Why Tim Tebow's Completion Percentage Might Not Be as Bad as You'd Think

Austin QuickContributor IIIFebruary 4, 2012

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos drops back to pass during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Sports Authority Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Tim Tebow's 46.5 percent is a pretty scary completion percentage. The truth of the matter is that there isn’t another NFL quarterback that could have that completion percentage over the course of 11 games and remain the starter for their respective team.

Many have questioned his accuracy, and despite his ability to win why would Denver put up with such a horrific completion percentage? Compared to the rest of the league, he is absolutely dismal.

Unfortunately for Tebow’s critics, there is a logical reason behind his poor completion and passer rating that still allows him to win football game.

Football is a never ending game of pattern and evolutions. Unfortunately, many of today’s fans struggle to realize this.

When the average football fan thinks of great quarterbacks of the '70s and early '80s the first names that have to pop up are Terry Bradshaw, Bob Griese and Dan Fouts. These quarterbacks are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and boast career completion percentages of 51.9 percent, 56.2 percent and 58.8 percent respectively.

I know what you are thinking. The game was different back then. It wasn’t such a passer-friendly league. In that regard, yes, the league was much less passer friendly, but part of the reason the league has changed is defensive schemes, not just the rules.

Today’s defenses love to run zone coverage. This allows quarterbacks with good accuracy to find holes in the zones on short passes. This has led the extreme inflation of completion percentages.

The short passing game has become the standard of the NFL, and most quarterbacks or evaluated on their effectiveness to perform in the short passing game.

The skill set that Tebow brings to the NFL is troublesome for zone defensive schemes. Teams know that Tebow can hit his screen passes and run the front seven to death. Instead, a reemergence of a pattern has taken place in today’s NFL.

In the '70s and early '80s teams played man-to-man coverage for the most part and stacked the box against the run. In man-to-man coverage it is difficult to complete short passes. The receivers simply do not have enough time to get separation from the coverage.

Instead, the offense attacks man coverage with vertical routes and finds open spaces deep down the field. These passes are simply more difficult to complete and cause completion percentages to drop.

Due to Tebow’s unique abilities, teams have begun using this defensive concept in today’s NFL to stop the Denver Broncos. For most of the Pittsburgh game, the Steelers stacked the box and played man-to-man coverage on the outside.

While Tebow still completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, he was able to do so for a 31.6 YPC—a stat that is unheard of against zone defensive concepts.

Is Tebow ever going to be the quarterback that will complete 65 percent of his passes? Absolutely not. Nevertheless, he will be an effective quarterback, and potentially a franchise quarterback. Neither because of his passing ability, nor his running ability, but the problems he creates for defenses.

Defenses are generally designed to take away certain aspects of the offensive game, but when you have a quarterback who can impact a game equally with screens, option read plays, deep vertical routes and running the football, then that causes a problem.

You can take away aspects of each, yet not the whole thing. This is what makes Tebow successful in the NFL.

Will he ever win a Super Bowl? Maybe, maybe not. Will he ever be the MVP of the NFL? No, he probably won’t. The point, though, is the Denver Broncos have a quarterback who can effectively contribute and add success to their team.

The completion percentage may scare many Broncos fans, but if anything it is an indication of the success he can have due to the extreme indecision he puts on opposing defenses.