AP source: Tim Tebow the Broncos starter

October 11, 2011 - 2:50 PM
Tebow Time Football

FILE - This Oct. 9, 2011 file photo shows Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow running against the San Diego Chargers during an NFL football game, in Denver. Tebow energized the team, coming within a desparation pass of a big comeback against San Diego last weekend. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos will start Tim Tebow against the Miami Dolphins when they return from their bye week, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.

A member of the organization confirmed the move Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because coach John Fox hadn't made the official announcement. He's scheduled to address the media following Tuesday's practice.

Tebow supplants Kyle Orton, who has struggled ever since winning the job with a spectacular training camp.

Replacing Orton at halftime Sunday, Tebow nearly led the Broncos back from a late 16-point deficit, falling a desperation pass short in a 29-24 loss to San Diego.

Tebow had his troubles — rust, three fumbled snaps and six misfires in 10 pass attempts — but he ran for a touchdown and threw for another while energizing the Broncos and fans frustrated by a franchise mired in mediocrity since its last winning season in 2005.

Orton continued a puzzling slide Sunday when he went 6 for 13 for 34 yards against the Chargers and threw his seventh interception, tied with Michael Vick and Philip Rivers for most in the league.

He also has two fumbles, including a costly one against Oakland in the opener when he lost the ball without being hit while winding up to throw to a wide-open tight end for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter of a 23-20 loss.

Orton, who's in the final year of his contract, is 6-21 since winning his first six games as Denver's starter.

The Broncos tried to trade Orton, who's making $9 million this season, when the lockout ended, but talks with Miami broke down and Fox instead threw open the quarterback competition, something for which Tebow proved ill-prepared.

Orton had worked extensively with teammates in workouts organized by safety Brian Dawkins during the lockout. So had Tebow, but he also spent time pitching products and his autobiography across the country.

Orton's and Brady Quinn's offseason workout program paid off when training camp rolled around.

Orton maintained his stranglehold on the starting job and Quinn appeared to win the backup job despite a poor performance in the final preseason game, but Fox said this week that wasn't really the case: Tebow was his No. 2.

This despite Tebow showing almost no progress in becoming the pocket passer that Broncos football chief John Elway has said he must become to make it in this league.

His footwork was still flawed, his throws were still off-target, and he even had trouble with the most basic of football plays: the center-quarterback exchange, after spending most of his football career playing out of the shotgun.

He showed, however, that there was some validity to the notion he's a "gamer" by posting decent stats in preseason games, but he clearly was outplayed by Orton.

So, it was Orton's job to lose — and he did.

Tebow, who received a $6.7 million bonus in August, was used sparingly by the new coaching staff at first. He came in as a decoy in the slot when the Broncos ran out of receivers against Cincinnati in Week 2, and he took one snap, running for minus-2 yards at Green Bay two weeks ago before gaining 2 yards on a keeper against San Diego in the first half Sunday.

When he was heading up the tunnel at halftime, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy informed him Orton was out and he was in. Following punts on his first three drives, Tebow found a rhythm and the Broncos nearly overcame a 26-10 deficit.

Now, the Broncos will have to determine if they want to continue pressing him into becoming a prototypical pro passer or focus instead on capitalizing on his skills that made him a great combination college quarterback — some say the best ever.

Despite a resume that included All-America honors, two national championships and a Heisman Trophy, Tebow never came close to beating out Orton last season, either.

Tebow started the final three games last season — going 1-2 — after Orton got hurt and the organization decided to see what they had in Tebow, whom former coach Josh McDaniels had selected with the 25th overall pick in the 2010 draft.

As a rookie, he completed 50 percent of his throws and collected five touchdown passes and three interceptions. He also ran for six TDs.

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Connect with AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton