Let Tebow lead the Broncos past the Chargers
By Mike Klis
The Denver Post
POSTED: 06/06/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow hands the ball off to 2-year-old Druezjuan Balke of Loveland on Saturday during the Broncos Kids Club event at Invesco Field at Mile High. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post )
The Broncos have added a defensive line, beefed up their offensive front, subtracted locker-room distractions, received a softer schedule and zapped excitement into their fan base with their first-round selection of Tim Tebow.
They still have a major, perhaps even unsolvable problem: Philip Rivers.
The San Diego Chargers have Rivers and the Broncos don't.
Rivers alone explains why the Las Vegas Hilton Sports Book projects the Chargers to go 11-5 and win their fifth consecutive AFC West title while the Broncos are supposed to go either 7-9 or 8-8 and finish second in the division for a fifth consecutive season.
Peyton Manning is the NFL's best quarterback. Drew Brees is second-best. Rivers is third.
Tom Brady, the top quarterback as recently as 2007? Give his moxie and big-game credentials a slight edge over Aaron Rodgers, who otherwise is the superior passer, for No. 4.
Next, in order, are Ben Roethlisberger, despite his four- to six-game suspension; Brett Favre, despite his 40 years of age; and Matt Schaub, despite his relatively skinny resume.
The quarterbacks rounding out the top 10 depend on whether the criteria is past production (Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo) or future promise (Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Matt Cassel, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Vince Young, Matt Leinart).
Kyle Orton is closer to but not quite there with the McNabb-Eli group. Brady Quinn is closer to but a bit removed from the Flacco- Sanchez group.
Either way, Rivers is way, way up there. Rivers, as much as any other factor, explains why the Broncos went for Tebow.
In the past four years, the Chargers by and large whipped the Broncos in two ways: Beat 'em up and outgunned them.
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders have done a nice job adding heavyweights to their defensive front seven and offensive line. Now, when the Chargers want to yap
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and slug it out, the Broncos can match them salvo-for-punch.
"Everything we do in trying to improve our football team keeps in mind we are going to have to compete with them," McDaniels said after the draft.
Matching Rivers, though, may take awhile.
The numbers Rivers has put up against the Broncos in his four seasons as the Chargers' starting quarterback are startling: 137-of-200, 1,963 yards, 14 touchdown passes, three interceptions and a ridiculous 117.1 rating. That's a per-game average of 17-of-25 for 245 yards and roughly two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Over those same four seasons, Broncos quarterbacks — Orton, Cutler, Jake Plummer and Chris Simms — combined for nine TD passes, eight picks and a 77.8 rating against the Chargers.
Again, Rivers 117.1, Broncos QBs 77.8. That's nearly a 40-point rating difference in quarterback play. Still wondering why the Chargers are the four-time defending AFC West champs?
And that's just in the eight head-to-head meetings. Where the Chargers have trumped the Broncos the past two years, anyway, is against the AFC West doormats.
Rivers has never lost to the Oakland Raiders. Al Davis has gone away smirking in each of the past three seasons against the Broncos. In the last two of those Raiders wins, Broncos quarterbacks got outplayed by JaMarcus Russell.
In Tebow, McDaniels believes he has a quarterback who can eventually match Rivers. Maybe not pass per pass, but play per play.
It's too much to expect Tebow to keep up with Rivers this season. But maybe by 2011, Tebow can stare down Rivers and mix in 190 yards passing with a touchdown and 55 yards rushing with another touchdown. There's the offset to the typical Rivers game against the Broncos.
Before he can beat Rivers, though, Tebow has to win over his locker room.
"When you earn respect from people, then they begin to like you, and then they believe in you, and then they begin to love you, and then you have a team that is united and cares about each other more than anything else," Tebow said in a backroom session with The Denver Post. "And then you go out there and you play for each other, you play for your coaches and you win championships."
Listen to the guy. To beat Rivers, the Broncos had to come up with a different way. Tebow is the way.