A Refutation of the Pro-Tebow Argument

By now I'm sure everyone has seen or at least heard of this article from former NFL journalism watchdog Cold Hard Football Facts. In it, Kerry Byrne waxes lyrical about what makes one Timothy Richard Tebow, the 13th Apostle, Captain America, 2024 Republican nominee for President, a valid starting quarterback in the National Football League, and he's right.

To a point. Tebow could be a starting quarterback for several NFL teams, remembering this is a league where there are only 20 quarterbacks worthy of starting every week. Is Tebow any different to Brandon Wheeden? Mark Sanchez? Brady Quinn? Blaine Gabbert? Probably not significantly, once a coach adjusts to his limitations and strengths and completely scraps every pass from the playbook. A 3-13 team isn't going to be profoundly better or worse off with one guy over another. Maybe even scraping to 5-11 is worse. 3-13 might get a Clowney.

But why is this article a complete crock? Because it's not based on anything that stands up to any criticism whatsoever. Let's get to it.

ONE - Tebow has started just 16 NFL games

People mock Tebow’s passing capabilities. He's never going to throw with the pinpoint accuracy of Drew Brees or Peyton Manning.

No argument, because he can't throw. No-one can deny this fact, it is undeniable.

But Tebow's critics seem to forget that he is still a very inexperienced quarterback. Yes, he’s entering his fourth NFL season – assuming he makes the New England roster or any other roster for that matter. But he’s started just 16 games in those previous three seasons. Essentially, he has just one year of experience under his belt. Few quarterbacks look like big-time players after just 16 NFL games.

Few players are still talked about as starters with only sixteen starts after four years in the league, and the ones that are are coming off at least two serious-but-no-long-term-complications-expected injuries. Especially when they're a package player that hasn't missed any time to injury and has seen plenty of snaps. This isn't 2008 Matt Cassel stepping in after three seasons with half a dozen snaps total.

Hello, Mark Sanchez is a laughingstock who clearly can't play in the NFL. He posted a dismal 55.3 Real QB Rating in 2012. Yet he's been given 68 starts to prove he can't play. And Sanchez's production is still light years behind what Tebow has shown in his limited time on the field.

We know Mark Sanchez can't play QB, and we didn't need four seasons' worth to draw that conclusion. The move to Tebow probably would have happened early in 2012 had Rex Ryan not been the head coach tied to his chosen one. And if the Jets hadn't owed Sanchez half the franchise.

As for Real QBR, it's a fine stat, with merit. But the flaws with passer rating are still present - namely sample size and the problems that creates. A four game streak is 25% of a season. So a big pinch of salt when comparing players that didn't see anywhere near the same amount of plays. Brady had more than 400 completions in 2011, Tebow was involved in less than 400 plays.

Hell, Peyton Manning didn’t look like a big-time player after just 16 NFL games, either. Manning, in his first 16 starts, threw 28 INT, completed just 56.7 percent of his passes and posted a fairly dismal 71.2 passer rating for the 3-13 Colts.
Not saying that Tebow is Peyton Manning. He’s not. He never will be. But Peyton Manning wasn’t Peyton Manning after 16 NFL games, either.

This is the biggest cherry pick of all time. Peyton Manning got a pass off 575 times in 1998. Tebow winged one 270 times in the 2011 regular season. Manning completed more passes than Tebow attempted. Of course he threw more interceptions than Tebow - it's pretty easy to avoid throwing picks if you're throwing it 6 feet over the receiver's head and out of bounds.

Tebow has something in common with Indy’s newest QB phenom, by the way: Tebow led the most inaccurate passing team in the NFL in 2011, the Denver Broncos. Andrew Luck led the most inaccurate passing team in the NFL in 2012.

Andrew Luck, as bad as he is, completed 54.1% of his passes. Tebow in 2011 was a 46.5% passer. Andrew Luck was 11% more accurate than Tebow - comparing the two simply because they were both the worst in the league is like saying the 1936 Packers were as powerful offensively as the 2007 Pats.

TWO - Tebow wins games

Despite that inexperience, Tebow’s teams have gone 8-6 in the regular season and 1-1 in the postseason. That’s 9-7, for those of you keeping score at home. The history of the NFL is littered with great quarterbacks who failed to win nine of their first 16 starts. The reality is that, in the short time we've seen him play, Tebow has proven that he makes his team better and the players around him better. That ability is the single most important factor in sports, and especially in a team game like football, and most especially for the QB position, which is judged by wins and losses. To discount that ability is to discount the sole purpose for playing sports, period.

Ahhh, the old wins = great argument. I suppose Tebow was responsible for Marion Barber running out of bounds with the ball, with the Bears leading, and the Broncos with no timeouts? Or driving minus however many yards and leaving his kicker to win yet another game from well over 50 yards? Three OT wins are not sustainable over the long term. That's what separates Brady (in some eyes the ultimate wins = great player) from Tebow - the 12 years of it, the stats, the numerous records, the 12+ wins vs 9, and definitlevely making the playoffs, not falling into them because you get the Chargers Norving themselves.

And this crap about making the the players around him better? He certainly didn't help Demaryius Thomas, and he certainly didn't help out his defence when they were going 3-and-out for the umpteenth time against any one of the teams that shut them down offensively. He wasn't this beacon of light at Florida for the Spikeseseses, Hernandezeseses, Janoris Jenkinseses, Cam Newtons and all the millions of others that had problems on those Meyer teams. The only thing he might have done was buy a RB a second or two before the defence could react to the run, but this is a site that has said for years the run game was meaningless to winning in the NFL.

Again, it's sample size. The Broncos get four wins riding some luck and poor decisions, and he appears to be this winning QB. But when they played a decent team? The Pats? The Lions' 2011 passing attack? Or an absolutely atrocious Bills squad? Or the high-powered Chiefs in week 17? Not good enough.

THREE - Tebow won games with a bad team and very bad defense

Tebow not only won in 2011 with the Denver Broncos, he won with a very bad Broncos team. Denver went 4-12 in 2010 and kicked off the 2011 season with a 1-4 record. That’s a 5-16 team, for those of you keeping score at home.
Enter Tim Tebow.
That awful 5-16 team suddenly went 7-1 in its first eight games with Tebow at starter, reached the playoffs and knocked off the NFL’s best defense from Pittsburgh in the wildcard round before finally falling apart in the divisional round at New England.
The anti-Tebow crowd tells us that the Denver defense carried the Broncos to the playoffs in 2011. The anti-Tebow crowd is filled with idiots, hucksters, transients and railroad bums.
The 2011 Broncos finished the year No. 24 in scoring defense and surrendered 40 or more points in four of Tebow’s 13 starts that season, including three of his last five. Tom Brady, Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana don’t win games when their defense surrenders 40+ points. It’s unreasonable to expect Tebow to win those games, either.
The 2011 Broncos also finished the year No. 28 in Defensive Passer Rating (93.12), a number which usually precludes teams from reaching the playoffs, and intercepted just nine passes all season. In fact, only two teams in the history of the NFL reached the playoffs with a Defensive Passer Rating worse than the one Tebow was paired with in 2011.
It was quite literally something close to a statistical miracle that the 2011 Broncos reached the playoffs with that defense.
By the way, it’s worth noting that Tebow carried the Broncos as far into the playoffs in 2011 as Peyton Manning did in 2012.
Just sayin'.

What did they do in Tebow's next 5 games? L, L, L, W, L, and completely blown off the field in 3 of those losses (and only managing 3 points in another). If the Steelers hadn't decided to play cover-0 all game with a defensive secondary worse than France's in May 1940, it should have been four on the trot. And that crappy defence also managed to hold the Steelers offence to 23 points. So which defence is it - the bad one that lets up 40, or the good one that keeps it to the teens and low 20s? They won two games with Tebow when they scored more than 18 points - against the mighty Raiders and Vikings. So they weren't walking around with Harry Callahan's offensive firepower. In fact they were the 8th worst offence in the league in 2011. Tebow was the 28th QB in passer rating. Every case he's making for their defence being bad is matched by their offence.

And I'm all for raggin' on Manning, but comparing Tebow to playoff Manning isn't good for Tebow. It's a shot at Manning, not something that builds up Tebow.

FOUR - Tebow has a cannon

It may not be an accurate cannon, at least we haven’t seen accuracy yet in the NFL. But Tebow's arm is a cannon just the same.
The world saw that cannon in Denver’s win over Pittsburgh in the 2011 wildcard playoffs.
Tebow set not one but two postseason NFL records that day (min. 20 attempts): his average of 15.05 yards per pass attempts was the best in NFL history; so, too, was his 31.6 yards per completion.
You don’t produce the most explosive passing day in NFL postseason history, against the NFL’s No. 1 defense that season, without a cannon for an arm.
The raw talent is certainly there to make big plays.

This... just... I can't even...

He threw it 21 times that night, so nice cut-off. On ten passes he had 316 yards - 80 of them on a 20 yard toss that went for another 60, so that's more than a quarter of his production coming on one play where he stood and watched.

And that was nowhere near the number one defence. It might have been the same team, but their offence was a shell of itself by the playoffs and they were without at least one starter. And they were running the worst game plan in history. It's a stretch at best to use that to strengthen Tebow's case.

FIVE - Tebow is far more statistically proficient than he’s given credit for.

The average NFL fan or analyst judges a quarterback merely by his passing abilities. And we understand why: NFL games are won and lost almost exclusively by a QB’s ability to pass the football efficiently.
In fact, we’ve written about this phenomenon incessantly for years.
But Tebow clearly plays a different game: padding often inefficient days passing the football with highly efficient performances running the ball, while generally keeping turnovers at a very low rate.
His 2.7 percent turnover rate (15 in 559 touches) is not only good, it’s one of the best in the history of football. CHFF’s Captain Comeback looked at the career turnover rate of every QB in NFL history back in November.
Tebow doesn’t yet qualify for the list (min. 1,500 attempts). But among qualifiers, only Aaron Rodgers was better at protecting the football.
Tebow also rates much higher than just his passing numbers would indicate if you look at him through the prism of CHFF Real QB Rating, which measures all aspects of QB play, not just passing.
Tebow’s career Real QB Rating of 81.2 would have been good enough for 12th in the NFL last year – better than the Real QB Rating of every single team that fired a coach or GM.
Keep in mind that Real QB Rating may be the most important stat in football: Teams that won the Real QB Rating battle went 218-37 (.855) in 2012, consistent with year-after-year results. No stat in football has a higher “Correlation to Victory.”
Put another way: Tebow is better than anyone realizes in the single most important stat in football, other than final score.

Here it's just flat out wrong. Tebow has had 15 fumbles and nine picks on 599 regular season dropbacks (using Captain Comeback's pro-football-reference engine). That's 4.01% for those at home, slightly worse than Tony Romo or Phillip Rivers down in 34th place historically. Not only behind Aaron Rodgers.

As for using 2011 Tebow for 2012, that's just flat out ignoring any possibilty of teams developing a way to stop him over the offseason. That they didn't get in 2011. That the Patriots and any good team used in 2011.

Again, his Real QBR is inflated because he doesn't run anywhere near the volume of plays as everyone else. Too easily influenced by outliers.

SIX - Tebow is the greatest QB in SEC history; and maybe the greatest player in college football history.

We all know that great college success does not always translate to pro success. But we do know that the SEC is the best, most competitive conference in all of college football.
Year after year, the SEC wins the national championship and sends more players to the NFL than any conference in football. Hell, 1 of 4 picks in the 2013 NFL draft came straight from the 14 teams of the SEC alone.
And among all that talent, Tebow is the greatest QB in the history of the SEC. And not because he was a great runner. Tebow was, at the time he left the SEC, the highest rated passer in the history of the conference.
Here’s how Tebow’s college production, playing in the same tough SEC, stacked up against that of Peyton Manning




























* Using the NFL formula for passer rating, not the college formula
Tebow was more accurate, got the ball downfield better, was more likely to throw touchdowns and less likely to throw INTs than Peyton Manning himself.
Tebow was, in other words, a much better college passer than Peyton Manning.
And it’s not like Manning was surrounded by chump talent at Tennessee. Three of his wide receivers went in the first round of the NFL draft and the Volunteers fielded enough talent around him on both sides of the ball to win the national title the year after Manning left.
Tebow, meanwhile, was a key player on two national title teams, the undisputed leader of one of them, won one Heisman trophy and nearly won a second. Hell, some say he’s the greatest college football player of all time.
The fact that so few are willing to give arguably the greatest player in college history a legit shot to play QB in the NFL says more about the close mindedness and tired old orthodoxy of the NFL than it does about Tebow or his talent.

College success? That's what we're reduced to? How do they expect us to swallow this tripe?

Good pros are usually always good college players. It doesn't work the other way. The list of Heisman winners that saw little to no NFL prowess is as long as my arm. Maybe it has something to do with the Floridas of the world playing two real teams a year, and running up huge stats on schools that don't pay their players (psyche - there's no such thing!). Or that just don't have multiple NFL players surrounding them while they run up the score on a cupcake that's just there so their students can see the bright lights for once in their lives.

This was the biggest fluff piece of all time. For a site that was so good at using real arguments as to why Brady was far superior to Manning, they've fallen so far. And it breaks my heart.

The views expressed in these FanPosts are not necessarily those of the writers or SBNation.

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