Tim Tebow, NY Jets Quarterback: An Unbiased Analysis of the Polarizing NFL QB

JB BrandtContributor IIApril 6, 2012

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - MARCH 26:  Quarterback Tim Tebow addresses the media as he is introduced as a New York Jet at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on March 26, 2012 in Florham Park, New Jersey. Tebow, traded from the Denver Broncos last week, will be the team's backup quarterback according to Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, started 11 games in 2011 for Denver and finished with a 7-4 record as a starter. He led the Broncos to a playoff overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round before eventually losing to the New England Patriots in the next round.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

One of the most interesting stories over the past year has been about the dichotomy created in our society by one man: Tim Tebow.  For whatever reason, be it his boyish charm, his outspoken religious beliefs, his throwing motion, incalculable intangibles, sunny world perspective or just the overdone media attention (which I understand as I am contributing to with this article), Tim Tebow has created a clear rift of black and white in our society today.  That rift is defined along a very fine line separating those who believe in the man and the quarterback and those who do not see a quarterback as much as they see a gimmick whose ability does not translate to the game of football.

The intention of this article is to clear up the rift that has been created, not through negatives or positives that so often skew perspective, but through an unbiased analysis where the gray area, a.k.a. reality, is thoroughly examined.  First, I want to note the following: by all accounts, Tim Tebow is a fantastic person.  This argument isn't going to discuss that fact because to be honest it isn't consequential in terms of the analysis.  Additionally, his religious beliefs won't be discussed either.  He believes what he believes, as we all do.

Compared to the rest of the NFL starting quarterbacks (regular season), here is how Tim Tebow ranks: QB record: 7-4 (11th), completion percentage: 46.5% (34th, worst), interception percentage: 2.2% (9th), yards per completion: 13.7 (3rd), yards per game: 123.5 (35th), QBR: 72.9 (28th), sacks taken: 33 (12th), sacks percentage when attempting a pass: 10.9% (34th, worst), comebacks led in the 4th quarter: 5 (3rd) and game winning drives: 6 (tied for 2nd).  So there are the stats, cold, hard, honest, undeniable.  There is no question that based on statistics Tim Tebow is an average-to-below-average NFL quarterback.  But statistics don't tell the whole story.

NFL scouts use the term, "intangibles" to refer to something that a player does that is incalculable when it comes to the stat sheet.  According to every NFL scout, analyst and honest person in the world, Tim Tebow has intangibles in spades.  He's a fantastic leader of men.  He took flak all season for every incomplete pass and every loss.  It didn't matter if it was a dropped pass, if his line collapsed or if the defense just read the play, he took the blame every single time, every single press conference.  He gave all the praise to his teammates when the Broncos won, no matter how much the media wanted to give him all the credit, he never took any.  

Tebow never complains, whether it was the lack of support from the Denver front office, the constant berating from analysts across the country, or the internet commenters who use his religious beliefs as a punch line for a tired joke, he takes it all in stride without so much as a dirty look.  These are intangible qualities that Tim Tebow possesses that don't show up on a stat line but prove influential in the pivotal position of quarterback in the NFL.  It lets his teammates, if not the rest of the world, know that he's there for them first and foremost and not for himself.  No matter how much some would like to believe they don't, these things matter.

Addressing the weaknesses first, Tim Tebow is not nearly as bad as his statistics would have one believe.  For one, the offensive game was set up for the team's success, not Tim Tebow's statistics.  Denver offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, employed a strategy that with Tebow under center, the offense had to leave the field with a kick, whether it be a punt, field goal or extra point, i.e., no turnovers.  Tebow's job was to make the passes he knew he could make and throw away the rest of them.  If it was tight coverage, put it in one of two places, where your guy can catch it or where no one can.  It makes sense.  

Tebow is a project QB and his coaches didn't have a ton of faith in his throwing or decision making ability.  He had no first team reps, no offseason due to the lockout, his third head coach in two years, and his second offensive scheme in two years.  They minimized his errors to maximize the team's results.  It doesn't mean that Tebow isn't a good quarterback, just that the offensive gameplan was to run the ball (they ended the season ranked #1 in yards per game rushing) first, then second, then third, then fourth and when all else fails, if they had to, to throw the ball and that he's still learning, just like every other quarterback in the league.

That being said, the reality is that when he threw balls that were neither thrown away nor into tight coverage, he was still unreliable.  His accuracy needs work, his throwing motion needs work, his footwork on drop backs needs work and his coverage reads need to be quicker.  But we all know that.  It's been talked to death.  He's young and he just isn't polished at this point in his career.  It's impossible to say he never will be unless you have a crystal ball, one's ability to tell the future is a baseless argument. 

To use his statistics in such a drastic negative light against him without noting that he was doing what he was told and was doing it well, regardless of his statistics, is unfair and irresponsible as a fan of the game.

Now concerning his strengths, Tim Tebow is not nearly as deserving of all of the praise that has been swept upon him.  His defense played stout during the length of his tenure.  They were breakable by high level talents (Tom Brady, Matt Stafford), middle level talents (Ryan Fitzpatrick), and even rookies (Christian Ponder), but they played well enough to win most games.  His special teams crew played out-of-this-world-good as well.  His coaches drew up a game plan that emphasized the strengths of his teammates and his strength as a running threat more than as a traditional quarterback.  

Claiming that the victories were all because of Tebow, or that he is a good quarterback because of the wins is also irresponsible.  He was put in a system for success and performed well in that system but he didn't do spectacularly, he did well and in the Broncos case last season, well was good enough for a postseason record of 1-1, not a Super Bowl.  Claiming that he's good enough for a Super Bowl victory at this point is premature and, again, baseless.  It doesn't mean it won't happen, just that factually it hasn't happened yet.

Let's remember one thing, however: Tim Tebow was a first year stater who every realist had very low expectations for this past season.  His weaknesses were known before he took his first snap, as were his strengths which were considered very limited.  The Broncos were 1-4 and looking forward to a second consecutive top-five pick in the draft when Tebow took over under center.  Some people credit Tebow with their turn around, some people credit the defense, the schedule, the coaches, and everything else.  

In reality, no one knows exactly what it was.   It could have been his doing through the aforementioned intangibles, it could have been the doing of his teammates knowing that they had to step it up with a brand new quarterback under center.  What we do know, factually, is that when Tebow went under center, the season turned around.

For all of his faults, Tim Tebow exceeded expectations last season.  No one expected him to do well enough to lead his team to victory with his arm, with his feet or with his "intangibles."  There isn't a person in the world that wouldn't have taken the bet: "I'll bet you $500 Tim Tebow can be the quarterback when the Broncos go from 1-4 to a post season win over the Steelers."  

We can look back and pick apart the negatives or praise the positives but the reality lies in pieces of each.  Tim Tebow was an average to below average quarterback last season statistically but played well in a system designed for where his specific skill set currently is.  

Will he improve?  Undoubtedly.  

He has an outstanding work ethic and spent his time off from football this offseason working with a quarterback coach on his own dime.  Will it be enough of an improvement for him to be a starting quarterback?  Maybe, maybe not.  Time will tell.

At first, his advocates said, "He's fantastic, all he does is win," and then rested on that comment during his wins without acknowledging his shortcomings.  Then, all of his detractors said, "He can't win this game, he's a joke."  When he was the QB for the winning team, they gave credit elsewhere without acknowledging their previous statements or his contributions.  

Everyone can't be right, but no one is wrong.  Both sides need to accept that Tim Tebow, thus far in his NFL career, cannot be defined in black and white, but in the gray area where he is a combination of the two separate but equally fallible convictions.