There is a saying often used in sports. “Stats don’t lie”. I say they lie often. I made the case earlier in the year that stats do lie by analyzing Kyle Orton’s only win of the season. In that analysis I stated that Kyle Orton is a very good quarterback, based on his decision making, ball placement and accuracy. Kyle’s problem however was not his skill, but it was his determination under pressure. His inability to overcome pressure was his undoing and we replaced him with his alter ego. Tim Tebow is gold under pressure, but he has been killed in the media over his decision making, ball placement and accuracy. Up until last night I agreed with those sentiments. However, the media today is still focusing on stats and not looking at the actual performance. I gave the full treatment to the Jets game this morning and I liked what I saw. Not in the Option, or the running game, but in Tebow’s progression as a passer. Stats do lie, so the only way to see the truth is watch every passing play, twice, in slow motion.
Jump with me and see the new Tebow.
“By most standards, Tebow is a horrible NFL quarterback. He can’t throw worth a lick _ not even a simple 5-yard out.” –
Even after a stunning performance, against a great defense to win a game on national TV, this is still the prevailing sentiment about Tebow’s passing game. I have been pretty vocal about not being sold on Tebow as a passer and based on what I saw up until last night, I had plenty of reason. Against Miami and Detroit, Tebow looked pretty bad for most of those two games save the last few minutes of the Miami game. His footwork was terrible, he had no pocket presence at all and he looked completely baffled and panicked. My biggest issue was his footwork. Tebow looked terrible with his footwork in his first ten quarters. His center of gravity was usually way out of line and his feet were in no position to deliver an accurate throw. Against Oakland and KC, he began to look a bit better because he was put back into his element running the full on triple option. However, there was little evidence that he was growing as a passer. Most people would look at the stats and say that that is still true. Tebow was 9/20 for 104 yards with a 61.2 passer rating last night. But stats lie. Here we go.
1 & 10 First play from scrimmage. The Broncos open with an empty backfield and let Tebow throw it. It’s a single read play and Tim looks good. His feet are underneath him and he places the ball high where only Thomas can catch it. Excellent play.
2 & 6 Triple option with a shovel pass to Ball. Not really a passing play but it counts as a pass.
3 & 9 Bubble screen to Jeremiah Johnson. Nice touch pass.
2 & 6 This was an excellent play that counted as an incompletion. Tebow showed great footwork and pocket presence as he went through his first two reads (Rosario in the slot and Johnson on the fly). He is then flushed out of the pocket to his left and finds Decker on the cross. He made an excellent throw on the move but Decker’s was unable to hang on.
3 & 11 Another bubble screen to Royal. This was a completion, but a pretty lame play call IMHO.
3 & 10 This was a play that will be a running theme. Tebow had excellent footwork on this play and good pocket presence. He made the right read throwing the ball to Fells on the comeback route. Tebow then attempts to place the ball in the perfect spot where the defender cannot get it, however he misses slightly. Tim looks so much better in the pocket. He is standing tall, shuffling his feet correctly, keeping his center of gravity and maintaining the correct body position to deliver an accurate pass. He is then attempting to place the ball in the correct spot on the throw and just missing. This is the type of improvement I have been looking for and I am seeing it. Tebow is very focused on becoming a pocket passer and it is also clear that he is very focused on protecting the ball. He would much rather throw a ball that results in ridicule than try to thread a needle and throw a pick. I respect that.
2 & 6 Tebow again looks good in the pocket, goes through his progressions and finds no one open. Darting for the sideline was a smart call. We have to remember that this is an excellent secondary. I don’t know what happened to them last week, but there were very few open receivers last night. The fact that Tebow had 20 attempts and no picks against this secondary shows that he doesn’t care about stats. He cares about taking care of the ball.
3 & 6 This play to Royal should have been a first down. Eddie failed to drive the corner back far enough past the sticks and sat down a bit too soon. Tebow looked good in the pocket, but missed his target to the left. This caused Eddie to adjust for the ball and he was unable to make a move for the marker. Both players had minor errors that resulted in a punt. However, the improvement is evident.
2 & 9 Screen to Ball. We know Tim can throw a nice screen.
1 & 10 Naked boot. We should see more of these. The Jets read it well however and were able to get hands in Tebow’s face. The result was a slightly high throw that floated right. Decker was unable to make the adjustment. Good decision but not a good throw.
3 & 7 This should have been a touchdown. Again Tim looks good in the pocket. His feet are underneath him and he is standing tall and delivers a good looking throw. Just a foot too far for Decker. I think this timing gets ironed out soon and we see more of what we saw in KC with these two. Decker showed that he can get behind some of the best corners in the game.
2 & 10 This was a great pass play that Orton couldn’t make if his life depended on it. Before Tebow can set his feet, he is flushed from the pocket and rolls left. He then finds Decker again on the comeback but this time he hits him in the numbers. Excellent play and excellent throw. Too bad Decker bobbled it on the way down.
3 & 10. Tim’s mechanics continue to look much better. He stands tall and makes the right read. Again, he tries to place the ball protecting it from the dback and slightly misses right. Thomas cannot make the catch. Right idea, right play, just missed.
2 & 11 This play is much the same as the last except Royal is his second read. Again he is trying to protect the ball with outside placement and just misses. Eddie had his hands on the ball though. You gotta help out your young QB Eddie.
3 & 11 Tebow read through his progressions while being flushed right and simply throws the ball away. Incompletion are better than Interceptions. Ball possession is key to staying in the game. Its clear that this is the top priority.
3 & 7 This play is a trips bunch route. The strategy is to confuse or stumble a defender leaving one of the three open. The Jets defended it very well and Tim throws the ball away.
1 & 10 Quick out to Royal. Royal makes a great play that could have been a safety.
1 & 10 Tebow finds his second read in Thomas. He kind of crossed his feet on this one, but he was able to get a good back foot plant before throwing the ball. Nice accurate pass.
2 & 2 This looked like a miscommunication between Tebow and Thomas. Tim threw the comeback while Thomas was running the double move. Not really sure who screwed up. My guess is Thomas.
1 & 10 On this play, Tebow’s mechanics look very good, but he is being so cautious that he attempts to place the ball low when he didn’t need to. Just missing his placement target, the ball hits the ground in front of the receiver.
2 & 10 Almost the same play but Rosario is able to make the catch. The difference here though is Tebow’s pocket presence. He stands tall in the pocket with great footwork and delivers the ball just as he is being hit. If that ball is a tad higher, this would be considered a top tier pocket play. No panic, no happy feet, guts and fairly good accuracy.
That was the last throw of the game and it was his best. So when looking at the plays verses the stats it is clear to me that the stats do lie. Tebow had a few bad throws, but most of his incompletion were the result of dogged protection of the ball. Tim would rather miss in a way that protects the ball than hit in a way that puts possession in jeopardy. His footwork has improved greatly in just a few games and all his reads were correct. I wasn’t sold on Tebow as a passer until this morning watching the film. Based on his recent performances I wasn’t sure he could progress fast enough. But contrary to the stat monkeys that will harp on his numbers this week, Tebow played pretty well in the passing game last night. A few inches on a few plays and there is no one who can deride his game. But the thing that impressed me the most is the unselfishness of his throws. Protecting the ball is more important that threading needles and gaining high praise for his passing. Based on the improvement I have seen in his footwork, his ability to read defenses and protect the ball against an excellent defense playing their arses off, I am on the bandwagon. Tebow will continue to improve this season and maybe we even make the playoffs. But based on the rate of his improvement, I think this kid has a chance to come back from a full offseason with a passing game that will provide the second dimension that will allow him to reach great heights. The Option is cool and all and it keeps defenses honest, but Tebow won’t need the option next year based on this rate of improvement.