Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Final, Unceremonious End to "Tebowmania"?

With the signing of 4-time Pro-Bowler, and 1-time Superbowl winner Peyton Manning, Denver General Manager John Elway has made a clear signal of his intention to move the Broncos beyond "Tebowmania". As DPost columnist Mike Littwin put it in his column today, Elway showed he could put Tebow and his mania in the rearview mirror merely by going after Manning. Getting Manning meant a colossal win, and even not getting him would be 'okay' because it sent a clear message to Tebow to look for greener pastures.

Now, with Manning scheduled today to be presented with his new Bronco uniform (No. 18 - bequeathed by the Broncos, originally retired with their first QB), and sign on the dotted line for $90 million for 5 years, Tebow's path out is esssentially a formality. Most likely destination? Jacksonville, FL, a northern Florida conservative city - putatively in the "Bible Belt", and barely 100 mi. from Gainesville and the Univ. of Florida where Tebow played college ball.

None of this sits well with about 20% of hard core Tebow fans in Denver, many of whom have vowed now to drop the Broncs as their team and go looking for Tim's new one. They're pissed at the way Elway and owner Pat Bowlen have treated him, and also vexed at being left with No. 15 Tebow jerseys that they will likely now have to either mothball as an ancient relic, or donate to Goodwill.

But the question persists: Is this the unceremonious end to Tebowmania?

Not necessarily! If Tim lands in a conservative Bible Belt football town like Jacksonville, expect a full -throated endorsement and resurrection. Tim will once again become "God's Quarterback" as he was hailed in Denver after leading them to the promised land of their first playoff game in over 6 years. Tebow mania will also be fueled to proximity to his alma mater, with tens of thousands of Gator fans pouring in to watch each home game in Jacksonville. It will be a bonanza for the Jags, their fans and their new owner, Khan.

Meanwhile, Tebow's maniacal backers in Denver will emit fumes of envy as they watch their boy perform and "Tebow" endlessly after each play, but no longer in Bronco orange and blue.

What about Denver, did they make the right deal with Manning? By any stretch it's a bet (on a 36 year old who's seen better days after four neck surgeries) that most wouldn't take. As reported in today's Denver Post (story, p. 1A) the Las Vegas Hilton sports book has now changed Denver's odds of winning the next Superbowl from 60 to 1 to 10 to 1. But that doesn't mean the lower odds will make their path any easier!

They have a more brutal schedule than last year and will not only have to face powerful defenses in the Falcons, Ravens and Steelers, but defenses that are now operating at full capacity - as opposed to having half their players injured or at half strength as when the Steelers faced Denver in the first playoff game last season (which Denver pulled out with Tebow's last minute pass to Demaryus Thomas).

My bet is still that Manning will be out after his first big hit. I simply don't believe he can take it, whether it arrives from Baltimore's Terrell Suggs or the Steelers' James Harrison. Then, after that, the Broncos SuperBowl odds will likely go back up to 120:1 with some unheard of backup QB taking the reins and Tebow long gone. Likely making the Jags a contender in the new season.

Meanwhile, Pat Bowlen and John Elway will realize what a reckless gamble they made on a former great QB who they only saw pass a few footballs in NC, and under no pressure, while taking no hits.

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