On a scale of 1 to 10 for the most tortured NFL fans, I suppose those who live and die with the Cleveland Browns are a 17.
Forget the fumble in 1988. The Browns can’t even survive one of their own being on the cover of a popular video game without experiencing turmoil.
Still, they dream. They bark. They wear dog masks.
They annually act in a way a fan base in Denver has adopted today, cheering perhaps more for what a certain player represents than any instant success he might deliver.
Tim Tebow to the Broncos faithful is that thing said to be independent of logic, that thing born from an unbelievable level of passion.
He is hope.
(Hope also has been described as the worst of all evils because it prolongs man’s torments, but I’m guessing Denver fans would consider having to watch Kyle Orton penance enough.)
That’s the funny part, though. Orton is a better quarterback than Tebow. Orton has a strong enough arm and, when making sound decisions and throwing to the guys wearing his jersey color, is good enough to win games in the NFL.
We’re still not sure about Tebow on the latter. But we are sure it doesn’t matter in Denver.
The Broncos have turned to Tebow and will start him in Miami today, when the thousands who have chanted his name and supported those billboards pleading for a quarterback change finally are granted their wish.
And those might be just Miami fans.
“Tim is a true competitor,” Broncos vice president and former quarterback great John Elway told reporters last week. “He will do anything he can to win a football game. Tim has playmaking ability that you can’t coach.”
There is no one better than Tebow to play the role of Hope because it is one he mastered long ago. His importance to a team never has been measured in throwing motion or other variables said to separate the best from the average.
“He’s a role model, so I get it,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “But we’re in professional football, and he’s going to have to perform.”
Tebow is not ideal. He has thrown nearly 23 percent of his NFL passes outside the pocket. He has made three career starts before today, going 1-2 and completing 50 percent of his passes.
But he always has won, and when your team is 1-4 this season and already among those designated as serious players in the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes, the mere wish of something good happening is enough for most to jump headfirst onto the bandwagon.
Well, at least for players.
Owners and general managers and fans in Miami and Indianapolis and, yes, even Denver, might be praying daily to lose enough games that assures them the No. 1 draft pick and in turn Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, but be certain not one NFL player worth his helmet would purposely play poorly for a better chance at a college star.
They will play hard for Tebow today.
They will sell out for hope.
Luck is a different kind of hope than Tebow, more can’t-miss than maybe-he-can-win-us-some games. Denver coaches have described Tebow as a spark, not a word to excite the masses but enough to earn him this chance.
I don’t know how good an NFL quarterback he eventually will prove to be, but you have to figure the more film defensive coordinators gather on him and his style, the tougher it will be for Tebow to succeed without improving as a passer.
You also have to figure the Broncos could have waited at least a few weeks before trading their best receiver — Brandon Lloyd — after promoting Tebow to the No. 1 spot.
Tebow is fortunate in that dual-threat quarterbacks in many ways have become an NFL craze, meaning the legs often make up for shoddy accuracy (see Vick, Michael). The question remains whether such a player can win consistently when relying on an irregular skill set for the game’s most important position.
This was former Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche before last year’s NFL Draft:
“(Tebow) will probably spend one year as a backup, be included in the offense on a limited basis. I predict in Year 2, he’ll be somebody’s starting quarterback on a winning team.
“Ten years from now we’ll be talking about, ‘How many years now has Tebow been in the Pro Bowl?’ ”
The winning team part hasn’t come true, but he has ascended to a starting role.
For this, Denver fans have hope.
It’s the best they can ask for today.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday on “Monsters of the Midday,” Fox Sports Radio 920 AM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.