While he may have been the owner of a division rival team, Al Davis’ famous quote “Just win, baby” seems to be the mantra for the 2011 Denver Broncos. It may not be pretty, and it may remind us of a time when a bunch of white guys were running around in leather helmets, but the Broncos option running attack is winning games. How many games this style of play will win for the Broncos this year is yet to be determined, but one thing is clear: the Broncos are 4-1 since Tim Tebow took over as quarterback.
All season long, fans in Denver and Broncos faithful across the nation begged for Tebow. Their cries became louder as Orton struggled to start the season and five weeks later, the fans had their prayers granted. Tebow was going to start. The media began licking their chops, and why not? Tebow is a great role model, the epitome of success at the college level, and a dynamic player – a proverbial triple threat.
5 weeks later, the novelty of Tim Tebow has worn off a bit, starting with the fans who may have wanted him to play, but were skeptical about the situation as a whole. Despite the ever-increasing numbers in the win column, Tebow has come under fire for his inability to make throws, his inability to read defenses, and his apparent inability to run what many deem an “NFL Style” offense. Fans and analysts alike are pleased with the wins, but it begs the question: “How long can this style of offense continue to have success in the NFL?”
Much like Darwin theorized, the NFL is constantly adapting, copying, adapting, and copying – an archetype for evolution. There is a reason why it is so difficult for NFL teams to go undefeated all year long, because even the least talented team, with the right scheme in place and halfway decent execution can beat a team that is seemingly superior in every other way. If one of the top teams loses, or their highly vaunted offense slows down, you can bet that next week’s opposing coach is going to copy that game plan, right down to formations, blitzes and disguises. So in a way, there is no such thing as a sustainable offense in the NFL. Even teams we would deem to have the best offenses in the league must constantly adapt their styles in order to find success on a weekly basis. An NFL offense is only as good as its game plan which is why offensive coordinators are in such high demand.
Now back to the Broncos. They run a highly esoteric offense that very few quarterbacks in this league could run. Imagine Tom Brady running the option or Peyton Manning rolling out on naked bootlegs multiple times a game – it just won’t happen. Why not? Because the offensive coordinators have constructed a game plan and a set of plays that lends themselves to their quarterback’s strengths. Tebow is not the kind of quarterback who can throw a ball through a tire from 60 yards away or will look the safeties off with his eyes and hit a streaking receiver down the sideline for a 90 yard score, so why try to create a game plan that requires skills he has yet to develop? Each and every week, it is up to the offensive coordinators to draw up plays that can take advantage of a defense’s weakness and introduce new wrinkles into their offense that will keep the defenders on their heels. In other words, the sustainability of the Denver Broncos offense is less about Tebow and more about the offensive coordinators.
The Broncos have tried two different offensive styles this year. They had their “air it out” days with Orton who was likely the best quarterback out of the bunch to run that style of offense, and they have had their ball control running game, which Tebow is much more skilled at operating. Orton went 1-4, Tebow is 4-1. There are a lot of teams in this league that would kill for an .800 winning percentage and until the Broncos offense gets shut down for a few weeks in a row, it is way too soon to call this style “unsustainable.”