Imagine for a moment that there were a team in the NFL that was 3-10 entering week 14 of the season. Now imagine that they had recently fired their head coach, and the QB play out of their starter in the last two weeks looked like this:
|Comp||Att||Pct||Pass Yds||YPA||Pass TD||INT||Rating||Rush Yds||Rush TD|
Now, continuing with this completely hypothetical situation, let’s pretend that an unnamed rookie QB drafted within the first 2 rounds were asked to step into this situation for the next three games. Rookie QBs already almost universally struggle in their first season, and this is far from an ideal situation to be walking into. Now, let’s pretend that the numbers he put up in these three games looked as follows:
|Comp||Att||Pct||Pass Yds||YPA||Pass TD||INT||Rating||Rush Yds||Rush TD|
Given this scenario, there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the rookie should be starting the next game, and the media would be jumping all over him as if he’s a lock to be the next big thing in the NFL.
Unless his name was Tim Tebow…
As I’m sure most people reading this site already know, that is in fact the exact situation that Tim Tebow walked into last year, and those are in fact the exact numbers he put up in his first 3 starts as a pro. Sure, they’re not world beating, set the league on fire stats, but for a rookie making his first three starts as a pro they are quite good. Yet, while any other quarterback would be the unquestioned starter going forward and have an aura of support in the media (imagine the hubbub there would have been around a guy like Matt Stafford if he’d started his career that way), Tebow gets blurbs about how he is competing for the #4 job on the depth chart and gets hit with verbal lashings like “what has he done to deserve the starting spot” and “sorry, you can’t live on your entitlement anymore, you have to earn it”.
Some theorize that it’s one giant media conspiracy to tear down Tebow. I find that to be over the top. It’s not as if ESPN called together some giant corporate meeting where they all discussed how they can ridicule Tebow.
What we actually have here is a little effect that I like to call “media bandwagoning”, which has also extended to “fan perspective bandwagoning”. Saying that Tim Tebow is not a good quarterback or that he’s not ready to play in the NFL has become the “cool” thing to say. It’s almost as if, in order to prove that you’re an “expert” and not just some casual fan, you have to lambast Tebow and cite all these traditional things that he doesn’t do well. It’s the same reason that many media folks who were praising Tebow at the end of last season now speak as if he couldn’t quarterback a PeeWee football team right now even though they’ve barely seen him play at all in the interim. When they haven’t really even seen him play since they were saying “wow, maybe this guy really can be a good NFL QB” a few months ago, how could their opinions have changed so much?
In this way, Tebow’s own popularity has hurt him. It has become accepted as fact that the only reason that Tebow has supporters is because of how loved he is off the field, and not because of his accomplishments on the field. Tebow bashers look down on Tebow supporters as guppies that can’t get past how good of a guy he is and see his oh so obvious flaws, when in reality it is them that can’t see past their own old and irrelevant perceptions as to what a quarterback has to be.
Those people look at Tebow’s draft position and say he would have been a 4th round pick were it not for one misguided coach, who is now out of a job, that took him way too early. Their short term (or perhaps self-correcting) memory is incapable of remembering that Tebow was projected as a late 1st/early 2nd round draft pick even when no one thought he would end up in Denver. In fact, I looked through every “expert mock” I could find from Scott Wright to Mike Mayock to Mel Kiper to a dozen others. The latest anyone had him going was 44th overall and no one had him going to Denver, which means that even without McDaniels, they all believed he was set to be picked in that range anyhow.
Those people look at Tebow’s throwing motion and see a guy that can’t get the ball out quick enough to hit NFL passing windows, and are incapable of separating their purely speculative theories from actual reality. No matter the fact that it had no effect on him hitting those windows when he actually stepped onto the field (or the fact that Brett Favre never had an issue hitting them even though he drops the ball even lower than Tebow does), it sounds logical in their head so it must be true. Evidence be damned.
Among these folks are Tebow’s own coach, John Fox, who seems so content to disregard actual on the field play in favor of how good or ugly something looks in practice that it took him three years to finally decide that DeAngelo Williams was a better running back than DeShaun Foster.
Look, Tebow has not looked good in practice. I get that. But it seems that Denver as well as the media seem to be operating under the very poor assumption that Tebow has to look like a perfectly oiled machine in practice to perform well in games. That just isn’t the type of quarterback that Tebow is, nor is it the type that he ever was. He never has nor is he ever going to look like a prototype quarterback with great footwork, great mechanics, and bullet-proof accuracy in practice and if that is what Denver is waiting for then they’ll be waiting forever. He didn’t have those things at Florida either, while John Brantley did, and we saw how that translated to the actual field of play.
If Denver wants to give Tebow one more year to learn, I’m ok with that, so long as they spend the year working on his true weakness (reading defenses), and not his perceived one. I don’t believe he needs another year, but it’s worked well in the past for guys like Rodgers and Rivers. What I have a problem with is this notion that it is now common knowledge that Tebow is a horrible quarterback.
In a way, you really have to feel bad for Tebow. Sure, it’s tough to feel bad for a guy who has millions of fans, millions of dollars, gets to do what he loves for a living, and could probably have any girl he wanted. But with Tebow you have a guy who has succeeded at every level when stepping out onto the football field, time after time, and yet the universal opinion of him is still that he stinks as a quarterback. It just has to eat the kid up inside that so many negative things are said about him and he just can’t get out there to once again prove people wrong because of the stigma that polish is more important than production.
I think one of my favorite moments from this preseason was listening to the broadcast early on in Denver’s week 1 game, as the broadcaster recounted just how awful Tim Tebow looked when he’s seen him throwing around, and how he “couldn’t even complete passes against air”. He stopped juuuuust short of saying that Dez Bryant would make a better quarterback than Tim Tebow. As Tebow came into the game and went 6/7 throwing the ball he could do nothing but pick apart his mechanics, which just like Merril Hoge’s now infamous report, was nothing more than regurgitated internet lingo that he was passing off as his own ideas. Sure, those passes came against a second string defense, but surely Dallas’ 2nd string defensive backs are better defenders than air, right?
That brings me to my final point. Remember those stats that I showed you of Tebow earlier? There are analysts out there that actually have the gall to claim they were indicative of a poor performance because of the 50% completion percentage, and use it as an example of Tebow’s allegedly very poor accuracy. Let’s ignore that most rookie QBs have a poor completion percentage in their first few starts (Tebow’s was not abnormally low) and really examine this deeper.
The number I want you to keep in mind here is 8.0. That was Tebow’s YPA in those three starts. For the sake of reference, both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have each only eclipsed that number in one season out of their entire careers. Mind you, I’m not using this to say that Tebow performed better than either of them, but rather to demonstrate to you the kind of passes that Tebow was throwing in those games. Denver’s defense was terrible, and as a result Denver spent much of those games throwing downfield. As should make sense to anyone (especially a football analyst, which these guys claim to be), passes downfield are completed at a lower rate. Tebow’s yards per completion during those starts was an astounding 16.0. For comparison, Peyton Manning’s last year was 10.2. It makes sense that Tebow’s completion percentage was low (again even if we discount that he was a rookie making his first three starts), because Denver was throwing the ball deep an inordinate amount. Tebow’s completion percentage has always been high when he’s played outside of “oh crap our defense sucks we’d better chuck it downfield every play” situations.
Tebow is seen as a guy with very poor accuracy because, in practice, he can’t laser in 15 yard in-routes with 95% success. Fortunately, there’s a lot more to throwing accuracy than that, which is a fact that seems to be lost on many coaches, scouts, and analysts. Many of these folks differentiate between “accuracy” and “touch”, and my question is simply, “why?”. They’re the same thing. “Touch” is just another form of accuracy. For instance, Cam Newton is seen as having adequate accuracy for the NFL, but he has poor “touch”. If he can’t complete a pass over the top of the linebackers because it requires putting touch on the pass then that is poor accuracy. They’re the same thing, and “touch”, or as I call it “vertical accuracy” is something that Tebow excels at, and is the reason that Urban Meyer was willing to let him throw a 30 yard go route down the sideline to Louis Murphy on a key 3rd and short late in the 2009 SEC Title game.
Tim Tebow is what he is. He’s a gamer who plays exponentially better in game situations than he does in simulated practices. He’s a guy that makes things happen on the field with a wide collection of talents rather than with precision accuracy or sound mechanics. And last I checked, when Tebow threw that 50 yard bomb in week one of the preseason that hit his receiver in stride, they didn’t take back half the yardage because his mechanics were ugly on the throw.