Commentary

Tip Sheet notes: Tim Tebow Factor

Broncos could face thorny issue of how Tebow is listed on game day

Originally Published: June 18, 2010
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com
Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn and Kyle Orton AP Photo/David ZalubowskiTeams typically activate only two quarterbacks on game day. How will the Broncos designate rookie Tim Tebow (15) if Brady Quinn (9) and Kyle Orton (8) occupy the top two slots?
The recent suggestion by Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels that he likely will have only two quarterbacks active for game day this season garnered a lot of headlines.

But since McDaniels used only two active quarterbacks in 2009 -- the since-departed Tom Brandstater was the Broncos' No. 3 quarterback for all 16 games -- it probably shouldn't have been big news, except for this:

The Tim Tebow Factor.

The suspicion remains that McDaniels will design a special package of plays (a Wildcat set or some other exotic formation that gets the ball into the hands of the former Florida star) for Tebow, or that the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner will line up at another position.

But the limits on McDaniels' ingenuity could depend on whether Tebow or Brady Quinn (assuming that incumbent starter Kyle Orton retains his job) is listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the day of the game. The rules limit when a No. 3 (or "emergency") quarterback can enter a game without jeopardizing the eligibility of the top two designated players at the position.

Unless Tebow is the No. 2 quarterback or is listed at another position, he can't simply enter a game in the first three quarters, operate the Wildcat offense for a play or two and then return to the bench and allow either Orton or Quinn to replace him. So the thorny issue becomes one of just how Tebow is listed on game day.

There were 256 regular-season games in 2009, and thus 512 instances in which teams had an opportunity to utilize three quarterbacks. Yet there were only seven instances in which a club used three quarterbacks, and only three times in which all three of a club's quarterbacks registered pass attempts in the same game, according to official game documents.

The Philadelphia Eagles, because of the presence of Michael Vick as a Wildcat specialist of sorts, were the only club to use all three quarterbacks in a game more than once. And the Eagles never had all three quarterbacks -- Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Vick -- attempt a pass in the same contest. Kolb was designated the No. 3 quarterback for 11 games, but was only nominally so, as evidenced by the fact that he started the two contests for which McNabb was injured.

The rules notwithstanding, the ever-creative McDaniels probably will conjure up a manner in which to use Tebow, to get the ball into his hands and allow him to make plays. But it won't be easy.