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Tebow: Proven Nothing

[ 128 ] December 16, 2011 |

Rick Perry compared himself to Tim Tebow. One can see the analogy, in that neither is particularly competent. But it ultimately fails, because 1)nobody thinks Perry is good, and 2)I don’t think Marion Barber is going to take votes away from Gingrich, Romney and Paul in the Iowa primary.

Unlike some Tebow skeptics, I don’t really care about the bible-thumping. For me, it’s fun to make fun of his apologists for the same reason it’s fun to make fun of Murray Chass. The argument that Denver going on a winning streak against a cupcake schedule largely in spite of its offense proves that Tebow Knows How To Win is a quaint relic from the era that brought you Cy Young Awards for Steve Stone and Pete Vukovich because they “won” lots of games. Last week was particularly entertaining, as the evidence that He Just Wins involved eking out 13 points only with the help of two 50+ yard field goals and two massive blunders on the part of the opposition. It’s an epic overhype. Someone in the last thread compared him to Joba Chamberlain, which is pretty close although it’s unfair to Joba.

The main argument of Tebow apologists seems to be that whatever one can say he’s clearly established himself as at least a decent NFL QB. This is completely false. Looking at the numbers, as of last week he ranks 29th in value, 26th on a per-play basis. This puts him in a class with guys like Carson Palmer, Colt McCoy, Rex Grossman, Vince Young, Donovan McNab’s decomposing corpse — failed prospects, washed-up vets, or some combination of the two. Pretty much the definition of replacement level.

Now, one can point out that he’s not a complete farce like Tyler Palko or Curtis Painter. He’s young enough that one could see him taking a step up to the level of Alex Smith or (as of now) Mark Sanchez — mediocrities who can get you to the playoffs if you surround them with enough pieces. On the other hand, he’s been one of the worst QBs in the league despite an unsustainably low interception rate, so it’s likely to get worse rather than better. (For those who think that his lack of picks is likely to be a real skill, I have two words: David Garrard.) But the plausible ceiling and floor makes clear why his sycophants are amusing. I mean, Mark Sanchez has “won” four playoff games on the road, and even in New York he’s generally seen (correctly) as a sometimes good but frustrating and very uneven QB, not a guy who Just Wins. Being part of a largely ineffective offense that has gotten some close and in some cases outright fluky regular season wins against poor opposition is substantially less impressive than that.

Comments (128)

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  1. bph says:

    I always wanted to know, is it trolling when the blogger is doing it to his commentators?

  2. TBogg says:

    Hater.

    I kid. He sucks.

  3. Michael Drew says:

    Does the bulk of hype actually contradict much of this? They hype is about the excitement he’s brought to the games in the fourth quarter, including by rallying and inspiring many of his teammates at those times by their own account. The hype I’ve seencoming from any source we ought to take seriously on football matters acknowledges all the things you say about his limitations and the things that have gone his way for these things to have been part of wins. Even limited in this way, the hyoe may still be overlarge. But that is a function as much of the needs of a media establishment that is contending with a vacuum of interesting stories due to an entirely professional league that should be operating being inactive, and a football season that has a considerable amount of its usual competitive interest drained by single-team dominance in one conference, combined with a down year. The point is, this is not a mystery. To any casual observer, what “Tim Tebow” has been doing late in games, which is the time that provides much of the interest of football to a significant part of the audience, is actually pretty remarkable from a pure spectatorship standpoint, especailly given the turnaround in the team’s W-L performance that occurred as soon as Tebow got the nod. Again, this is not an argument about his contribution, but about the nature of the story here. Unlike in plicy matters, sports reporting has no imperative to match hype to objective performance measures. the Packers are just simply a boring story this year, and there’s nothing wrong with the sports media treating them as such. Tebow is a far more interesting story, and there’s nothing wrong with hyping the story, if it is the ne that will draw eyeballs to an otherwise relatively dull season. In this context, in my view the claims about Tebow’s actual ability and contribution to the wins by media figures from whom we should expect a commitment to realistic assessments have been kept relatively within reason, and those who have gotten carried away have been pretty reliably policed by those interested in maintaining their organization’s analytic credibility. Obviously, to a large extent I am talking about ESPN here, but that includes its secondary outlets, i.e. radio, podcasts, etc.

    The thing to note is that in these last two posts, and I don’t recall further back otherwise, you haven’t bothered to point to any actually offending commentary. My impression is more that people are just buzzing about an interesting story, more than that many people we should expect better from are actually making exaggerated, technically specific claims about Tebow’s performances. It seems like it’s the buzz that is really bothering you, but that you know that just is what it is and there’s no reason to be bothered or not bothered by it – people are just going to be excited by what they’re excited by. So you make it into a rationalistic question of claims about Tebow’s actual competence. Except there really aren’t very many of those that aren’t appropriately defined, hedged, and/or caveated in a way that you can actually dismantle them with your withering logical rigor, so you just skip the part where you point to someone who isn’t a prima facie clown saying such a thing, and just skip to the part where you demolish these ridiculous arguments sight unseen. Which is fun stuff, no doubt.

    • Michael Drew says:

      …a down year in the other conference, I meant.

    • Murc says:

      Paragraphs, man! (Although I suspect this is coming from a phone.)

      The hype I’ve seencoming from any source we ought to take seriously on football matters

      You have just indicted a whole hell of a lot of ESPNs football coverage. Possibly without meaning to.

      This is sort of an interesting vaguely post-modern take on Tebow. You kind of have a point; his games HAVE been interesting to watch in the 4th quarter. Broncos/Bears in particular prompted a lot ‘okay, now you’re just cheating on his behalf, God’ tongue-in-cheek comments from my friends. There’s some merit there.

      However…

      Unlike in plicy matters, sports reporting has no imperative to match hype to objective performance measures.

      Bullshit. I can’t speak for everyone, but if you’re not matching your hype to objective performance measures you are a shitty sports reporter. Period.

      the Packers are just simply a boring story this year, and there’s nothing wrong with the sports media treating them as such.

      The Packers are still undefeated unless I’ve lost track. If that’s considered boring maybe there’s something wrong with how we think of the sport.

      • Michael Drew says:

        Paragraphs – In throwaway comments, I sometimes don’t bother if I’m just trying to get it out of my head and be done with it. If someone cares to squint through the black and deal with the argument, so much the better for the argument. If I care about reaching people, I’ll invest energy in formatting. There are a lot of blogs out there. Not every comment gets my full attention.

        On bullshit – I just disagree. And that argument is as good a one for my view as the one you advance is for yours. Period. There’s nothing wrong with interest driving the calculation of what stories get hyoed in sports. There’s not even always anything wrong with it in other areas of reporting, though of course in some areas there very much is. But not in sports. If you’re a boring winner, you might get ignored to an extent for an interesting loser or a less deserving winner. That’s just the deal – there is no ethical argument to be made about there being something wrong with this. You don’t deserve coverage if you win. That which is interesting gets covered, and for the most part winning is interesting. But it’s not always the most interesting thing. And certainly the greatest contributions to winning are not going to necessarily be hyped as such. Only if they’re interesting. That’s what sports reporters are doing when they are doing sports reporting.

        • Michael Drew says:

          And – the Broncos and Tebow have been winning, and doing so in quite interesting ways repeatedly. And doing so in a context of a volume of naysaying that I’m not sure I have ever heard with respect to one individual player in any sport before. That makes it even more interesting, and thus all the more deserving of hype, with “desert of hype” being properly understood (and deliciously ironic, since to a large extent it is the naysayers who are primarily exercised by the hype contributing significantly, with their naysaying, to the amount of hype the story gets – and deserves).

          • BJN says:

            The weird part about the #TimTebow thing is that both sides seem to only see the opposition. His supporters roundly claim that he is living in a storm of criticism unheard of in modern sports, whereas his critics object mainly to all the hype he is receiving for nothing in particular.

            For my part, I think you are being pretty blind to a lot of the lesser talking heads on ESPN who have really been exaggerating his skill, or “clutch abilities”. From my perspective though, there is nothing wrong with people criticizing his lack of skill, because I think that is objectively true.

            I was talking to someone who worked in a Republican congressional office once. He said that the Democrats are much better at using the media than the Republicans are. When I told him that all the Democrats I know feel the opposite, he said that it really comes down to how Democrats appeal to emotion whereas Republicans appeal to reason. I guess your own position always looks like the rational one and others always look like emotional fools.

            • Michael Drew says:

              Do you have a cite on any of these ESPN commentators?

            • Michael Drew says:

              To be clear – I do think the volume of the criticism, not it’s severity, is greater than much of anything else I can think of. But I don’t have any problem with the criticism as such – it’s fair because indeed he’s not that good. The main question I have is what is really motivating so many people to voice it in this instance, because the incidence of a not-very-good quarterback, even one who gets credit for being better than he is, is not at all rare. But the volume of criticism here is extraordinary.

              And the point I am making with respect to the claim that the criticism is in reaction to overblown claims about his skill is just what I say it is above- nothing more, nothing less. Apologies for the lack of paragraph breaks.

              • Paulk says:

                Actually, I think this has it backwards. I didn’t care much about Tebow, but even watching him in college, all of his weaknesses were fairly plain to see. I was even okay with the excessive fawning, which I didn’t understand. (I came to know him first as a football player and because I didn’t follow him or Florida football very closely, I had no idea about his religious elements, which even then seemed not especially over-the-top.)

                But then the media kept talking about him. And talking about him. And talking about him. And listening to the NC game, the level of sycophancy was pretty unbelievable. Then there was day that I came across a half-hour television special that was, in substance, “Is Tim Tebow like the greatest player and person ever?”

                This was all before the NFL.

                Critics like Scott are not the inverse of Tebow’s fanatics in the media and elsewhere. To say that “other players have done this” is exactly what prompts all of these responses: Of course they have! And, more importantly, those who have are what we’d call “replacement level” players. We are responding to the bizarre and over-the-top hype that says we must accept that there is something miraculous or different about Tebow AS A PLAYER.

                • Michael Drew says:

                  Clearly, you are responding to the hype. The issue is how much of the hype is actually making football claims you can disagree with, and how much of your response is just that you don’t like that he gets talked about so much.

              • Joe Schmoe says:

                “To be clear – I do think the volume of the criticism, not it’s severity, is greater than much of anything else I can think of…”

                I disagree. I think the volume of praise, in relation to what’s actually happening, is “greater than much of anything else I can think of…” The criticism is simply in response to the overwhelming praise, which rests on bullshit, and ignores why the Broncos are actually winning.

                The Packers are not getting anywhere near this hype, and they’ve won 18 games in a row.

                • Michael Drew says:

                  I guess I just don’t hear as much praise as you seem to. A lot interest, a lot of discussion, a lot of hype. An overstated amount of actual football praise.

                  Aaron Rodgers is not lacking for praise this year. He just lacks for hype.

                • Michael Drew says:

                  …Some very stupid praise as well, no doubt, but less than is being alleged. I do think the leadership factor is being somewhat overstated – though any actual praise mixed in with all the talk is bound to be overstated given the sheer volume of all the discussion. But at the same time, I think a considerable degree of praise for his leadership is warranted, given the accounts of his teammates and the remarkable turnaround that occurred in their winning percentage when he took over at QB. But clearly it’s overstated just because of how much it’s being talked about at this point.

                  Beyond this, though, I’m still waiting for examples of wrongheaded overpraise on actual football issues for Tebow from people we should see as serious analysts, not prima-facie as clowns, and who don’t write for a hometown newspaper.

        • Furious Jorge says:

          There are a lot of blogs out there. Not every comment gets my full attention.

          There are a lot of commenters out there. Not every one of them gets even part of my attention, especially if they can’t be bothered to at least make their comments readable.

    • H-Bob says:

      “you haven’t bothered to point to any actually offending commentary” — ready Woody Paige’s thrice a week love letters to Tebow in the Denver Post. Also, the term is not “Tebow apologists”, it’s “Tebow fluffers”!

  4. rea says:

    Tebow’s ineptitude as a QB is, of course, central to the Tebow lovers’ point. The success of someone so incompetent–God’s Holy Fool–can be nothing other than the Hand of God intervening in human affairs.

  5. Green Caboose says:

    Can’t disagree with anything except the comment about the best Tebow could rise to is maybe an Alex Smith level.

    Yes, he has a lot of weaknesses. But balance that against a number of innate – and in some cases very rare – strengths:
    1) Although it’s overshadowed by the hype and the over-quoted 4th quarter stats, he’s actually shown a lot of improvement as a passer over his starts. He’s notably better at reading defenses.

    2) Passing mechanics can be coached and improved. Pocket presence-of-mind is much harder, if not impossible, as it is more of an instinctive trait. This is one of his greatest strengths.

    3) His best throws are on the run. Contrast that to say, Peyton Manning, who did not learn to throw well on the run until he devoted the summer of 2006 to learning that exact skill – not coincidentally the summer before his one Super Bowl win.

    4) He’s harder to tackle than any other QB out there. One of the most frustrating things about having your team play a Philip Rivers or Ben Rothensberger is their ability to shed tacklers and make a play – Tebow is better at that than anyone.

    All those, plus of course the Montana-esque clutch play.

    Look, the people who are talking about this guy for MVP are full of shit. I’ve written here about just how lucky the Broncos have been during this streak – lucky bounces, playing teams during losing streaks and/or against backup QBs and RBs – getting NYJ at home on Thursday after NYJ lost a bad emotional game Sunday night against NE. All true, all true.

    And I’ve never been a fan of evaluating QBs on W-L records like pitchers – not since Mike Tomczak was the winningest QB for a period of several years between his time at Chicago and Pittsburgh.

    But don’t let the hype and the moronic religious angle blind you to the fact that there is something unique and fascinating about this player. This isn’t Vince Young or Vick or Douglass or Flutie or an early Steve Young. This combination of skills hasn’t been seen before. Forget about all the option stuff that worked for a couple games against an Oakland and KC defense that both failed to adjust, but now doesn’t work against anyone except as a change-up play. That won’t last. Forget about the fluky wins – they won’t last either. But despite that there is some really potential for a very special passing QB here.

    • McKingford says:

      I disagree with a lot here. I’ve seen just about all his starts, and I just don’t see the supposed improvement. Don’t forget, before the 4th quarter of the Bears game, he had gone 2 quarters without a completed pass.

      #2: He has *terrible* pocket awareness. He simply lacks the mental 3 count to get rid of the ball, in part because, as I’ve noted elsewhere, he refuses to throw the ball unless a receiver is wide open (as in, DB-fell-down-wide-open)…

      #3: …which leads him to eventually scramble and occasionally throw on the run. Because he takes far too long to get rid of the ball, he ends up flushed from the pocket and throwing on the run. It seems like his best throws are on the run because *most* of his throws are on the run. And as I noted elsewhere, because this tends to break down the defense, it is the one time when his receivers are wide open which does occasionally result in positive plays. Obviously, this is an asset, but it comes almost entirely to the detriment of his ability to throw, in rhythm, from the pocket.

      • proverbialleadballoon says:

        agreed. it is aggravating to hear from commentators that his detriments are in fact positives. he’s a great ‘running’ quarterback! right, because he is a crap ‘throwing’ quarterback. he runs the option like a champ! right, because he can’t run a big-boy professional offense. he steps up his game in the fourth quarter! right, because through three quarters, he had two completions. and on.

    • Joe Schmoe says:

      You mean a combination “of [a lack] of skills [that] hasn’t been seen before…”

      Tebow reminds me of Trent Dilfer when the Ravens won the Super Bowl. He did just enough not to screw things up and occasionally played well. Only, in Tebow’s case, his only good play has been in the 4th quarter when he shouldn’t even have a chance for the lucky bounces and wins.

      No one praised Dilfer, or gave him credit to the degree seen here. Thus, the backlash.

  6. tequila says:

    Green Caboose – what combination of skill?

    The only difference I see vice your examples is that every one of those QBs is a much better passer, while several (the Youngs, Vick)are superior runners.

    Tebow is the Christianist version of George Blanda.

  7. Shalimar says:

    Ability to avoid interceptions does seem to have been one of Garrard’s skills. The problem for Tebow is that Garrard’s career rate is something like 4-5 times what it was during the one fluky season. Still good, but not other-worldly. So even if Tebow shares that skill, he is still functioning on an unsustainable level.

    • actor212 says:

      There’s an old baseball school of thought that you forgive some fielders their errors because it means they have better range and more confidence in their abilities, so will exert themselves more in trying to make difficult plays.

      I think this might apply to Tebow’s low INT stats.

      • R Johnston says:

        When, on third and eight, you never throw a pass to a receiver who isn’t wide open, instead settling for a five yard scramble time after time, you’re going to cut down some on your interceptions and you’re going to suck for it.

        A certain level of interceptions is the price you pay for getting first downs. Obviously there are some coverages a quarterback doesn’t want to throw into, and as a Jets fan I cringe at least once or twice a game when Sanchez unleashes a short-to-medium distance pass into tight triple coverage.

        Sometimes, however, you have to throw a ball to a covered receiver, especially on third down when you’re going to be giving up possession anyway if you don’t convert. If you double your third down interception rate from 3% to 6% at the same time as you double your third down conversion rate from 25% to 50%, you’re coming out ahead, by a lot.

        Of course Tebow is a pretty bad passer, and the odds of his improving his average outcome by throwing into decent but not airtight coverage on third down are much lower than the same odds for a real quarterback.

        All of which is to say that while Tebow’s interception rate is unsustainable, he might well sustain a rate lower than typical, but if he does it comes at the price of a 48% completion rate and seeing Britton Colquitt on the field far more often than is healthy for an offense.

      • Mike Schilling says:

        Not the same thing; error is a stupid statistic that rewards letting the ball go past you instead of making an unsuccessful effort to stop it, even though both have the same result, while an interception is genuinely more harmful than an incomplete pass.

  8. J.W. Hamner says:

    I’ll be curious to see how the Broncos will do against the Patriots this weekend. The Patriots D is absolutely terrible, but Tebow doesn’t seem the QB to really take advantage of that… and I don’t think the Broncos D is good enough to nullify the Patriots’ Offense… Tom Brady is not Caleb Hanie. I expect the Tebows to be down three or four scores by halftime, but I guess we will see.

    I tend to think people get excited about Tebow because he defies logic… and ridiculous things that don’t make any sense are kinda fun. However it’s also clearly unsustainable. I wonder what will happen when the team gets blown off the field by either the Patriots now or the Ravens/Steelers in the playoffs. I really only hope this happens because I’m a little tired of my walk to and from work listening to ESPN radio being 99% Tebow.

    • Bill Murray says:

      Losing big to the Lions didn’t make much if a dent

      • H-Bob says:

        That wasn’t exactly true in Denver. Except for the Tebow fluffers, the commentators were jumping on him and several called for the Tebow experiment to end. But after the Raiders win, everyone has jumped on the Tebow fluff train ! Any future losses, however, will be excused even if the Broncos go 3 & out on every possession. What I’m really amazed about is the Broncos run defense, which is tremendously better — I remember those games where Tomlinson would get 9 to 20 yards on every carry.

  9. JMG says:

    Dear Mr. Lemieux: Like a lot of baseball-first sports fans, you are making a primal error here. Football ain’t baseball. It is much less susceptible to pure statistical measurements of value and performance. There is a reason quarterbacks were once known as “field generals.” There are parts of the job besides passing. They’re not as important as passing, but they are important in their own right. I daresay if the Broncos hadn’t been desperate enough to turn to Tebow, Kyle Orton would have middle of the road passing stats far better than his, and Denver would be 4-9.

    • Tybalt says:

      Why would you dare say that? Football isn’t baseball but discussing it requires evidence. Where, specifically, has Tebow succeeded in winning games where other quarterbacks, better passers, would have failed?

    • Furious Jorge says:

      It is much less susceptible to pure statistical measurements of value and performance

      If it can’t be measured, it can’t be quantified and thus all these arguments about who is better than whom are just masturbation.

    • Jonas says:

      If it weren’t for Tebow’s knack for winning, Denver’s D would have been shredded by Tyler Palko.

    • brad says:

      FWIW, Orton actually ranks two slots lower than Tebow in the FO stats SL linked to.
      QB “wins” are even less relevant than pitcher wins as a stat. As countless Tebow apostates have said, when you say intangibles you’re trying to credit him with improved defensive play and (lack of) quality of schedule.

    • H-Bob says:

      “There is a reason quarterbacks were once known as “field generals” … when they called their own plays ! Unless you’re claiming that Tebow’s “strategy” of 3 & out for 3 quarters destroys the rhythm and “head in the game” for the opposing defense that is sitting on the bench so much ?

  10. BKP says:

    The “Tebow just wins” meme has little to do with the Broncos winning streak and everything to do with how Tebow consistently seems to play above his skill level when it becomes absolutely necessary that he must.

    We get it. Tim Tebow is not a good quarterback. But he is not a good quarterback who has somehow managed to put up some of the best fourth quarter stats of any QB in the league. He has a 111 passer rating, a 6-1 TD to INT ratio, and more rushing yards than many starting runningbacks in the fourth quarter. His passer rating overall is 83.9 overall (surprisingly good for someone called a bad quarterback), but a whopping 113 in 4Q when leading or trailing by 7 points.

    I really hope this is your last Tim Tebow post.

    • BKP says:

      “absolutely necessary that he do so

      Proofread, Brad, Proofread.

    • Njorl says:

      Tebow’s 4th quarter performance is due to teams inexplicably switching to prevent-like defenses. They shut him down completely for three quarters with their standard scheme, then switch to soft coverage and deep zones. It’s nuts.

      Chicago switched into a cover-3 zone. It opens up short stuff on the sidelines. It is the worst possible defense you could play against Tebow while you’re ahead. Chicago doesn’t even play a cover-3.

      • BKP says:

        Tebow’s 4th quarter performance is due to teams inexplicably switching to prevent-like defenses. They shut him down completely for three quarters with their standard scheme, then switch to soft coverage and deep zones. It’s nuts.

        No offense, but when you claim a trend that has lasted half the season is due to NFL coaches being remarkably stupid, I tend to be skeptical.

        Did you read this somewhere? Can you link?

        • There’s also the somewhat relevant point that the strategy actually worked for the Bears. The point of going to a soft defense late in the game with a 2+ possession lead is to force the other team to run time off the clock while they drive, and to avoid giving up a big play that lets them save time more than anything. Even though the Broncos scored a touchdown (thanks in part to the LT being allowed to put a sleeper hold on Julius Peppers before he could sack Tebow) the Bears still recovered an onside kick and basically succeeded in killing the clock, if not for Barber stupidly running out of bounds.

          • Bill Murray says:

            Also there was the not covering the 16 yard out that helped the Broncos considerably. Much like the Vikings let Thomas run deep without coverage 3 times

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            Right. The soft coverage on the first drive made sense; you can live with a score if they burn the clock. The soft coverage on sideline routes on the game-tying drive, on the other hand…

        • Tybalt says:

          No one has ever gone broke betting against the intelligence of NFL head coaches.

          Steve von Horn’s article here does a good job of analyzing why teams have done a poor job preventing comebacks.

          • BKP says:

            Yeah, read that. Doesn’t really give a compelling account since it also describes all of the problems Tebow would have picking apart a zone underneath.

            Also Tebow is averaging 14.9 yards per completion in the 4Q. That would lead the league if he spread it across games and is dramatically better than what he does in the other quarters.

            There just seems to be very little reason to believe that prevent defense is the culprit when Tebow is succeeding at throwing deep.

            • Tybalt says:

              Put simply – prevent defense gives Tebow more time to have a play develop and less coherence to the defensive plan.

              Brett Favre – a much, much better passer with a much better arm – was also at his very best “freelancing” against a prevent, because he was so good at dealing with light rushes, and wasn’t afraid ever to hang onto the ball. Tebow also has that skillset.

              These are skills – very good and useful ones. But they are far less useful against a heavier rush, where breaking a tackle in the backfield just gets you another defender in your face.

        • Njorl says:

          NFL coaches punt too often, kick too many field goals and don’t go for 2 enough. The majority of coaches will make the conventional move even if it is wrong to do so, if the unconventional move exposes them to potential criticism.

          When you go into a prevent, and lose, the implicit blame is on the players for failing to execute. When you play an agressive defense and lose with a 2 score lead, the coach gets the blame. Most NFL coaches feel like their job is on the line all of the time. They won’t risk looking stupid. The low-percentage move with respect to winning can be the high-percentage move with respect to cashing a paycheck.

      • BKP says:

        The stats that I can find to test this hypothesis don’t really work out.

        Find some split stats and check out his stats when sorted by pass length. He has very poor statistics on passes thrown short, and good statistics on passes thrown long.

        And that makes sense, since the two largest knocks against Tebow is his ability to make quick reads and hit receivers coming out of their breaks and his glacial throwing motion.

        • Tybalt says:

          It’s his ability to keep the play alive – and that is definitely an ability – that makes a prevent a bad choice against him. When you rush three and drop eight, you abandon any pretense of containment and Tebow gets oodles of time to run around. And no matter how many defenders you drop back, coverages break down when you have seven, eight, nine seconds to throw. Plus defenders break off coverage to contain his running threat, because there isn’t any contain so the scrimmage line is very porous.

          The solution? I think very strongly that teams should continue to rush five and drop six, even against four-man receiver sets, and give him less time to throw.

          • BKP says:

            And no matter how many defenders you drop back, coverages break down when you have seven, eight, nine seconds to throw.

            Prevent defenses are particularly designed so they don’t break down long. These usually have a deep cover umbrella that keeps the receivers inside and beneath the safeties. If you are averaging 15 yards per completion, chances are you are doing so in spite of a prevent shell.

            As far as the pressure aspect, does anyone actually have any stats to support the idea that teams blitz less in the fourth quarter. I ask not because I question a tendency of coordinators to go conservative with 4Q lead, but more because the “complex blitzes” you refer to tend to regularly get gashed for long plays against option offenses.

            Option offenses call for gap discipline, pro-style zone blitzing does not and actually tends to be employed more in passing situations.

            • McKingford says:

              I agree almost completely with Tybalt’s analysis. I think you are missing his point: Tebow is not succeeding with a conventional prevent offense (ie. taking the obvious underneath stuff). Rather, because of his ability to be mobile, he keeps plays alive much longer than a conventional quarterback – especially against the 3 man rush. And with enough time even a prevent breaks down. So that’s where Tebow is getting yardage against the prevent that most QBs would not.

        • McKingford says:

          Listen to just about any young QB when asked about the difference between college and the NFL and they’ll say the same thing: guys in the NFL aren’t open.

          What they mean, of course, is that the window to throw to an NFL receiver is a lot smaller than it is in college. I’ve seen a lot more of Tebow than I necessarily wanted to, so I think I’m pretty well qualified to comment on this point: Tebow is still playing like a college QB. He lacks the confidence to throw to anyone who isn’t wide open – and this likely explains, to a large extent, his low INT rate. Watch him and see how long he waits in the pocket. He never hits a guy in stride, or with a defender anywhere near him. His completions do tend to be longer because they generally come after coverage breaks down, or – which may help explain his 4th quarter success – teams are playing loose. You basically never see him throw back shoulder or any other precision type throw. Which is why I have no doubt that he won’t succeed long term in the NFL (at least as a QB); he just hasn’t made any passes an NFL QB needs to make on a regular basis.

          • Paulk says:

            I’m going to second this. The point here is about consistency and the fact that Tebow just doesn’t have the arm (strength, accuracy) to make those throws with any certainty. (His best pass against Chicago was an out that fell incomplete. He didn’t make another one half as good the rest of the game.)

            I suppose I’d be more impressed with his 4th Quarter stats if I hadn’t seen how those had come about. I do think he inspires his teammates, and that’s certainly not nothing. Confidence is one of those under-appreciated elements of football. Belief and desperation (and a lot of luck) can help you win close games.

            And, frankly, if Tebow’s defenders would just recognize these things and be more realistic about both his actual abilities and his own personal contribution to his team’s success, I’d be perfectly fine. (I suspect Scott would, too.) It’s not that Tebow doesn’t belong on the football field. He just doesn’t belong under center for all but the occasional snap. Denver doesn’t have any better option, so it might be wrong to say that Tebow is hurting more than he’s helping his team—but that time is coming soon.

        • Njorl says:

          The split you’d need is comparing his short passes in the first 3 quarters to his short passes in the 4th. That’s not readily available.

          Looking at the gamecast on ESPN, he did very well in the short passing game against the Bears in the 4th.

      • Mike Schilling says:

        Minnesota’s defense against Tebow was even worse — have the corners play zone and the safeties play man-to-man.

  11. c u n d gulag says:

    I love the low interception argument.

    All that means is that Sex Ed in schools is working, since no one wants to catch STD’s – Sinking Tebow Ducks.

    Or even CAN! Neither his receivers, who practice with him daily, nor the defensive players who’ve only seen him once or twice.

    He’s a Bobby Douglas clone who uses Jesus as his PR agent.

    As a QB, he’ll make a great televangelist!

  12. sleepyirv says:

    I’m confused on how religion has entered into the discussion (besides as a fig leaf for the media to hide why they’re hyping the trillionth athlete beyond reason). Are there really not enough religious persons in sports for the media? Do they not all point to the sky after home runs?

    • Furious Jorge says:

      For one thing, none of them (so far as I know) claim their faith has compelled them to be 24-year-old virgins. And I don’t know of any others who have actually performed circumcisions (with no medical training) on Filipino kids as part of a religious mission, but I suppose some of them may have.

      Point being, with Tebow, it’s really more the degree of godbothering that is noteworthy..

  13. John Howard says:

    The other point is that if he didn’t have a constituency to loudly advocate for him he never would have gotten a shot. Almost every other QB of his style and ability was switched to another position (see Brian Mitchell), but because he sells tickets for the Broncos to Christers, he gets a shot at running a team and game plan tailored to his abilities.

  14. actor212 says:

    I have to offer a minor comment re: Sanchez. His second half (and particularly his fourth quarter) performances this year have begun to apply the “he just wins” label. The guy can have an awful, a dreaful first half, and yet somehow manages to get that last score (based in large part by the fact the Jets D forces mistakes)

  15. mark f says:

    A text I got from a friend last night:

    If Perry is Tebow does that make Romney Steve Young?

    I responded that Romney was neither exciting nor good at improvising, so he can’t be Young. He can’t be Jim McMahon, either, for obvious reasons. However, it turns out that the Detmers are also Mormons. This is perfect. Romney is Ty Detmer: no one really wants him, but they’ll start him if they have to.

    Huntsman is Koy.

    Herman Cain is Vince Young: fast rise, but being a headcase brought him down quick.

    Newt is Ron Jaworski: a guy from yesterday’s league who can’t STFU and thinks he’s smarter than he is.

    Tim Pawlenty: Joey Harrington.

    Ron Paul: Doug Flutie.

    Rick Santorum: late-era Mark Brunnell.

    Buddy Roemer: a mid-90s Arizona Cardinals practice squadder.

    I think Perry matches up better with Phillip Rivers, btw.

  16. Tybalt says:

    I think because Tebow has such an unusual collection of skills for a modern quarterback, his ceiling as an individual player is quite a bit higher than that of a guy like Sanchez. (In other words, the style of offense he is most effective in could turn out to be playable.)

    However, the chances seem slim to me. But let’s not discount the fact that he *will* be given an extended opportunity, and the very worst that’s a necessary precondition to establishing a new style.

    I don’t take things like “option offense will never work in the NFL because the defenses are so fast” as gospel. There is no royal road to geometry.

    I did particularly enjoy rea’s invocation of “God’s Holy Fool”. Just as I’m enjoying this bizarre and inexplicable sequence of wins.

    • actor212 says:

      I don’t think option offenses will work in the NFL because interior offensive lineman are not quick enough, but I’d like to see The Tebows try. It could be fun, and it certainly seems to be a possible direction they could go.

      In fact, I’d really like to see them try the Wishbone.

    • TT says:

      Option offenses do not work in the NFL because defensive players are simply too fast. You can probably get away with it as a novelty for several weeks, maybe even most of a season, but then defenses adjust and its back to traditional play-action.

      The Wildcat lasted all of about half a season, then defensive coordinators figured it out and it died a quick death. John Fox knows that he can’t rely on an option offense much longer, not if he wants Tebow to last longer than two or three season. And that’s the reason why Tebow, if Elway decides to make him the permanent QB1, will spend every waking moment this off-season working on throwing mechanics, footwork, and defensive reads.

      • To wit, I think the option can work for now, because NFL d-lines are too undisciplined by and large to stop it effectively. Because the league has become so pass dominated, defensive linemen are by and large concerned with getting after the quarterback and not so good at maintaining gap discipline. Now, in the long term, there’s a couple of problems with this:

        1. This won’t be the case for a good defense with a run-oriented mindset like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, or even Houston this year who maintain their gaps and won’t give the Broncos the seams they need to make the option work.

        2. After this year coaches will have more time to drill their teams in stopping it. The system should have decreasing returns the longer it’s used.

      • Bill Murray says:

        I doubt Fox or Elway want Tebow to last.

        Much talk has centered around Tebow’s mechanics since he was a freshman in college. Why do you think now 5 years later he will either finally start working on them or the work will finally start to click

      • JMG says:

        TT, in theory you are absolutely correct, but in practice, it is very difficult to prepare a defense for an unfamiliar offense they see twice a year max, or once every couple years more frequently. This has allowed Navy and Air Force to punch way above their weight in college football for years.

      • mpowell says:

        The option is really a better offense than the wildcat, though. The problem with the wildcat is that you don’t even have a passer on the field. With a real option game your QB is supposed to be a threat to both pass and run at the snap. Tebow needs to be throwing more like 20+ times a game for this to really work, but it has a much better chance than the wildcat.

        • tucker says:

          Don’t under estimate quarterback hits. Back in the day the Patriots under Chuck Fairbanks (yes, I’m that old)ran the option with Jim Plunkett. I’m remember a game against the Vikings where they ran it with success (about 10 to 15 yards a pop) with Sam (Bam) Cunningham as the pitch man. The problem was, Carl Eller simply ignored the pitch man every time, forcing Plunkett to pitch and simply drilling him. Even though it was successful, by the second half the Patriots had to stop.

          Ultimately, this is a much more effective way to dealing with the option than gap discipline. Don’t care how big Tebow is, as a runner he cannot stand up to a season of hits from Ray Lewis, James Harrison, et al.

          • efgoldman says:

            Jim Plunkett was no more an option QB than I am Micheal Jordan.

            I’m that old too. Saw the first Pats exhibition @BU Field.

          • Bill Murray says:

            The Vikings game must have been 10-27-74. Patriots won 17-14 to go to 6-1 behind Cunningham’s 129 yards on 22 carries. They then lost 6 of the next seven.

  17. hoodie says:

    Tebow is a flash in the pan. Urhlacher described him accurately; he’s a good running back. He’ll never develop as a passer doing that, and he’ll likely end up injured if the Broncos keep using him that way. If he could throw like Cam Newton, he could eventually be very effective but, if he could throw like that, the offensive coordinator would be obsessed with finding ways to minimize the amount he runs to reduce the likelihood he would be hurt and, just as importantly, to maximize the opportunity to use his arm. NFL receivers are just too good and expensive to be relegated to run blocking or scrambling around while the QB scrambles. Being an athletic QB like Tebow only pays off in the NFL if you use your strength to increase the amount of time you can hang in the pocket and enable quality receivers to make plays on longer routes.

  18. Scott,

    Does this question really mean this much to you, or are you just riding the Tebow hype for more hits?

    • elm says:

      I think Scott has proven over and over again that when he finds a topic he likes (and one where some of his own commenters disagree in particular) that he will write on it over and over again. See his posts on presidential power, joba, jeter, and many others. (Some of these posts are on important topics some are just for fun.)

      I don’t understand the thought-process that would lead one to think Scott is motivated by page hits, but then I’m always suprised when commenters accuse the writers here of insincerity. (It most often happens when commenters to their left accuse them of trying to “appear the sensible moderate” or auditioning for a centrist pundit job, with it never occurring to them that perhaps Scott and Rob, in particular, are sincerely more centrist than they are.)

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Yeah, these are really a hits goldmine! Christ, it’s like when we were invaded by Althouse trolls who used the phrase “punching up” like a new toy.

        • Walt says:

          It’s the quality of the hits that matter. A hit from an Althouse fan is worth twenty times what a hit from a liberal is worth. And my God, if you got a hit from the Tebow himself? It would retroactively justify your whole life until this point.

  19. sparks says:

    The fun part of this week’s game is that unless he’s totally humiliated, he wins even if he loses. You can almost script out how the yapping horde is going to play this Sunday night/Monday morning. And if he wins, the horde will be wondering why there haven’t been mass conversions worldwide, “Indonesia is still Islamic? After that game?”

    • jeer9 says:

      Agreed. The more I think about the upcoming game the better I think the Broncos’ chances are. The Patriots (and Brady in particular) have a horrible record in Denver, the Pats’ secondary is pathetic, and the offensive game plan frequently forgets what a running back is for. As you say, the only way TT’s beatific light is mildly dimmed (and it will never ever dim for the truly faithful) is if they get stomped (very slim) and he goes 10 for 30 against the likes of Edelman and Slater (even more remote). I’m taking Denver plus the 8 points and the over on 46.

      • R Johnston says:

        The more I think about the upcoming game the better I think the Broncos’ chances are. The Patriots (and Brady in particular) have a horrible record in Denver,

        Please tell me I didn’t just read that. That might be the most innumerate thing I’ve read in my entire life. Between the small sample size, personnel turnover, and other time related factors, believing that there’s something meaningful about the Patriots or Brady’s record in Denver is orders of magnitude more ridiculous than believing that Tebow is an NFL quarterback, and believing that Tebow is an NFL quarterback is pretty fucking ridiculous..

      • sparks says:

        To use my post, which argues that a win or near loss does not matter to the Tebow claque as a springboard to your argument (on thin reasoning, similar to how the Cowboys were “jinxed” by having to wear road blue back in the ’70s), is silly and annoying. I say it literally does not matter unless Denver is stomped into the ground. That’s a basis for your contention? I don’t think so.

  20. jeer9 says:

    Yes, there’s nothing to the idea that certain teams have certain opponents’ numbers. It’s clearly superstitious gibberish. The poor streak of the Patriots against Denver may be just a fluke or a statistical anomaly (though it extends prior to Brady’s tenure; Elway was undefeated against the Pats and his teams were not always the data-supported superior team); still, I’ve seen enough games between the two to expect the worst. But even if one throws out the historical “hokum,” I believe Denver has the advantage due to motivational edge (the game means more to them in the standings), home field, and superior defense. And if you think my analysis was the most innumerate thing you’ve ever read, you need to get out more. Try perusing a Republican budget.

    • elm says:

      They’re 4-6 in their last ten regular season games against Denver, which goes back all the way to 1997 when, literally, none of the current players or coaches on either team were on that team. They did lose 10 straight against Denver between 1984-1998.

      I’m willing to believe that certain teams match up well against other teams, but surely that’s an effect of either player strengths/weaknesses or coaching strategy. I’m unclear on how their record in the 80s has any bearing on what will happen this weekend. I mean, the last time the two teams met, the Patriots won 41-7 in 2008, so it sure looks like whatever was ailing them in the 80s and 90s didn’t get in the way of a good thrashing.

      (On the other hand, I, too, would take the over on 46.)

      • jeer9 says:

        Since Elway retired (and he beat them 10 straight times), Pats have gone 134 – 58 while Denver has been 103 – 89. 4 – 6 against a team that you’re 31 games better than over 10 seasons tells me you struggle against them, especially with the altitude in Denver. If you average that out, 11 – 5 teams should not be below .500 against the 8 – 8 teams.

        • jeer9 says:

          Actually, that’s 12 seasons.

          • elm says:

            First, in the last 10 seasons in which the Patriots and Broncos have met (note, not the last 10 seasons of football, but the seasons that comprise the 4-6 record) the Patriots were 99-61, the Broncos 100-60. In other words, equally matched teams.

            Second, since Elway retired, the Patriots are 4-4 against the Broncos. Even if we want to look at all seasons, the Patriots average 11.2 wins per season and the Broncos 8.6. We could actually figure out what the average number of wins out of 8 that the first team should have over the second team, but it would be complicated and my guess would be that it would come out around 5 wins, maybe close to 6. In other words, if one of those 8 games go the other way, the Patriots record is what you would expect it to be.

            Third, what is your theory for why different players and different coaches over a 15 year period would do poorly against a particular set of jerseys? Altitude could be plausible, but why have Patriot teams with completely different players all struggle with altitude more than other teams?

            (And if you want to rely on altitude, you’re actually in more trouble: since Elway retired, the Patriots are 2-2 in regular season games in Denver. In those 4 seasons where they met at altitude, the Patriots had a 40-24 record while Denver had a 42-22 record.)

  21. jeer9 says:

    The Broncos hold a 24-16 advantage (.600 winning percentage) in head to head meetings with the Patriots, to include both the regular season, and the playoffs, with the Broncos holding a 2-0 record vs the Pats in the playoffs.

    Of the last 10 meetings between the teams in Denver dating back to 1986, the Patriots have only won 2 of those games…a late rally by Brady in 2003 on a Monday night, and again in 2000 with the then Drew Bledsoe led Pats. That’s a paltry 20% victory rate for the Patriots.

    Of the 23 meetings between these two teams in Denver, the Broncos hold a dominating 15-8 record good for a .650 winning percentage over the Patriots.

    Of the Patriots 8 wins in Denver, only 2 have come in the last 20 years, with the previous victory coming in 1968.

    • jeer9 says:

      That info is all cut and pasted from a Bronco site. I can’t explain why the Pats do so poorly in Denver and it would be interesting to see a comparison with other teams to figure out if they struggle the same way. And of course all those losses to Elway-led teams tends to distort the memory even further.

      • elm says:

        So you have no theory? Except for altitude, what could possibly explain a 50+ year pattern?

        And altitude seems to be a bad explanation in and of itself: The Broncos have a near 70% winning percentage at home since the merge, better than the 65% winning percentage they have against the Patriots at home.

        Face it, jeer, you’ve got nothing, except that Elway dominated the Patriots. And that has little to do with this weekend’s game, unless whatever quality of Elway’s that allowed him to dominate the Patriots is effective from the owner’s box, too.

        • jeer9 says:

          It’s 80% since 1986.

          “Well, sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.”

          • elm says:

            Are you incapable of admitting you’re wrong or something? (86 includes the Elway years, and though I’m skeptical of a causal explanation, I am willing to accept that Elway owned the Patriots. But, as I’ve said repeatedly, what’s the relevance of said ownage to the present? Admit it, you made a dumb argument and got called on it. Or, at least, admit that the facts don’t support your argument if you’re unwilling to admit the argument itself is dumb. (Hint, though, without some sort of causal story, which you have yet to provide, it’s a dumb argument.))

            • R Johnston says:

              Hint, though, without some sort of causal story, which you have yet to provide, it’s a dumb argument.

              This is a very important point that too many people don’t seem to get. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. The whole point of developing a causal model is that apparent correlations aren’t stable; change a causal variable and you change the correlation. There are, of course, a whole hell of a lot of causal variables that help determine the results of a football game and that change from season to season and game to game, and there’s a lot of random luck involved as well.

              In this case it’s not even clear that “correlation” equals correlation; Brady’s record in Denver is well within the realm of random chance given the quality of the Denver teams he’s played in Denver and limited number of games at issue. The notion that five games spread out over 2001-09 add anything useful to our ability to predict a 2011 Denver/New England game is just plain batty. It would be batty even if Denver won all those games by 50 points each, which obviously didn’t happen.

            • jeer9 says:

              I’ve already admitted that I can’t explain why the Patriots do so poorly in Denver. During the nine years they played in the Elway era, the Broncos were 99 – 43 and the Patriots were 79 – 63.
              The Broncos won 8 straight in Denver including the ’86 playoff game. Unless you think an 11 – 5 team should win eight straight against a 9 – 7 team or unless you want to attribute it all to Elway (sort of in the same way Tebow gets all the credit), I’d say something strange is going on. The last three years they’ve met in Denver (’05, ’06 and ’09) their records have been similar, yet Denver has won each time. I may in fact be dumb and my wife would probably agree, but when she tells me she’s going to cook tonight the odds are not in my favor and I generally suggest we eat out. I will of course be delighted if my “unsupported” fears prove groundless tomorrow.

              • elm says:

                You’ve been playing fast and lose with numbers all over the place in this debate and you’ve done so once again: during the Elway years, the Broncos were a .640 team and the Patriots were a .460 team. The odds that they would win 10 straight, eight straight at home, are, indeed, long, but not as long as you think.

                Also, it fucking happened between 1983 and 1998! In this millenium (and I don’t even think all of that is relevant) the Patriots are 3-4 against the Broncos. Quite a curse they’re laboring under.

                As R Johnston said in the start to this whole thing, this is a highly innumerate argument. It also doesn’t seem to demonstrate any understanding of football (or causation more broadly) if you think what happened in a 1983 game has any bearing on the football game tomorrow.

                • jeer9 says:

                  You’re the one with the flawed statistics this time. During the nine years they played each other (not the whole Elway tenure) the winning percentages were not that disparate. After twelve straight losses in Denver (one after Elway retires), the Pats win two and now have lost three straight again. It also so happens that every time the roulette wheel is spun, the odds are 50/50 red or black – though I prefer to bet with the streak rather than against. Why does that outrage you so? Sure, things may balance out in the long run but the wager is right now. And I’ve already mentioned numerous other variables that favor the Broncos. I hope that I’m wrong.

                • jeer9 says:

                  Sorry, it’s 8 in Denver. 12 out of 14 overall.

                • elm says:

                  It also so happens that every time the roulette wheel is spun, the odds are 50/50 red or black – though I prefer to bet with the streak rather than against.

                  Demonstrating that you’re innumerate. It doesn’t outrage me, it amuses me.

                • jeer9 says:

                  ONION HEADLINE

                  Man of Logic Castigates Football Betting Buddies Who Refuse to Follow His Mathematical Analysis

  22. morris says:

    People talk about the Denver defense and how they deserve much credit. They … but the defense played so well as when Orton was under center. Tebow is a number, of course, is not impressive, but his presence, and only about their power has increased, that the defense plays, where they are one of the best in the league, because Tebow is taking over. whatever, we can get more info on http://www.tebowformvp.com/, thanx

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