So now Tim Tebow is a bum, just a week after he was an unconventional success, and six months after he was a question mark. I know we are in the rapid response era when it comes to reporting on games and events in general, but this is a bit much. The man has played five games, which is not enough to either crown him or dismiss him. And yet, that seems to be what so many want to do. Whether it’s Tebow’s cheerleader-in-chief, Skip Bayless, or former players like Phil Simms who have declared that he is getting a pass that the other young quarterbacks of his generation would not. This topic is going to plague us for the rest of this season whether we like it or not. It would be nice to get some more intelligent analysis on this, but in a soundbyte culture we’re just not getting that. So here’s my attempt at doing so.
Here’s what we know for sure. Tebow has started five games with a 2-3 record. His completion percentages have ranged from a low of 40 percent to a high of 55 percent, and three out of five times it was under 50 percent. He has nine touchdowns and four interceptions, and has averaged 163 yards per game. He’s had as many as 300 yards passing in a single game and as few as 79. His team has scored an average of 20 points per game across his five starts. Those are the hard numbers. Here are a few underlying stats. His team has fallen behind by scores of 17-3, 26-7, and 15-0 in three games before Tebow rallied them to make those games close. One start was a back and forth affair where the other team eventually pulled ahead and won by 16 points. And his most recent start was a 35 point blowout.
To me the deficits are the biggest stat to me. Close final scores can be very deceiving, because on the surface they give the impression that the games was a tight one. But in a lot of cases, one team gets up by a good size margin and then calls off the dogs, allowing the opponent to get back in the game a little. That may or may not have taken place in Tebow’s three comebacks, and in his fourth quarter flourishes. I think the fact that the Denver offense has been stagnant enough to fall behind by 14-plus points regularly under Tebow’s stewardship is pretty damning. I also think that the individual passing numbers are not kind to Tebow in general. There’s also the numerous highlights of Tebow badly missing wide open receivers, which is every bit as damning as any statistic out there. By all measures, Tebow has not played well overall. Yes there have been bright spots, but it’s been mostly bad.
But what does this mean, long term? Is Tebow the next Doug Flutie, a quarterback who repeatedly showed he was capable of being successful despite every effort by his own coaches to prove otherwise? Is he Ty Detmer, a career journeyman who didn’t do much but was able to play just well enough to hang around for 10 years? Or is he Eric Crouch, a guy who was given a few chances but ultimately washed out in short order? Last week a piece on Deasdpin suggested that Tebow represented a threat to the structure of NFL coaching and player evaluation, that his nonconformity to any of the accepted molds for NFL quarterbacks could expose the entire NFL on field system for the property of control freaks that it is. One week later, that doesn’t look to be the case anymore. Tebow was awful against Detroit, and looked like a guy who flat out cannot play.
But truth be told, you can’t judge anyone after five starts. After five games Peyton Manning had a 1-4 record, threw 4 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, didn’t lead his team to more than 17 points in any one game, and his highest passer rating amongst the five games was 66.8. By contrast Scott Mitchell was 4-1, had thrown for 8 touchdowns vs. 3 interceptions, and had rated over 100 twice in five games. Tebow is somewhere in between, at least statistically. What does that mean? Absolutely nothing, really. It just means that we’ve watched someone play five games at quarterback, with mixed results. No more, no less. So be patient folks, we’ll know soon enough.