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Pick 6 of surprise starters includes Moore, Tebow

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. 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)
By Richard Rosenblatt
AP Sports Writer / October 14, 2011

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Play a guy who's struggling, or try the guy you thought wasn't as good as the starter. That's been the quarterback quandary for plenty of coaches over the first part of the NFL season.

John Fox of the Broncos has relented, Leslie Frazier of the Vikings hasn't, and Jack Del Rio of the Jaguars had virtually no choice but to make a switch.

Injuries to their starters left Jim Caldwell of the Colts and Tony Sparano of the Dolphins with absolutely no choice.

Pete Carroll of the Seahawks, on the other hand, has another week to decide whether a switch is necessary.

Meanwhile, rookies Cam Newton of the Panthers and Andy Dalton of the Bengals are making their coaches look good by getting their careers off to impressive -- in Newton's case record-breaking -- starts. Both players walked into starting roles when they showed up for practice after the lockout.

With so much uncertainly over who's calling signals on any given Sunday, it's no wonder this Pick Six of teams with quarterback issues is not to be confused with a list of Super Bowl contenders.

-- Denver: After much caterwauling by fans, and after so many failures by Kyle Orton, it's Tebow time in Broncoland. Fox has a bye week to tailor the offense for a more innovative, scrambling tough guy who promises to ramp up the excitement level. Orton threw eight TD passes and seven interceptions (tied for the league lead) and was sacked nine times as the uninspiring QB on a 1-4 team. Tim Tebow displayed his unconventional, yet effective style by nearly leading his team to a comeback win over the Chargers last week.

"They drafted him here for a reason -- to win games. And he's going to make it happen, trust me," says teammate Rahim Moore. "People who dislike him, people who don't think he's the man, that he can't do it, he is going to prove them wrong. He's going to lead us to the promised land."

-- Minnesota: Despite a 1-4 record, Frazier is sticking with Donovan McNabb -- even though the QB was still bouncing passes and being booed by the home fans in last week's victory. The 34-year-old McNabb ranks in the bottom six among NFL starters in completion percentage (56.8) and yards passing (849). This may be cruel and unusual punishment for Vikings fans, but perhaps Frazier is waiting to throw rookie Christian Ponder to the Lions when the teams meet Dec. 11. Then again, maybe handing off to Adrian Peterson every down may not warrant a QB change.

-- Jacksonville: More 1-4 madness here, and it all starts with Del Rio's decision to cut starter David Garrard days before the season. C'mon! What was that about? Luke McCown, starter of seven NFL games in a career that began in 2004, was horrible. Now it's rookie Blaine Gabbert by default. He certainly will learn under fire, especially with the next three games against the Steelers, Ravens and Texans. Ouch.

-- Indianapolis: These guys couldn't find a better replacement for Peyton Manning? GM Chris Polian persuaded 38-year-old Kerry Collins to unretire, and now he's out with a concussion and Curtis Painter is in, learning on the job very slowly. Result? A perennial Super Bowl contender is 0-5 and seven-point underdogs to the Bengals on Sunday. Not all of this can be pinned on Painter since the Colts seem to lose a starting player or two to injury every week. But having a QB who sometimes looks as if he's running scared is hardly a way turn things around, although the past three losses have been by three, seven and four points. If he gets hurt, the backup is Dan Orlovsky (0-7 as a starter for the Lions in 2008).

-- Miami: Against the Jets on Monday night, Sparano can only hope Matt Moore holds up against what could be a fierce pass rush. The Dolphins lost Chad Henne for the season with a separated left shoulder on Oct. 2, leaving the job to the former Panthers' starter. Moore proved somewhat capable in a loss to the Chargers -- 17 of 26 for 167 yards and an interception -- but couldn't get the Dolphins in the end zone enough in the 26-16 loss. Miami is coming off a bye.

-- Seattle: A big win against the Giants, now a bye week, and Carroll will have to determine whether Tarvaris Jackson (right pectoral muscle) is healthy enough to start over successful reliever Charlie Whitehurst, who threw for 149 yards and a 27-yard TD pass with 2:37 left in a 36-25 upset at New York.

A controversy?

"Well, is it controversial that you have two quarterbacks that can play? I think it's great that we do," Carroll said. "Fortunately we're in that situation where if Tarvaris can't go, then Charlie will play."

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Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rosenblattap

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