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Tim Tebow aside, consider the NFL gambles that have worked

The Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning and San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick had roles in risky moves that paid off. Replacement officials, not so much.

December 21, 2012|By Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
  • The Jets acquired Tim Tebow from the Broncos during the offseason, a move that hasn't panned out for New York or the quarterback.
The Jets acquired Tim Tebow from the Broncos during the offseason, a move… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

For a guy who can find the good in just about anything, even Tim Tebow is having problems putting a positive spin on what's gone on with the New York Jets this season.

All that talk about his being a true factor in the offense? Blather.

Tebow hasn't been involved in one scoring play this season, and the notion of his running the wildcat or being a threat around the goal line doesn't rank as even an afterthought anymore.

Greg McElroy will start at quarterback Sunday when the Jets host the San Diego Chargers, yet another admission that the decision to trade for Tebow was a failure. No matter what the Jets promised Tebow when they acquired him from the Denver Broncos last spring, they didn't come through with it.

All that move did was further distract a team already adrift, and maybe accelerated the decline of Mark Sanchez.

The Tebow fiasco is only one of several failed experiments around the NFL this season, albeit the splashiest. Those kinds of mistakes are made every season.

But there were a lot of good moves around the league too, dicey decisions that wound up paying off in a big way.

Four risky moves that worked.…

Russell Wilson

Seattle's Pete Carroll raised a lot of eyebrows when he named Wilson the Seahawks' starting quarterback, choosing the third-round pick over Matt Flynn, a coveted free agent. Wilson has had a season worthy of offensive-rookie-of-the-year consideration, with 21 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and an eighth-best passer rating of 95.5 — better than those of Matt Schaub, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and many more.

Kirk Cousins

After trading a truckload of draft picks to move up to No. 2 to take Robert Griffin III, why would Washington circle back and select another quarterback in the fourth round? The Redskins showed why two weeks ago, when Cousins filled in for the injured Griffin and led them back from an eight-point deficit to beat the Baltimore Ravens. Then, he guided them to victory over the Browns in Cleveland. Picking him turned out to be a wise move.

Peyton Manning

The Broncos did everything they could to land this future Hall of Fame quarterback without truly knowing if he would ever be the player he was with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning, in turn, directed them to an AFC West title and figures to take them deep into the playoffs (or beyond). He has made his teammates better too. For example, Knowshon Moreno — who looked like another washed-up running back heading into the season — was just named the AFC's offensive player of the week. Who saw that coming?

Colin Kaepernick

When Alex Smith was ready to return from his concussion, San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh made the tough decision to stick with second-year quarterback Kaepernick. Smith was playing very well leading up to his injury, but Kaepernick is more mobile and has greater playmaker potential. At New England on Sunday night, Kaepernick unflinchingly answered a Patriots comeback and the 49ers came away with a pivotal victory. Making the change couldn't have been an easy decision for Harbaugh, but it turned out to be the right one.

Four risky moves that flopped …

Replacement officials

Regular officials were locked out for almost four months because of a labor dispute, and their replacements were a mess. Some of the on-field mistakes were comical, and the final straw came when the Green Bay Packers were denied a victory in Seattle because of a blown call on a game-ending Hail Mary. The Packers made the playoffs, Seattle is in good position to make them, so the miscue is largely moot. But few will forget it.

Norv Turner

Chargers owner Dean Spanos made the controversial decision to bring Turner back as San Diego's coach after last season. The team is now 5-9 and will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. It's too easy to blame it all on Turner. The Chargers uncharacteristically plunged into free agency last off-season, spent a lot of money, and got precious little in return. All the while, their offensive line has deteriorated, and quarterback Philip Rivers looks more rattled than ever.

Prime-time games

For the first time, the league this season gave every team a share of the spotlight, putting each in at least one prime-time game. Some teams haven't earned that billing, and putting them at center stage only damages the overall product. What's more, having games every Thursday night (as opposed to having them from Thanksgiving through the end of the season), leads to over-saturation and forces teams to rush back to action when they're not at their best, increasing the risk of injuries.

Buffalo's defense

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