There seems to be no shortage of hype surrounding Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow this season.
Following a dramatic 35-32 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Tebow hysteria hit its zenith as the former Heisman Trophy winner threw for 202 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
As a starter this season, Tebow has led Denver to a 6-1 record. With an overall record of 7-5, the Broncos are atop the AFC West, and have a strong chance of advancing to the playoffs. Few thought this could happen, as the Broncos appear to be this season's Cinderella story, while the new face of the organization is their contentious quarterback.
Things are looking up in the Mile High City, as the Broncos upcoming schedule is favorable. Three of the next four games will be at home, and the road game is against Buffalo, who have a sub-.500 record. Denver may only need to win two more games to win the division.
Many fans and NFL pundits have attributed the Broncos' success to Tebow. Some have gone as far as to underscore the outstanding season of Aaron Rodgers by suggesting that Tebow should be favored to win the MVP.
Some of the hyperbole has been particularly misguided. Tebow might have led Denver to an excellent record, but the team's wins and losses are misleading. The Broncos are in a weak division, and Tebow has faced weak competition as the starter.
Tebow has only completed 47.5 percent of his passes. He often throws the ball under situations when the Broncos have little choice, and has only one game where he has thrown more than 27 passes. When Tebow threw a season-high 39 passes against the Lions, the Broncos lost 45-10, and Tebow had an interception returned 100 yards for a touchdown.
In Tebow's seven games as a starter, the Broncos faced the Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, the New York Jets, San Diego Chargers and the Vikings. Of that group, only the Jets have a good chance of making the playoffs. Of the six wins, only one was by more than four points.
Under Kyle Orton, the Broncos had a 1-4 record, but four of the five opponents currently have winning records. One of them was the undefeated Green Bay Packers.
Orton won't be wearing a gold jacket at Canton, but to compare him to Tebow isn't much of a measuring stick. Orton has had his ups and downs over his seven-year career, and this season was one of those forgettable ones for the former Purdue star. If given the chance, Orton, who threw for 20 touchdowns and completed nearly 59 percent of his passes in 2010, may have been able to overcome some early-season problems to lead Denver to a record similar to Tebow.
When John Fox benched Orton in favor of Tebow, the first-year Broncos head coach did so under the pressure of fans chanting Tebow's name at games, and because he figured Denver's season might have already been lost after Week Six. With the season looking bleak, he handed the ball over to Tebow, and went for broke. Fox would later concede that the offense made changes due to Tebow's shortcomings.
But Tebow certainly deserves some credit for taking advantage of the opportunity that basically fell into his lap. He's done a fine job of utilizing his skill set, and wearing down opposing defenses.
While Tebow's throwing motion remains unorthodox, he is still a very good rusher, which is an often overlooked part of an NFL's quarterback's skill set. Because Tebow is a threat to run, his presence creates opportunities for receivers to get open and for running backs to find holes.
Tebow puts up his best numbers in the fourth quarter, which may be the result of opposing defenses becoming fatigued. He also remains a very difficult quarterback to sack, and has had success with throwing the ball on the run.
But what frustrates many Tebow critics is how some of his supporters are quick to credit Denver's success to the quarterback, while overlooking the rest of the team.
Aside from Sunday, the Broncos defense has been excellent in recent weeks. Von Miller, who was sidelined on Sunday, has emerged as one of the best young linebackers in the league.
The offense has improved in recent weeks. On Sunday, Denver seemed to take advantage of a confused Vikings defense. Minnesota's secondary left wide receiver Demaryius Thomas wide open on multiple occasions, which helped the rookie accrue 144 yards on four receptions and two touchdowns.
The Broncos offensive line has improved, and was particularly effective on Sunday, as well. At the start of the third quarter, the Broncos moved the ball up the field with ease as Willis McGahee rushed for three straight carries of 11, 14, and nine yards. In his first two carries to start the fourth quarter, McGahee took advantage of holes that helped him gain 17 and 24 yards. McGahee has already rushed for 886 yards this season.
Which brings us back to Tebow. There seems to be too much bashing and too much adoration for the second-year quarterback. He does have mechanical problems with his throw, and he's not a wizard who magically changed the Broncos. However, he is an offensive threat, and has been effective under the circumstances with his rushing ability.
He can't be solely credited with the success of the team and he's not nearly as bad as many of his critics have made him out to be.
Denver's 6-1 record under Tebow shouldn't be the gauge of Tebow's value. Though wins and losses are very important, they often don't tell the full story of a quarterback's performance. Jay Fiedler, the Dolphins' starter between 2000-2003, had an excellent 35-17 win-loss record in four seasons, but wasn't especially talented, and eventually faded off into quarterback obscurity.
It's difficult to look at Tebow and have a firm opinion on whether he's the reason the Broncos are suddenly winning. This is a quarterback who threw just eight passes in a 17-10 victory over the hapless Chiefs. Tebow hasn't completed half his passes this season, yet he may have sent the Broncos to the playoffs when he rushed for 118 yards against the Raiders in a 38-24 win on Nov. 6.
In other words, these are mixed results. Tebow may very well have a great career ahead of him, but to use the Broncos' results over the past seven games to argue for or against him is foolish.