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Some Clarification is in Order: Tebow From Three Perspectives That Need Correction

Let's try and get a look at Tebow from a side other than his good side, which can be hard to do.  (Photo by Bart Young/Getty Images)
Let's try and get a look at Tebow from a side other than his good side, which can be hard to do. (Photo by Bart Young/Getty Images)
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It seems since Tebow was drafted, we've debated him constantly, his stats, how he looks through the "eye test" and all his intangibles. This is all well and good, but since I do feel it maybe a bit of a dead horse at this point, I wanted to discuss Tebow from three different perspectives and answer a few questions that people often talk about. The three topics I wanted to discuss are how many starts Tebow deserves, personal attacks against Tebow and the strengths and weaknesses of Tebow's style of play.

Since Tim Tebow is a hotly debated subject, I paid special attention to the studies I did, especially comparing the stats and game film. Now please keep in mind, this isn't a pro-Tebow/anti-Tebow post, I didn't create it to debate or argue about Tebow, I did the research for this post, and wrote it, for educational purposes, and I hope that you were able to learn as much as I did.

"Tebow Deserves _____ Number of Starts:"

This is something I've heard a lot. John Bena recently did a poll asking how long Tebow should get to prove what he has and 42% of voters, the largest group, felt Tebow deserves 6-11 games, or most of our remaining games. 29% said a full season. If Tebow starts the remainder of the season, Tebow will have started 14 games, or appeasing both these groups, or 71% of Mile High Report Members. Now I've seen members say Tebow deserves only till the end of the season to see if we need to draft another quarterback and I've seen members say Tebow deserves as much time as Alex Smith. Something that is lost to many of these people is context. Many compare Tebow to players who were drafted in a different era or in a different class of round.

Now to actually put some context on this I wanted to compare players who were drafted in the same level as Tebow and in recent years. Now keep in mind Tebow was drafted at 25th overall.  I went back to 1990, so there are 20 drafts worth of players to look at. I did some research and most draft analysts believe the second tier of draft positions start around 20 and go to about 44. Anything higher than this is considered at a different level, same with picks taken lower. It's especially important to note that players taken in the top 5 and top 10 are on a whole other level of expectations and can't be compared even if the player is taken in the 1st round.

With that in mind we found 17 quarterbacks, but due to the nature of three outliers, the list had to be altered. Brett Favre with his 298 starts and Matt Blundin and Pat White with zero starts were removed because they massively offset the data. So keeping that in mind, here's the table:

                Passing           Rushing    
Year Rnd Pick Player From To Years Played Year Start Games Start Comp Att Comp. % Yds TD Int Att Yds TD
2010 1 25 Tim Tebow 2010 2011 1 0 3 45 92 48.9% 733 6 3 50 264 7
2007 1 22 Brady Quinn 2007 2011 4 1 12 184 353 52.1% 1902 10 9 25 119 1
2007 2 36 Kevin Kolb 2007 2011 4 1 12 295 491 60.1% 3363 16 20 47 90 1
2007 2 40 John Beck 2007 2011 4 0 4 68 122 55.7% 676 1 3 11 26 2
2007 2 43 Drew Stanton 2008 2011 3 0 4 104 187 55.6% 1158 5 9 30 166 2
2005 1 24 Aaron Rodgers 2005 2011 6 4 53 1184 1819 65.1% 14754 104 35 216 993 15
2005 1 25 Jason Campbell 2006 2011 5 5 70 1296 2131 60.8% 14417 74 50 218 1068 6
2004 1 22 J.P. Losman 2004 2009 5 1 33 558 942 59.2% 6211 33 34 103 489 3
2003 1 22 Rex Grossman 2003 2011 8 3 39 690 1269 54.4% 8213 46 49 71 98 3
2002 1 32 Patrick Ramsey 2002 2008 6 1 24 511 913 56.0% 5930 35 30 47 89 2
2001 2 32 Drew Brees 2001 2011 10 10 143 3326 5086 65.4% 37418 248 140 274 514 7
1997 1 26 Jim Druckenmiller 1997 1998 1 0 1 21 52 40.4% 239 1 4 13 -10 0
1997 2 42 Jake Plummer 1997 2006 9 10 136 2484 4350 57.1% 29253 161 161 428 1853 17
1996 2 42 Tony Banks 1996 2005 9 5 78 1278 2356 54.2% 15315 77 73 246 881 6
1992 1 25 Tommy Maddox 1992 2005 13 2 36 686 1200 57.2% 8087 48 54 68 128 1
1991 1 24 Todd Marinovich 1991 1992 1 0 8 104 205 50.7% 1345 8 9 12 44 0
1991 2 34 Browning Nagle 1991 1996 5 1 14 213 437 48.7% 2489 8 20 26 68 0
Average           6 3 39 767 1294 55.4% 8912 52 41 111 405 4

You can see the average starts for a quarterback within those parameters is 39, but there's a huge flaw with this, and we'll take a look at that now. Let's break this down:

- Quarterbacks who started 16 games or less: 8 (47%)
- Quarterbacks who starter 32 games or less: 10 (59%)
- Quarterbacks who started 48 games or less: 12 (71%)
- Quarterbacks who started 50 or more games: 5 (29%)
- Quarterbacks who started 100 or more games: 2 (12%)

The majority of players started 32 games or less, which is about two seasons. But there is another factor, and that is that the average career is six seasons long, and that many of those starts happen later in their career, not during their initial "trial." Because of this, if you look at just the players initial starts and the following season, we can see what their initial impression was. For example we will use Brady Quinn, his initial start took place in 2008, so I would include that season and 2009 to get a view at Brady Quinn's early play to see how his coaches and fans judged him.  I modified the scope and created a new table that will look at a few categories for their first two seasons. That way we can judge each player on their initial impressions, as well as whether they earned more time based on their play and also, whether or not they are starters now. I did this because we can see if by giving the player more time, do they prove their initial impression right or wrong. Here is the modified table:

Year Rnd Pick Player From To Years Played Starts Within a Season of First Start Record TD-TO Got More Time Starter Now
2010 1 25 Tim Tebow 2010 2011 1 3 1-2 7-4 Yes Yes
2007 1 22 Brady Quinn 2007 2011 4 12 3-9 10-12 No No
2007 2 36 Kevin Kolb 2007 2011 4 7 3-4 12-14 Yes Yes
2007 2 40 John Beck 2007 2011 4 4 0-4 1-5 No No
2007 2 43 Drew Stanton 2008 2011 3 4 2-2 4-10 No No
2005 1 24 Aaron Rodgers 2005 2011 6 32 17-15 67-29 Yes Yes
2005 1 25 Jason Campbell 2006 2011 5 20 8-12 13-18 Yes No
2004 1 22 J.P. Losman 2004 2009 5 24 8-16 27-24 Yes No
2003 1 22 Rex Grossman 2003 2011 8 23 15-8 27-27 Yes No
2002 1 32 Patrick Ramsey 2002 2008 6 16 6-10 25-17 Yes No
2001 2 32 Drew Brees 2001 2011 10 27 10-17 29-31 Yes Yes
1997 1 26 Jim Druckenmiller 1997 1998 1 1 1-0 1-4 No Retired
1997 2 42 Jake Plummer 1997 2006 9 25 12-13 28-35 Yes Retired
1996 2 42 Tony Banks 1996 2005 9 29 10-19 30-30 Yes Retired
1992 1 25 Tommy Maddox 1992 2005 13 4 0-4 5-9 No Retired
1991 1 24 Todd Marinovich 1991 1992 1 8 3-5 8-10 No Retired
1991 2 34 Browning Nagle 1991 1996 5 13 3-10 7-17 No Retired
Average           6 15      

If we isolate a player's first start, the average is only given 15 starts to prove what they can do. Of the 17 quarterbacks 10 got more time, but of those 10, only five ever kept or earned the starting job again. Those who lost their jobs after their initial two seasons ever earned another starting position. So we can break this down further. to see what those who kept their starting jobs had in common:

- They average close to .500 record (.455 average)
- They had more touchdowns than turnovers
- They had a 60%+ completion percentage

Now let's see how Tebow at this point:

- Currently at .333
- He fits this with 7-4
- Not there, currently at 49%

Now there is still time, the rest of the season really, but if history is any indicator, which it usually is, he needs to win games and get more accurate to keep his job.

Now a final thought, that we can't compare Tebow and patience with guys like Alex Smith or John Elway, they are from different eras and draft locations.

So what have we learned:

- The average quarterback from Tebow's draft position gets about 15 starts to prove themselves
- Their first two seasons of starting usually is an accurate representation of the players skill
- We know what it usually takes to keep the starting job
- We know it's unlikely that a player who plays badly in their first three seasons overall will struggle
- Surprisingly there aren't very many good quarterbacks from this draft bracket in terms of percentage

Bias Against Tebow the Man:

Since prior to Tebow being drafted, there had been negative criticism of Tebow, as there is about a number of college quarterbacks, especially quarterbacks who play like Tebow. Many of Tebow's supporters claim this is based on who Tebow is rather than his style of play. This is one of things that seems strange to me because it's so strange when you zoom out. It is true that Tebow is open about his standards and his faith. He is open about the nature of his birthand it's true he's a huge celebrity in Florida. And all these things can upset people. But the puzzling thing about all this is that there a players who have these traits but don't take any flack.

Let me just make two quick examples, but there are countless more. The first is Colt McCoy. At the writing of this article he is the record holder for wins, he is the Texas version of Tebow. He was consistently winning, consistently in the run for the Heisman, and is the hero of Texas that Tebow was to Florida. As someone who follows McCoy on Twitter, and having meet him (I can't name drop often because I don't actually meet NFL players often) I can also attest that McCoy also is extremely open about his faith. He also has written a book. McCoy's also among the greatest college quarterbacks ever. McCoy and Tebow are almost the same on so many levels in terms of faith, fame, and openness. Colt McCoy receivers much less criticism, which leads me to believe that style of play (McCoy received negativity for his size and arm strength) and his draft position (Tebow was drafted 25th overall while McCoy was drafted 85th overall.

Many will say that Tebow is much more open about his faith than McCoy so I'm busting out the big guns, Brian Dawkins. Now anyone who follows him on Twitter know that he has more faith than a preacher. Listening to Dawkins you will hear him constantly quote scripture. Brian Dawkins is very respected across the league and has possibly more faith than any other player in the NFL.

Now are there people who just dislike Tebow, who don't like to see people be so successful or may not like him showing his faith openly. But the idea that people don't like Tebow because of his fame or his faith is overblown. There are players throughout the NFL with all the same traits as Tebow that face differing levels of negativity, and like Tebow those comments are almost entirely based on their play. No one said that the criticisms of Colt McCoy were unfounded because of his faith or because he was so successful.

So please, when someone says something critical about Tebow's play, they aren't saying it because he's Christian or because we are biased or want him to fail, it's likely just because they see a flaw in his play or have doubts. I'm not denying their is criticism of Tebow, or that some people will think he will fail, just trying to disprove the idea that all people who attack Tebow do so based on his faith or character.

What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Tebow's Play:

Skip Bayless, like him or hate him, often uses the phrase "I watched every snap he played." And while I wonder about that sometimes, for this article I rewatched every snap Tebow has played since starting in the NFL. I actually watched them a few times. Now this isn't meant as a judgement of his play so far, but to gauge his strengths and weaknesses. After I did this I set out to find three players who have the same skill set as Tebow and look to see if these players all have the same strengths and weakness as Tebow. The players I decided to use are Donovan McNabb, Vince Young, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton. Now not all these are perfectly similar to Tebow, namely Big Ben, but Roethlisberger's offense will be a focus of this discussion.

When looking at Tebow he, like all quarterbacks, has strengths and weaknesses. Let's take a quick look at a few facts about Tebow and his style of play and we'll use Tebow as well as the other four quarterbacks to get a better, more rounded picture of Tim the quarterback.

*Note: This will look at this his physical abilities since comparing Tebow and other quarterbacks leadership, work ethic and such is useless since no one here knows what the truth of the matter is with all these quarterabcks.

What Tebow's style is good at:
- Deep passes, though not accurately, but these passes will be a bigger part of the offense (Tebow, McNabb, Roethlisberger and Newton)
- Mobility will allow for rolling out more successfully and moving past the line of scrimmage (All quarterbacks)
- Size makes him hard to tackle (All Quarterbacks)
- Screen game (Tebow, McNabb, Newton)
- "Chunk" offense, lots of big plays (Tebow, Roethlisberger, Newton and Young)

What Tebow's style struggles with:
- Accuracy will always be an issue, topping 60% is unlikely (Tebow, McNabb, Newton and Young)
- Use of the slot, due to inaccuracy, rarely lead receivers well (Tebow, Newton, Young and Roethlisberger)
- Will take more sacks than an average quarterback, quite a bit more (All quarterbacks)
- Injuries will plague this style (Tebow, McNabb, Young and Roethlisberger have all missed time)
- Timing passes, due to instability to sit in pocket and slower release will disrupt these passes (Tebow, McNabb, Young and Roethlisberger)
- Along with the "chunk" offense, low 3rd down conversion rate and consistency (Tebow, Roethlisberger, Newton and Young)

So please, when you discuss Tebow's play, these are a few misconceptions:

- Tebow will take less sacks
- Tebow will convert a lot of 3rd downs
- Tebow is too big to get hurt

These things will likely all happen. They are the style of play shown by Tebow and those who play at a similar level. Now these are a few examples of other players, some more successful most are not successful, but Tebow can succeed with his overall style of play, but he isn't as good at this style of play as those listed. He isn't as accurate downfield. He is still working on pocket presence and when to run. He isn't as accurate on any level and he isn't as big as some of the quarterbacks listed. So to succeed he will need to improve in some major areas before he will be able to achieve some level of consistency. We as fans need to keep in mind the strengths and weaknesses of Tebow's play. Now many may disagree with this assessment, I could include the numbers and game clips to back it up, but this post is long enough as it is. So please, at this point, if there is one thing I do well it's research, so please take my word for it.

Tebow's style isn't unique to the NFL and has seen success and failure behind a number of offensive coordinators, head coaches and offenses.  It will come down to Tebow the player to determine whether or not he succeeds.

I realize this wasn't the typical pro-Tebow/anti-Tebow post, but I wanted to get these thoughts out there. Often times we only look at a topic from one light and I thought three new paradigms would help us understand the situation. This isn't a "Tebow will fail/succeed" post, so please don't think of it that way, rather it is a study of Tebow from three angles that people often overlook or mistake. Hope it was educational for all you who made it through.

Go Broncos!