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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is Tim Tebow Wearing Cleats or Horse Shoes?

Wow. Just wow. The Hat Trick ran a piece the week before last expressing the awe that I, and most of the sporting world, is feeling from Tim Tebow’s (852 yds., 8 TD, 1 INT, 46% comp.) logic-defying good fortune. The stunning circumstances under which the Broncos beat the New York Jets is well known. Most assumed that the good fortune had to stop eventually. Then Tebow pulls another rabbit out of the hat with a come from behind overtime win over the San Diego Chargers.

Tebow, pictured with Playboy Playmate and rumored to-be girlfriend Erin Drewes, is lucky on a number of fronts. 1


Tebow (9/18, 143 yds., 1 TD vs Chargers), for the fourth consecutive week, completed 10 or fewer passes in a game. For the seventh consecutive week, Tebow could not complete more than half of his passes in a game (Tebow has passed in seven games this season). For the fourth time in six weeks, the Broncos won after trailing in the fourth quarter (trailing by 10 at some point in three of those games).

All of these factors fly in the face of the reality that the Broncos won the aforementioned games and are just one game back of the Oakland Raiders for first place in the AFC West. The NFL is not a league conducive to late comebacks. The worst team in the league is made up of good players. Any ill-prepared team or any team lacking effort can be beaten by an opponent with a vastly inferior record.

Unlike college football, the gap in talent between the best and worst teams is fairly thin. The expression “any given Sunday” isn’t just a cute phrase; it’s reality. You’ve never heard the expression “any given Saturday” have you? Monumental upsets in college football are extremely rare because the bigger schools can impose their wills on smaller schools. In the NFL, if you fail to plan, you have planned to fail, no matter how much talent you have.

This makes rapid-fire scoring difficult in the NFL. It makes last minute game winning drives rare. When players like John Elway and Dan Marino make a habit of it, they get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tebow is not in the class of either of those quarterbacks and probably never will be. All of this feeds into the Tebow frenzy sweeping the NFL fan base at the moment.

The first time I saw this, I chuckled. I'm chuckling less with each passing week. Maybe Tebow does have angels in the backfield? 2


The first misconception that the casual NFL fan may buy into is that Tim Tebow is primarily responsible for the Broncos’ success in 2011. As often occurs, the quarterback gets too much credit for winning and too much blame for losing. Tebow has executed successfully in critical situations. He is not the main reason that the Broncos are in the hunt.

First, the Broncos defense is stifling. They are near the middle of the pack in total defense over the course of the season, but in their run of five wins in the past six games, the Broncos defense is only surrendering 12 points per game. When I read that number, 12 points per game against, the 1985 Chicago Bears and 2000 Baltimore Ravens defenses immediately come to mind. What happened to those teams? They won the Super Bowl. In the case of the Ravens, the offense wasn’t very good. Denver’s defense has given them a chance to win every week during this run.

Second, the Broncos have the #1 rushing attack in the NFL. Tebow is partly responsible for this, with 455 rushing yards on the year and a 5.8 yards per carry average. Willis McGahee parted ways with the Baltimore Ravens this past season, as the Ravens gave the lions’ share of the carries to Ray Rice during the prior two seasons. He is playing like a man with something to prove and it is translating into success on the field, as he is on pace to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards and is averaging close to 5 yards per carry.

Third, and this is within Tebow’s control, when Tebow DOES throw the football, he puts it in a place where one of two things will happen: the pass will fall incomplete (which happens most of the time) or it will be caught for a big gain. What Tebow does not do is turn the ball over (only one interception in 143 attempts).

McGahee is a man on a mission. 4

The result? Tebow’s passer efficiency rating, driven heavily by yards per attempt and TD/INT ratio, is 80.5. That isn’t Pro Bowl material, but it isn’t bad, either. He has thrown very few passes per game, relative to other QBs, but his rating is less than two points behind those of Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez, and Philip Rivers, and ahead of Mike Vick and Joe Flacco. More telling, Tebow’s rating in four of his five wins as a starter were 91.7, 98.1, 102.6, and 95.4 against the Dolphins, Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers, respectively.

Those 90-something numbers are not only Pro Bowl numbers, but Hall of Fame level QB ratings. In other words, when Tebow releases the ball, the most common result is that nothing is ventured nor gained, but when the ball is caught, defenses will pay. Tebow’s accuracy issues, whether by accident or by design, appear to be confusing defenses in key moments.

Tebow is not only missing his own receivers, but he often puts the ball nowhere near anybody. Since the receivers know the routes and the plays, they are going to have a better idea of where the ball might be and can adjust to get to the ball. This is only my crazy theory. Regardless, as long as Tebow plays “keep away” from defenders, the Broncos’ highly unorthodox recipe for beating mediocre to above average teams has a chance to work.

Perhaps it is more than just the stars lining up for Tim Tebow? 3

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