Originally posted on Denver Post  |  Last updated 10/5/11

To play or not to play Tim Tebow in some ways has become a Fans vs. Fox contest.

Bronco fans are confident they are smarter than the coach because they recently prevailed in the case of Peyton Hillis. Bronco fans knew coach Josh McDaniels was wrong about Hillis. In 2008, Bronco fans saw how Hillis helped win games. He became popular to the point of achieving cult-like status.

Hillis, though, was a Mike Shanahan find. McDaniels wasn’t around in 2008 to appreciate what Hillis could do for a team. So even on third-and-6 inch plays in 2009, McDaniels would give the ball to Knowshon Moreno, who’s 40 to 50 pounds smaller than Hillis. And then McDaniels made the fatal mistake of blaming the offensive line when Moreno could never pick up six inches.

The fans were proven right, and McDaniels was proven wrong when Hillis went on to become a 1,000-yard, touchdown machine for the Cleveland Browns. Yes, Hillis still fumbles too much. Yes, he misses assignments. But despite his flaws, Hillis won games for the Broncos. And McDaniels lost too many.

Now we have Tebow. His popularity blows past cults and soars to nations. Broncos coach John Fox wasn’t around last season to appreciate what Tebow can bring not only to a team, but a geographic region. Yes, the ball occassionally takes off from Tebow’s hand and takes on a helicopter-like trajectory. Yes, he occassionally misses easy throws. Yes, he has a long delivery and a tendency to watch the pass rush instead of keeping his eyes downfield.

But Bronco fans also know that for all of Tebow’s flaws, the Broncos averaged 25.0 points per game in his three starts last year, and for all of Kyle Orton’s passing acumen, the Broncos averaged 20.7 points per game in his 13 starts last year; 20.3 points per game in four starts this year.

Bronco fans have come to appreciate mobility in their quarterback. So no matter what reasons Fox gives for playing Orton or Tebow, the fans feel they’ve been through this before. And fans are convinced they’re right and he’s wrong.

That doesn’t mean the fans are right this time because they nailed it with Hillis. Consider this: Maybe the difference between Fox and Tebow and McDaniels and Hillis is Fox genuinely likes Tebow. Maybe Fox cares enough about Tebow to NOT play him.

The feeling inside the Dove Valley building is Tebow is not quite ready. That he would be better served by continuing to hone his quarterback fundamentals before he is thrown out there against NFL defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers who know that putting a lick on a national hero will make all the 10 o’clock highlights.

And if defenses get the better of Tebow, it could in turn chip away at his enormous confidence and do more harm than good.

Problem is, Bronco fans heard all this last year, too. Once you go Tebow, you can’t go back. The Broncos tried to go back, anyway. And the result has been 1-3 with the fans on one side and the coach on the other.

With the Broncos playing the AFC West leading San Diego Chargers this Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, followed by a bye week, this may be the biggest must-win of the Bronco-Orton era.

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