Over the past few days, I have seen more than enough opinions on Tim Tebow, John Elway, and the Broncos. Some of it is well informed, some well placed, and others completely out of left field to the point you're wondering if the person responsible has a closet full of tin foil hats. What has irked me the most out of all of the opinions, thoughts, and vitriol spewed back and forth between fans of the Broncos, fans of Tebow, and fans of both is the comparison of stats from the early careers of Tebow and Elway.
Seriously? Stop. Just.....stop.
Side by side, Tebow's stats from his first five games come out better than those of Elway over the same stretch. I won't post them here, because they ultimately don't matter. They don't matter because they are stats, and as such only carry a modicum of weight in any argument. Stats are a wonderful thing since they can be skewed to match any argument, while also serving to make the presenter of those stats appear like their homework has been done. This could not be more false. Stats tell only part of the story, and it is a VERY small part. Consider the fact that if you have googled these stats (which should be readily available) you will see that the only ones that truly differ are passing yards, TD-INT ratio, and rushing yards. The starting record between the two QB's is identical, and completion percentage varies by 2 points. Yet, these numbers have some people lauding the fact that Tebow MUST be a better overall QB because his stats through the first 5 games were so much better!
Again, please, just stop.
If you are going to try and compare two quarterbacks from any era on any team over their first 5, 10, or 16 games, you can't just look at the stats. The teams faced, team composition, and situations during those games all must be taken into account. Otherwise, the stats are just numbers on a page that serve the will of their master. So let's compare these things briefly, shall we?
In his first 5 games as a starter, Tebow face the Raiders twice, the Chargers, the Texans, and the Bengals. These are five decent teams to be sure, but you would be surprised to remember that out of those 5 games, only one team actually made the playoffs in their respective year: The Bengals. The first Raiders game, the Chargers, and the Texans were the last three games of the 2010 season, when the Broncos finished 4-12, and started Tebow simply because why not. The opposition was not playing for anything, save for the Raiders, so the argument could be made that it was more or less meaningless football. Does this alone mean that Tebow's stats from those games are worthless? Not at all. What it does mean, however, is they must be taken with a grain of salt when compared to those of Elways, once you realize the competition he faced in his first 5 games. Elway began his career as a rookie in 1983 against the Steelers, Colts, Eagles, Raiders and Bears. While he only faced 2 playoff teams in that span (one more than Tebow), his fourth game was against the Raiders, who won the Superbowl that year. The Steelers made the playoffs as well, losing to those same Raiders. What seems to be lost in all this is the fact that the defenses on not just those two teams, but the Bears as well, were far and above the defenses faced by Tebow in his first 5 games. The game was different back then as well, without all the protection for the QB's and big hits being the norm. When comparing the difficulty of the first 5 teams faced, I am forced to give the edge to Elway.
Now lets look at the teams themselves, specifically on offense. Tebow didn't have one of the greatest offenses to ever play the game in his first 5 starts, but he definitely had help. He had Decker, Royal, and Lloyd to throw the ball to, and a decent run game to back him up. The O-Line was pretty darn good too, albeit not to the level that it was in 2011. Compared to the '83 Broncos, you see that Elway was the only starter on offense that was picked higher than the 3rd round of the draft. Now, of course draft position does not always determine level of play, and the team did finish 9-7 that year, but when you consider the fact that everyone seems to think Elway always had TD, Smith, and Sharpe, his weapons in '83 were comparatively lacking. Based on the current rules of the game as well as the supporting cast of players, its difficult not to give Elway the edge again here.
Look. I'm a fan of Tebow. I liked watching him out there just playing schoolyard football and helping the team win (I say helping because that's exactly what he did. defense, kicking, and some moronic plays by Barber also helped.) I also wish him the best in his career, because I think the kid deserves it. I do however realize that the current front office and coaching staff owed Tebow absolutely nothing outside of giving him the best possible chance to succeed. Tebow was drafter WAY out of position, and that put unnecessary stress and pressure on him to succeed. He was drafted by a guy who should have never been a head coach to begin with, and was then adopted by John Fox and Elway. He was not their problem, but he became their responsibility. They let him play, they tweaked the offense to match his style and to somewhat hide his deficiencies. They gave him exactly what they owed him, and that was a chance. He showed a hell of a lot of promise, but the NFL is a business more than a game, and you can't build a successful franchise around "a hell of a lot of promise." Tebow is a long term project, and the Broncos need to start winning now. When presented with the opportunity to bring in Peyton Manning, they had to do it. It's a no brainer for more than just the wins column. Players want to play with him. His presence on the team alone will help bring in free agents, will help rookies and young guys develop, and will just bring a completely different feeling to the ball club. What Peyton brings you is the feeling of a sure thing. Tebow brings excitement, a feel good story, and great PR, but he does not bring with him the feeling of guaranteed success.
So please, be a fan of whoever you want, at whatever level you want. Cheer for only Tebow instead of a team. Buy his jersey seven times over. Cheer the fact that he is gone and is now someone else's problem. I don't care, that's your prerogative. But if you are going to try and convince me that his success was greater than it actually was, do me a favor; bring more than just stats to the table, and more than that, don't compare a project running QB to one of the greatest pocket passers of all time. You just look silly.