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But Denver is in first place in the AFC West in part because the offense often works so well with Tebow at the controls.

It also masks deficiencies. Hasselbeck said defenses have to legitimately worry about a run play on third and long, which means a whole different set of opportunities for Tebow.

“They get guys wide open,” Hasselbeck said. “He doesn’t have to be the best passer. Does he have to be able to make passes from inside the pocket? Absolutely he does. … [But] I know that he works, and I know that he’s physically strong. His mechanics, they can be improved.”

Sunday didn’t feature Tebow magic in the fourth quarter, but coach John Fox noted improvement.

“I feel like we’ve gotten better at throwing the ball,” Tebow added. “I think we’re getting better — the timing with the receivers, and the receivers step up and do a great job, they definitely make me look a lot better than I am.”

One of the popular refrains from Broncos fans is that it doesn’t matter how good Tebow is as long as he wins games.

But while Hasselbeck admittedly was one of the quarterback’s staunchest supporters from the start, he doesn’t consider seven victories in nine games a fair calculation.

“With a small sample size, which is still kind of what we have on him, I think it’s a horrible measuring stick for evaluation,” he said.

And though it’s clear Tebow has a ways to go to entrench himself as a starting NFL quarterback, it doesn’t mean improvement isn’t possible — if not likely.

“He’s never going to be Tom Brady. Steve Young was one of the most efficient passers in history. He will not be that,” Hasselbeck said. “He can still be successful. He will just have to do it a certain way.”