Insider: NFL Notebook

In today’s notebook we examine what the vote of confidence John Elway gave to Tim Tebow really means, we look at Mike Tomlin’s decision to start a near-handicapped Ben Roethlisberger, we ponder the Bears making a change at quarterback and the value of “bridge” quarterbacks.

Tebow Wins the Vote of Confidence

When an NFL head coach gets “the dreaded” vote of confidence from his team’s owner, it usually means he’ll be looking for a job sooner rather than later. It’s usually a little bit different with players, and Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has received somewhat of a “vote of confidence” from Denver V.P. John Elway.

“Tim Tebow’s not going anywhere,” John Elway told the Associated Press. “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 vote of confidence was smart by Elway as he realises how much the Broncos fan base is behind their starting quarterback. Tebow, aka “The People’s Champion” has played Denver not only into the lead in the AFC West (even if they’ve won sometimes in spite of him), but the wins have taken the Broncos out of play for Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin III, and possibly even Ryan Tannehill in the draft.

At this point when Elway says that “Tim Tebow’s not going anywhere,” he’s right. They won’t be in any kind of position to select one of the top signal callers in the draft and despite Tebow’s win-loss record, he still has virtually no trade value.

Elway probably figures that it doesn’t do any harm to publicly support his quarterback, even if he didn’t draft him. Who knows, with a full offseason to work with the talented Demaryious Thomas and Eric Decker, perhaps Tebow will be able to improve his passing to an acceptable NFL level and there won’t be any underlying resentment from the fans toward the Broncos legend (that’s Elway, not Tebow).

Steelers Made The Right Move

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has been criticized for starting a very gimpy Ben Roethlisberger in Monday night’s 20-3 loss at San Francisco. Hindsight is always 20/20, and the result from the game was 330 yards passing from Roethlisberger, but also more turnovers (4) than points scored (3).

“I was probably the best 49er,” Roethlisberger said following the team’s fourth loss of the season.

“I want to be out there. It’s their call to say yes or no,” Roethlisberger added.

Tomlin’s decision may not have been what was best for Ben or the team at the time, but the strategy behind it was sound.

“He’s a competitor and I’m not going to deny those guys those opportunities,” Tomlin said. “I think his teammates have an appreciation for that and that’s how we’re built.”

With a 10-3 record entering Monday’s game, the Steelers controlled their own destiny as three wins down the stretch would give them the top seed in the AFC. Aside from the tough San Francisco game, the Steelers close with 2-12 St. Louis at home followed by a trip to 4-10 Cleveland. It’s likely that Roethlisberger would not have been needed for the Rams and Browns games, assuming Pittsburgh could have won in San Francisco with him.

Sitting with a now 10-4 record, the Steelers have already clinched a playoff berth, but would lose a head-to-head tiebreak against 10-4 Baltimore.

“We are not worried about top seed or anything else,” linebacker James Farrior said. “We have two games left in the season and we want to finish up strong.”

The Ravens close with Cleveland at home and a trip to Cincinnati to finish the season. They will be heavy favorites in both games and will likely win the AFC North with a 12-4 record, thus rendering the Steelers to the fifth-seed as a Wild Card.

As much as Ben Roethlisberger would like to finish the regular season as the starting quarterback, it’s in the Steelers best interests to hand him a clipboard and a visor as Pittsburgh will not likely be able to improve their playoff position.

Steelers are 0-for-Harbaugh

The Harbaugh family may have deep NFL roots but they’ve only been coaching at the highest level for a few years. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would probably like the both John and Jim Harbaugh to either go back to college or just go somewhere else. This season Tomlin and the Steelers are 0-3 against the Harbaugh family.

“The 49ers did us a favor,” Ravens running back Ray Rice explained. “It happens to be coach Harbaugh’s brother, so thank you 49ers. I guess that’s what brothers do.”

Another Starting McCown?

It appears that the Chicago Bears will be making a change at quarterback this week as they take the keys to the car away from Caleb Hanie (who did his best to drive off a cliff) and hand them to recently acquired Josh McCown.

Hanie has lost all four games as the Bears starter as they’ve seen their 7-3 start even out to 7-7. Hanie has completed just 50 percent of his throws for 613 yards with three touchdowns and nine interceptions. His 41.8 quarterback rating is among the lowest in the league.

“We’re trying to win a football game, so the best guys who give us an opportunity to do that will be on the field,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said on Monday. “No more than that.”

The Bears may be grasping at straws with Josh McCown, who has thrown just eight passes (completing two) since 2007. Taking into account how poorly Hanie has played, Chicago has no choice but to try anyone else, and Josh McCown is pretty much anyone.

McCown’s younger brother Luke is a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars and he started two games earlier this season. How many people in the beginning of the season would have believed that both McCown brothers could start games at quarterback before Peyton Manning in 2011?

Sometimes You Need a Band-Aid

The Kyle Orton’s, Rex Grossman’s and Matt Moore’s of the world are not going to lead your football team on a Super Bowl run. Where some would see starting those quarterbacks as “wasting a season,” there is some value in having a veteran “band-aid” type of guy, compared to getting desperate and making a bad trade or free agent signing for an unproven signal caller with potential.

The brilliant Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports explores the value of a “bridge” quarterback and how teams such as Kansas City and Arizona have made big mistakes by making “just a guy,” the guy.

Our take: The idea of having a “bridge” or “band-aid” type of quarterback is solid if there’s no real answer at the position. That said, there’s nearly as much danger in feeling overly comfortable with the middle of the road veteran types while ignoring the draft as there is taking a shot on a bad veteran. The other side of this is teams that reward their mediocre guys with lucrative contracts in the hopes that they’ll “blossom” with the confidence bestowed upon them (Cough***David Garrard***Cough Ryan Fitzpatrick***). That almost never works out.

Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie

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