There has not been a Quarterback debate this fun in the NFL in a long time. Everyone has an opinion on Tim Tebow’s fitness to lead an NFL team. Let’s take a look at some of the positives and negatives of Tebow as a pro Quarterback.
1. Defensive Unfamiliarity
NFL defenses do not see option attacks – either from under center or in the shotgun – very often, except as an occasional play. This is a distinct advantage for Tebow and the Broncos. The convention and roster makeup of NFL teams does not allow for simple practice preparation for a read-based option offense. The less familiar an opposing defense is with an offensive scheme, the greater the advantage for the offense.
2. Rushing Yardage as a Weapon
The criticisms made of Tebow as an NFL passer often focus on his low passing yardage, on average. This is a shortsighted formula for evaluating an athlete like Tebow. Given the average NFL QB’s typical 10 yards per game in rushing, Tebow’s ground productivity (roughly 55 yards per game in 2011) has to be added to his passing totals to get a true picture of his value. Even with those numbers added together in 2011, Tebow still only averages barely 200 yards per game. BUT, when factoring in the non-measurable benefit of an option-style offense’s impact on defensive units’ alignment and aggressiveness, Tebow clearly has an impact that a traditional pro-style Quarterback does not.
3. Tebow Makes “Good” Mistakes
Thus far in his first real NFL season, Tebow’s poorest throws almost always fall incomplete, with the Broncos retaining possession and able to snap the ball again. Maintaining possession in the NFL is a key statistic. A common statement regarding Tebow is that he does not have INTs because he does not throw the ball enough. Again, this is a flawed and inaccurate logic. The top ten rated passers in the NFL this season have an INT percentage of roughly 2.25% combined. Tebow’s INT percentage thus far is 0.63%. Of course, there are multiple variables that can influence such a stat, but the same is true for the rest of the league’s Quarterbacks, as well. Tebow’s early-career vision is frequently sold short. He sees run lanes (and sometimes passing lanes, as well) with competence, which has been aided by a collegiate career spent entirely in the shotgun making the most sophisticated reads of any NCAA team that runs a zone option scheme.
4. Potential Physical Improvement
I still think Tebow’s issues are mechanical more than mental. He has an aptitude for the position, but lacks NFL-caliber skill as a passer. There is the potential that that can develop, and if Tebow dedicates himself to refinement as a passer, he will be among the most difficult players in the NFL to defend.
1. Potential Injury & Roster Impact
Health at the Broncos’ QB position is uniquely important, in that an injury to Tebow could make any attempt to run a zone read scheme virtually impossible. Tebow is an unusual body and skill type for an NFL QB, and replacing him from within during the season could prove difficult.
2. Defensive Adjustment
While familiarity with option-style attacks is not prevalent among pro defenses vs. those in the college ranks, the physical ability to adapt is at its most refined on the NFL level. Once the learning curve for defending option football improves (and it will, because NFL offensive minds are often copycats), we will see marquee defenders (DEs and LBs, in particular) enjoying more success in masking reads and closing on the ball.
3. Reacting to Losing
Tebow’s unconventional style and skillset are more than tolerable during a winning streak. If and when the Broncos hit hard times, Tebow’s play will be a flashpoint for criticism. The Broncos’ VP of Football Ops, John Elway, has even voiced his concerns regarding Tebow’s passing technique publicly. Focusing on football will be difficult for the entire Broncos franchise if there is prolonged losing on Tebow’s watch.