Timing, to me, is the most underestimated factor in all of sports, particularly in a sport like football where it's more of a team sport than any other. Chemistry in a football locker room can make or break a season more than individual achievements and records can. And, great players who are not "team players" rarely make a true impact on a team enough to carry them to a championship. The timing of when a player is drafted or traded for, of when they are placed into a starting role, and especially in the case of a quarterback...when they take over as the leader of a team, should never be overlooked.
Timing can make or break a player or group of players. I mean, who's to say that Ryan Leaf couldn't have been one of the best quarterbacks ever had he been drafted a few years before, or after, he was taken by the Chargers? Sometimes you get the right guy, but at the wrong time. A player could be surrounded by the wrong supporting cast, or have the wrong coach or coaches. I've looked at several NFL teams that have come very close to being champions, and sometimes they were just one small puzzle piece away from having the right formula.
Take the Tim Tebow phenomenon. There are staunch Tebow supporters (like Skip Bayless) and there are unwavering Tebow doubters (like Keyshawn Johnson). But the bottom line is, could this be the right person for the Broncos at the wrong time? Tebow isn't a traditional pocket passer...he has some accuracy issues, and he's still learning to read defenses. But there has been a marked improvement in his game. However, the Broncos office and coaching staff might not be ready to continue using a variation of the "option offense" for too long. They might send Tebow on his way, and truthfully, it might be the best thing for both parties. (And yes, I know Denver fans reading this are screaming bloody murder right now, and looking to hire a brute squad to hunt me down) But it wouldn't be the first time that something like this happened.
|Is Tebow's grit exactly what the Broncos need right now?|
A perfect example is Trent Dilfer, a former NFL quarterback who played for the Buccaneers, Ravens, Seahawks, Browns and 49ers. Dilfer was mired in mediocrity for five seasons in Tampa Bay before heading to Baltimore. He was constantly ridiculed by the likes of Terry Bradshaw and other NFL analysts, and it seemed he would never be that marquis quarterback that teams wanted. Most complimented him on his "football smarts" but stopped short of being able to commend his physical talents. So to the Ravens he went in 2000. He stepped into a situation that fit his skills perfectly. A fearsome, relentless, seemingly immovable defense, a very strong running game, and a who's-who of coaching on the sidelines. All Dilfer needed to do was not make big mistakes to lose games for the Ravens. Hand the ball off to Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis. Throw some dink 'n' dunk passes to Brandon Stokley and Qadry Ismail and let them run with it. From time to time, stretch the field just to keep the opposing defense honest. And, then set things up, when needed, for prolific kicker Matt Stover to win games for them. The timing was perfect for Dilfer. The Ravens won the AFC Central Division, and went on to beat the Giants 34-7 in the Super Bowl.
Now you could take that same Trent Dilfer, and plug him into 31 other teams that season, and you might not even get a wild card contender. But the pieces were in place for a QB just like him in Baltimore. That was his only season with the Ravens, and neither he nor Baltimore returned to the Super Bowl after that season. Timing folks..just, timing.
If it was just about winning, then Tony Romo would already have his ring. If it was just about winning, Dominique Wilkins would have won multiple NBA championships. If it was just about winning, the Bobby Cox would have several World Series rings instead of just one. If it was just about winning, Dan Marino would have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy at least once. No, it's not just about winning. You have to take those winners, and make sure they are put in the right place, at the right time. Otherwise, all you get are individual records, statistics and accolades that don't add up to a hill of beans.