For the first time this season, John Elway has publicly backed Tim Tebow ... sort of. In a wide-ranging interview with the Associated Press, the team's director of football operations offered his first true support of his popular, young quarterback, yet still stopped short of giving him any hardened vote of confidence.
On Tebow's status as a member of the Broncos:
"Tim Tebow's not going anywhere. I mean, he's going to be a Bronco and we're going to do everything we can and hopefully he's that guy."
The inclusion of "hopefully" says all you need to know about what Elway really thinks. These comments are a big improvement over his tin-eared comments earlier this year. Still, Elway refuses to throw his support behind his quarterback.
On Tebow's development:
"The best way for Tim to develop was to be good on the defensive side and take our time with him on the offensive side. And that wouldn't dump all the pressure on him and say, 'Here you go, in your second year you need to go out and score 35 points a game.'
"And then I also thought, having gone to the games, that we had lost a lot of the home-field advantage, and I remember that when I played here, we had a great home-field advantage. But it was usually because we were so good on defense."
Denver always had a fine defense when Elway was there, but it was hardly as good as Elway recalls. During his tenure with the team, the Broncos defense finished in the bottom half of the NFL in total defense more times than it did in the top half. So what he really means to say is, "ever since I stopped being quarterback, this team has stunk and the fans have stunk too. And since Tim Tebow isn't me, it will be difficult to regain this status."
On his earlier comments that suggested Tebow wasn't the team's true quarterback:
"I think that comment was probably a little bit too blunt. Because I think the big picture with Tim is we've got to see the whole body of work. And so really what you want to see with him is the improvement that's going to happen over time."
Read: He's still not there yet.
On Tebow's future:
"We want it to happen because of the competitor he is and what type of person he is and how he represents not only himself but represents the Broncos and the city. People have been watching him, so he's a draw. But that's where some time in the offseason (helps) and it comes down to timing and throwing.
"Do I think he'll get there? Yeah, I do."
The biggest compliments Elway doles out is that Tebow is a competitor and he draws well.
Nothing is wrong with Elway's analysis of Tebow, mind you. What I don't understand is why he's even making public statements like this in the first place. There's nothing in the NFL code that says personnel guys need to talk to the press during the season. What benefit is there to going on a radio show to talk about Tebow? What's the best-case scenario? Staying silent and letting this thing play out for the next two weeks is a much better idea than going on radio and having your words parsed by media outlets all week.
The most confusing thing is why Elway can't just lie. He spent 20 years of his sporting career talking to reporters. Would it be so hard to deflect a few questions, throw out some balanced praise and move on? Like a politician who's going to have to answer for his previous statements one day, Elway will be the one who ultimately makes the Tebow decision. With each word he speaks on the situation, he exposes himself to criticism from either side of the Tebow aisle. Why is John Elway picking a fight with himself?