFL game.  Tebow was lucky Brady Quinn was not active, or he might have been benched.

I'm not sold just yet on the "he just win games" and "look at the last five minutes" argument. Part of the reason everyone (including me) wanted Orton to sit is so we could evaluate Tebow's entire body of work, not simply five minutes.  If you want me to throw most of the body out the window, just find a place to bury the body while I cover my eyes.  Tebow himself said that he's the one that put the Broncos into the situation from which they had to spin the wheel of chance and try an onside kick.  So don't contradict your own protagonist here--the horse's mouth is never wrong. 

If you want to legitimately criticize me and others, turn the body-of-work argument around on us.  I recommend you use the best argument I've heard, which comes from my friend Ted Bartlett--evaluate Tebow at the end of these eleven games.  That's the true body of work.  I don't mind waiting ten more games, even though I have to react to each individual game on its own merits.  If Tebow burns up the dance floor, I'll crown him disco inferno and jump on board the train.  You can gloat all you want,  although I doubt you would let sinners like me on the caboose.  Would you let me back on if I promise to listen to more Sanctus Real?  I personally prefer Red myself.

I only wish the Broncos would put Tebow in an offense that minimizes the need for pocket passing while he fires live bullets.  It would sure make it a lot easier to get behind Tebow's game when he's throwing to wide-open running backs in the flat or tight ends off a bootleg.  Where is Mike Shanahan's playbook from 2005 when you need it?

By the way, one point to ponder that works in your favor is the concept of deep practice. There's nowhere in the world that a quarterback can get deep practice except by game simulation.  Tebow has to build up the myelin in his brain as quickly as possible.  Nothing does this quicker than a game.  Is eleven games enough? 

Finally, consider this--it's okay to believe that the Broncos would be a better team with a different quarterback than currently resides on the roster.  It doesn't mean I hope Tebow or Orton gets injured; it doesn't mean I'll stop going to mass on Sundays Saturday nights; it doesn't even mean I hope they lose.  Last year when I wanted the Broncos to draft Marcell Dareus, it didn't mean I was persecuting Ryan McBean when I wrote about his poor play during the last quarter of the season (okay, only a little, and not to his face because he would beat the living daylights out of me).  It meant that I thought the Broncos could upgrade at the position.

No one accused me of persecuting McBean by writing of his poor play while at the same time advocating that the Broncos draft Dareus.  That dynamic changes because it's the quarterback in play this time around?  

Dude, you've said you think Elway is going to draft Andrew Luck no matter what.  I think that's almost impossible after the Miami win.  He simply won't have enough ammunition to work with to move up.  

--Buck Toliver, San Jose, California 

Buck:  I do believe it will happen (a quarterback in the first round at least), but I realize it's a long shot; the odds are against it.  I just have a feeling.  Let's call it my gift or intangible--the ability to strip away Elway's actions from his words, which, of course, mean nothing.  I'm not the first to say this (several readers, in fact have postulated as such), but I believe Elway has never believed in either Orton or Tebow to lead this team.  He wants to get his guy.  At the same time, Elway doesn't want to cost Pat Bowlen and Joe Ellis critical fan support (dollars).  If he comes out publicly and says Tebow's not his guy, it would cost them in home attendance.  So he's got to play the Tebow supporters just right and let them down softly. I think he's confident that after these next ten games, Broncos fans will be more than happy to add a quarterback.  And if, for some reason, Tebow racks up the wins, Elway can always track back with true support (and a tweet or two) and say he was there all along.  The fans will forgive him--hell, they'll barely notice.

It's no different than any politician would do, so I don't consider it unethical or even bad behavior.  It's simply that some fans haven't caught on that Elway is no longer the quarterback of the Broncos.  He's the Vice President of Broncos love.  Politics is his playbook now.  And in politics you never show your hand; you always appear to side with the winner (I know a couple of bloggers like this), even if you are plotting behind the scenes.

By the way, here is my impersonation of Elway's desire to get Andrew Luck:

TJ, the key to Tebow's success is being overlooked.  It's at the tight end position.  The better our tight ends play, the more comfortable Tebow will be as he adjusts to pressure in the pocket.

--D. Rosario, Denver, Colorado.

D: You'll get no argument from me.  I agree.  Daniel Fells is quietly having a decent season--not great, but decent.  Sure, there's his immortal catch against the Dolphins, but he's also been blocking well with a young and inexperienced line.  In theory, Fells is a perfect fit for what John Fox wants to do.  Because he is adept at both blocking and passing, the personnel grouping doesn't have to change when the strategy does.  For instance, if John Fox (and really, I should be saying Mike McCoy) wants to stay in a 113 personnel grouping for an entire series with the same players, he can do it without giving away a tendency.  This is not a luxury most teams have.  They often bring in their blocking tight end on running downs, and it's an obvious tendency that even we catch here every week with our scouting reports.  You've no doubt read something like this from either Ted or I: "When number 83 enters the game, he's their blocking tight end.  It's almost always a run."

With Fells in the game, no such tendency exists.  That, by itself is an advantage, and makes the Broncos a little harder to scout.  If the Broncos can get to the point this season where both Julius Thomas and Fells are on the field at the same time in either a 122 or a 221 package, the Broncos can chop some wood no matter who plays quarterback.  It's been a shame Thomas has not been able to stay healthy.  He was the true story of the Broncos' training camp.  The visions of Antonio Gates were obviously, in hindsight, a bit ridiculous, but Thomas' potential is tantalizing and seductive.  He puts quarterback accuracy issues on mute (and makes them moot).  Through six games, he's been on the field for only 37 snaps.  

In the long term, I'm sure the team wants to see a package consisting of Fells, Thomas, and Virgil Green.  Let's say it's a 131.  While that might appear like a running package, its robustness as a grouping for the pass has been demonstrated in New England (and more recently at Stanford).  In Denver--assuming the continued development of Thomas and Green--this package could go beast.

If you want to have a devilishly good time without removing your clothes, imagine a 032 personnel grouping that includes Fells, Thomas, Green, Demaryius Thomas, and Eric Decker--all healthy.  You could do all sorts of naughty things.  Oh, baby, I'm feeling dirty inside already.  

TJ, was Rahim Moore sick last week?  Did he even get into the game?

--Phillis Hayton, Mora, New Mexico

Phillis: Where oh where has my Rahim gone?  Oh where or where can he be?  OTD (Obssessive Tebow Disorder) has the effect of rendering what would otherwise be big stories meaningless. One of these stories was Rahim Moore's benching last week.  He played just six snaps in Miami.  It's way too early to give up on Moore, but it's also easy to see why Dennis Allen made the move.  Moore, as a free safety, needs the range of a Jim Edmonds in Cover 1 and Cover 2--some of Dennis Allen's favorite coverages.  He's been playing way too deep, and against the Chargers in Week 5, he looked outright slow in his reads.  Worse, however, has been his poor tackling.  With just 14 tackles on the year, his angles have been a challenge.  Add to the mix his six missed tackles--three less than middle linebacker Joe Mays--and you have the makings of a little down time (i.e., benching).  I rewatched the Chargers game and noticed one particular play late in the game in which Moore was supposed to blitz off the seam, while strong safety Quinton Carter, who was already in the box, was supposed to sprint back and play center field in Cover 1.  Philip Rivers saw the ploy easily with his pre-snap soft read.  See if you can:

To make matters worse, it took Moore a long time to get through the open blitz lane.  Rivers knew Carter would never get to the sideline where Malcom Floyd was running a deep out.  The play helped seal (almost) the game for the Chargers.

This play isn't what got Moore benched, but it is typical of the complexity that Dennis Allen requires from his safeties.  Quarterback isn't the only position in the NFL which has a steep rookie learning curve.  

Dude, the offensive line is finally starting to gel and McGahee goes down.  We can't seem to catch a break, and I'm not sure Knowshon Moreno is any better than a 3rd-down back.

--Vance Hall, Grand Junction, Colorado

Vance:  Well that's why the team has Lance Ball.  When he's played--last week, for instance--he's played fairly well.  I think he can balance Moreno's workload easily until McGahee gets back.  It's hip to be down on Knowshon Moreno these days, but the Broncos haven't made a real effort to get him into space out of the backfield or on the edges where he's more successful. Tebow's screen game should help this.

I'm honestly more concerned about the offensive live.  We've seen more zone blocking recently, which is a step in the right direction.  Both Chris Kuper and Ryan Clady were drafted to run in a zone system, and I think the others can adjust, especially if Franklin is eventually moved to guard and Beadles to right tackle.  

I know there have been many who have praised them in recent weeks (me among them), but the trio of J.D. Walton, Zane Beadles and Orlando Franklin is far from a finished product. When you watch tape of Beadles and Walton, it's been surprising how susceptible they've been to the swim move.  Usually, it's because they lunge--if only slightly--while the defender dispatches them with their own momentum.  There's no stat called "beaten by a swim move," but I'd estimate it happens to each guy a few times a game.  Of course, the reason defenders use the swim is that it's damn effective.  I realize some readers may not know what a good swim move looks like (let's face it, no one willingly watches line play), but this video of Jay Ratliff of the Dallas Cowboys, who has arguably the best swim move in the game, should give you a feel:

Franklin's problem is simply the pass rush.  He's given up 14 quarterback pressures, three quarterback hits, and two quarterback sacks that can legitimately be attributed to his play.  That's not Jeremy Trueblood bad (blood is always spilled), but the Broncos were hoping for better from the young mauler.

The Broncos have the second-youngest offensive line in the entire league, so they've got nothing but time on their hands at this point.  If the team is prepared to give Tebow 10 more games to show what he's got, I think before Franklin is moved to guard, he should be given an audition, too.  Ultimately, I think he belongs at guard, but ten more games isn't going to hurt anyone too badly--unless, of course, Tebow gets blindsided again and again and again. 

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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