POTD Tim Tebow, QB - Mobile Passers


=== Tebow's Game Style:  the Mobile QB === 

And yet here we are, Tim Tebow is heading to the divisional round of the playoffs because of what?  Poise?  Moxie?  Leadership ability?  Character?  Unique Physical Gifts?  Divine intervention?

Tebow is in that class of quarterbacks whose biggest positive, in their first five years, is that they get more time to throw than other quarterbacks do.  Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, Vince Young, Bobby Douglass, Fran Tarkenton...

You know who was the 1980's prototype of this?  John Elway!

Most of you amigos weren't around when John Elway was beating the Seahawks with .... moronic downfield decisions, stupefyingly inconsistent passing, (what seemed like) outrageous luck, and .... great mobility combined with eternal optimism and confidence.

John Elway had a rookie QB rating of 54.9 ... he had 7 TD's all year, 14 interceptions, and a whopping 4.5 yards per pass.  John Elway didn't get better any time soon.  Ten years later, at the age of 32, he was still running ratings in the 50's and throwing 10 touchdowns against 17 picks.   It was really only those last couple of Super Bowls that rehabilitated Elway, even made him this living legend figure that he never was during his first ten years.

Moe and Mariner Analyst will back me up.  The quintessential Broncos-Seahawks play, in the 1980's, would be John Elway dropping back to pass, coming under pressure .... tearing out of the pocket, LOOKS - LOOKS - LOOKS, somebody comes at him, he tears over to the other hash mark, LOOKS - LOOKS - LOOKS, and after (literally) 7 or 8 or 10 seconds, firing a pass 30 yards downfield for the only score of the second half.

John Elway, his first 10 years, couldn't read a defense to save his life.  He was big, strong, and fast, and he bought himself time, and with his boundless optimism he made some plays.  That's all.

Tim Tebow, in his second year, can't read a defense to save his life.  He's big, strong, and fast, and the option threat gets him long looks downfield, and with his boundless optimistm he makes some plays.  That's all.

Correct me if I'm wrong:  isn't Tebow's quarterback rating already comparable to Elway's career rating?


You know who else was like that?  Terry Bradshaw.   The guy was never a sophisticated passer.  He won four Super Bowls because he was big and strong, and he tried stuff.

Tebow is never going to be Drew Brees.  Never in a million years.  The recent blizzard of great pocket passers -- Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Brees -- has been great.  But a mobile quarterback causes the problems for the defense to proliferate, sometimes past the point of containment.  If we get off of the idea of Tebow some day becoming Peyton Manning, and we get onto the idea of Tebow some day becoming John Elway, we'll be fine.





I'm sure it happened a few times, but I'll never forget one play where Elway had a Seahawks DE wrapped around both of his legs.  Elway stood there (it seemed like forever) with the DE on him and threw the ball 50 yards on a line right to the WR for a TD without moving his legs.  As a Seahawks fan, I hated Elway but that guy was amazing.  Maybe Cam Newton is a good comp for Elway - giant size, giant arm, mobile, and an incredible athlete even compared to other pro athletes.
For the QB stat comparisons, it's like comparing the "Steroid Era" HR totals with the rest of baseball history .  The rules changes for the passing game has changed so much since Elway.  If you look at the top 6 single season passing yards, 4 of the top 6 seasons happened in 2011, one happened in 2008, and then there was Dan Marino in 1984.  I'm not sure if that makes Tebow's performance more or less impressive.

Auto5guy's picture

"Most of you amigos weren't around when John Elway was beating the Seahawks"
Hah! I see what you did there. Very funny Doc.  Subtle, but funny.

Auto5guy's picture

I think it’s a mistake to compare Tebow to other mobile NFL quarterbacks.  Comparing Tebow to the list he is just inferior in some way to all of them.  Most of the guys on the list have some skill that was truly special; something physically about them that was NFL quality.
Tebow lacks that.
Yes he’s fast on his feet but he’s nowhere near the class of a Vick or a Cunningham.  Yes he’s big and hard to bring down but he’s no Culpepper or even a healthy Roethlisberger.
I see the Elway comp BUT Elway had the golden arm.  Elway had a college career centered on PASSING.  When he was drafted Elway was making MLB scouts drool.  And he was mechanically sound.  He had a decent release and could usually come close to what he was aiming at.
Tebow? Ugh!  That motion is seven kinds of ugly.  When Tebow decides to throw the ball to a receiver he could put a stamp on it, hand it to a mailman and it would get there faster.  When he starts into his windup Hideo Nomo yawns before the ball comes out.  DB’s have all day long to read his target and break on the ball.  He could cut his delivery in half and still have the slowest release in the league.  When he runs it gets worse!  At times he has to goose step with his lead leg just to not fall over. It’s terrible. Don’t even get me started on his accuracy. 
The critics are right.  Tebow is just not capable of running an NFL offense.  A lot of hay has been made about Kyle Orton leading to the Broncs to 1-4 but if you could go back in time and run the same plays with Tebow it would have been worse, much worse.  Play for play, pass for pass, Kyle Orton is a superior NFL quarterback.
Okay, if you’re still reading my rambling you’re saying “What? I thought Tebow is succeeding as an NFL quarterback right?”
Well… Yes… and no.  He is succeeding and he is in the NFL… but he is NOT succeeding as an NFL quarterback. 
All mobile NFL quarterbacks have had one fatal flaw that has held them back from their true potential.  A flaw that Tebow lacks.  That flaw?  The ability to throw “good enough” for the NFL.  Guys Like Young, Cunningham, Vick, Kordell Stewart, and even John Elway were forced into offensive systems better suited to the Marino’s and Breeze’s of the world.  They got by because they could throw “good enough” to keep the job.  Sure the offensive coordinators would take note of the QB’s mobility and add a quarterback draw, a few rollouts and maybe a naked bootleg but by and large the system would be like every other teams in the NFL, balanced at best and pass first at worst.  What a waste.
Tebow’s greatest asset, his single greatest skill he brings to the table can be summed up very simply.  He stinks.  Really, he’s terrible.  He is absolutely incapable of running a modern NFL offense.  But at the same time Tebow is unique in that his investment cost was too high to simply discard.  Denver realized immediately how useless Timmy was in their system they had Orton running but due to the investment cost and fan pressure they had to do something to make it work.  So for the first time in my lifetime an NFL team committed to a basic college offense.  Not a play or two… entirely.
So now, Tim Tebow is on the Bart Starr path to success. 
Pound the coverage out of the cornerbacks.
That’s what the Lombardi Packers did.  That’s why Bart Starr has a QB rating that is still sparkly by today’s standards.  The poor guy on the corner getting steamrolled by the Packer sweep a dozen times by half time just didn’t have the legs to keep up with the receivers late in the game.  
A straight up option run puts tremendous pressure on the cornerback.  Every time the option is run to his side someone’s coming at him with a head of steam.  Beat him up for three quarters and he’s lost a step in the cheetah vs. gazelle game that is the cornerback/receiver battle.  Suddenly in the fourth quarter the receiver is getting yards of separation not inches.  The quarterback doesn’t have to drop the ball into a moving basketball hoop at thirty yards.  Hitting the side of a Buick is good enough.  Tebow stinks by modern NFL standards, but he can hit the side of a Buick at thirty yards… sometimes.  The long windup and poor accuracy become much more minor problems now.  AND, with that kind of separation, the receiver’s yards after the catch go through the roof.
Tebow’s future success doesn’t lie in getting marginally better as a quarterback.  He still won’t be good enough.  His future lies in Denver continuing it’s commitment to the read option game, doubling down even.  If they do, if they push all the chips in on the college game, Tebow could have a very remarkable career.  He could end up being Mr. Fourth Quarter the way that Reggie Jackson is Mr. October. 
If they don’t, if they try to refine Tebow, mature him and morph him back into a modern NFL system, he is doomed.


and you just made it :- )
I remember the young Elway also throwing the ball poorly.  He could throw it HARDER than anybody at the time, but the accuracy was poor and the decisions worse.
That said, it may well be true that Tebow's passing ability is just not comparable to that of the top 25-30 quarterbacks on the planet.  We'll see.
Auto5, what do you do with the fact that Gruden, Dungy, etc., see Tebow as very talented by NFL standards?

Auto5guy's picture

Because Elway is beyond the ceiling of Tebow.  Quite a bit beyond. Yes Elway struggled in his first two years.  And yes, even in his prime Elway was not a Favre/Marino/Brady caliber quarterback. Still he had a Hall of fame career and that was not an accident.  You could see potiential for it before he was drafted.  Elway had already succeeded in a pass first, throw it down the field system.
Don't we see this all the time in baseball?  Two similar looking kids knock in 25 dingers in AA and the scouts tell us kid A is maxed out and kid B could be something special.
I'm terrible at comps so bear with me.  Elway was a bit like Matt Thornton.  You look at the build, the delivery, the velocity and you say man, I'm hangin on to this kid. Cause if ever gets some control, look out!  Tebow is the same kid with the same lack of command but with completely awful mechanics and an 89 mph fastball. There's just to much to straighten out and the payoff's not there.  
That's all assuming a traditinal NFL offense.  If we're looking at Tebow having an NFL career running the option he may well put up Elway like numbers but he won't be getting there the same way.
Or not. As you said, we'll see.
Regarding Dungy, Gruden, Ditka and the rest? 
The only talking heads I've seen saying Tebow has the NFL talent are ex coaches.  Not scouts or former players, just coaches.  So first of all I'm convinced that they look at Tebow and see their favorite linebacker.  Coaches always have a better relationship with their linebackers thant they do their QB's.  :-)  I'm only half joking.  How many coaches would give a right arm to have an LB playing QB?
Top level coaches are arrogantly confident in their own abilitys.  Very common at the top levels of any endevor.  They believe they can coach around the shortcomings of any idividual player as long as they know the true ability of that player and the player will actually give it.  Nothing gives a coach more fits than designing a game plan according to a QB's abilty and then having that QB deliver at half his ability because he's sulking or distracted. cough, cough Cutler! cough, cough.
Coaches want a quarterback to be tough, fearless, a leader of men, never quit, give his all and consistent in his performance whatever that lever of performance is.  They can create a game plan around that!  Tebow does deliver on those points. Those traits aren't always there in the guys with all the physical tools. The confident coach thinks he can fix the physical flaws of Tebow easier than fixing the make up flaws of more talented guys.
Tebow is tough, smart, never quits, a truly great leader and can be counted on to fearlessly give his all to his very last breath and in the eyes of a lot of coaches that makes him football player. 

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