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Week 15 Patriots vs Broncos: Comparing Quarterbacks

Running Back Tom Brady in the wildcat formation. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Running Back Tom Brady in the wildcat formation. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
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So I might be a little late to the game here, but I thought it would be nice to compare the two quarterbacks that will be taking the field on Sunday. I was actually a little surprised by the results. In order to compare the numbers, I only looked at statistics over the past eight games. Quarterbacks only qualified if they played in seven or eight games, which left 24 candidates. I compared passing statistics (attempts, completions, rates, yards, touchdowns, interceptions, rates) and rushing statistics (attempts, yards, touchdowns, rates) amongst quarterbacks and Tom Brady wasn't first in any categories. In fact, Brady didn't even finish second in any rank. Surprising, right? Tim Tebow finished first in four. So here are the rankings:

Team Record:

Now quarterbacks shouldn't be attributed the result of the entire team, but I thought it would be a nice way to start.

Tom Brady: 6-2, tied for 4th with Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, and Mark Sanchez.

Tim Tebow: 7-1, tied for 2nd with Ben Roethlisberger.

League Leader: Aaron Rodgers, 8-0

Passing Statistics

Passing Attempts:

This number vary for a couple reasons. A high number of attempts could signify a team that trusts its quarterback, as well as a team that's consistently playing from behind. A low number could mean a team that does not trust its quarterback, or a team that's consistently ahead.

Tom Brady: 300 attempts, 4th in the league

Tim Tebow: 188 attempts, 24th in the league

League Leader: Matthew Stafford, 329 attempts

Passing Completions:

This number isn't very helpful unless compared to attempts...

Tom Brady: 195 completions, 4th in the league

Tim Tebow: 92 completions, 24th in the league

League Leader: Drew Brees, 233 completions

Passer Completion Rate:

Which results in this number. This is the general accuracy of the quarterback. Take note that Brees is greatly benefiting from playing in a dome without worry of the elements. Brady's doing very well, while Tebow is last in the league.

Tom Brady: 65.0%, 3rd in the league

Tim Tebow: 48.9%, 24th in the league

League Leader: Drew Brees, 71.9%

Passing Yards:

This is another raw number that's more useful when compared to the number of times the ball is thrown...

Tom Brady: 2399 yards, 4th in the league

Tim Tebow: 1211 yards, 23rd in the league

League Leader: Eli Manning, 2619 yards

Passing Yards per Attempt:

Here, you see that Brady's offense is more compact than those offenses of comparable quarterbacks due to the smaller YPA. You'll also see that Tebow's YPA is low because his low number of completions yield a lower number of raw yards. This number can be affected by drops, but don't think that will change the number too much.

Tom Brady: 8.00 YPA, 5th in the league

Tim Tebow: 6.44 YPA, 19th in the league

League Leader: Aaron Rodgers, 9.32 YPA

Passing Yards per Completion:

This will show how much damage the quarterback will do on an average completion. Key word: completion. This number is more important if the quarterback can consistently complete the ball which, coincidentally, is the stat called "Yards per Attempt" (which we just looked at).

Tom Brady: 12.33 YPC, 11th in the league

Tim Tebow: 13.16 YPC, 3rd in the league

League Leader: Carson Palmer, 14.06 YPC

Passing Touchdowns:

Surprising to see that even though Tebow is in the bottom tier of quarterbacks with respect to volume of passes, he's right in the middle of the road in finding the end zone. Patriots need to watch out because he can be dangerous on an option pass. Brady's Brady.

Tom Brady: 19 touchdowns, 3rd in the league

Tim Tebow: 10 touchdowns, tied for 13th in the league with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Moore

League Leader: Aaron Rodgers, 25 touchdowns

Touchdowns per Attempt:

This is a rate that shows how efficiently a quarterback can get to the end zone. It seems as if Brady and Tebow are on much more even footing in this statistic.

Tom Brady: 6.33%, 3rd in the league

Tim Tebow: 5.32%, 7th in the league

League Leader: Aaron Rodgers, 9.69%


Yeah, Tebow is first in the league. He's been able to protect the ball and that's one of the keys to winning games: don't turn the ball over. But is that just because he doesn't throw the ball?

Tom Brady: 5 interceptions, tied for 6th in the league with Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco

Tim Tebow: 2 interceptions, 1st in the league

League Leader: Tim Tebow, 2 interceptions

Interception per Attempt:

Nope. He has protected the ball better than anyone over the prior eight games.

Tom Brady: 2.00%, 6th in the league

Tim Tebow: 0.53%, 1st in the league

League Leader: Tim Tebow, 0.53%

Passer Rating:

This is a fairly good summary statistic for how each quarterback has been playing. From a statistical standpoint, Brady has been behind Rodgers (yep), Brees (wouldn't argue), and Tony Romo (2nd best TD and INT per attempt rate, but the only player I'd question) over the prior eight games. Sounds about right.

Tom Brady: 103.7, 4th in the league

Tim Tebow: 83.0, 14th in the league

League Leader: Aaron Rodgers, 123.6

Rushing Statistics

Rushing Attempts:

Attempts show some versatility and ability to make plays when the passing game does not work. A couple yards is better than none at all. Kind of surprised to see Brady at 10th in the league in rushing attempts- but when you think of it, he has been more willing to scramble. Tebow is first.

Tom Brady: 22 attempts, 10th in the league

Tim Tebow: 87 attempts, 1st in the league

League Leader: Tim Tebow, 87 attempts

Rushing Yards:

Raw numbers that comes with the attempts. Tebow is bulldozing for 60 yards a game on the ground. Brady's plowing for just under 10 yards a game. When you think of it, Tebow's adding nearly 500 yards to the offense which makes the total numbers (2450 yards vs 1700 yards) seem a little closer together.

Tom Brady: 77 yards, tied for 8th in the league with Josh Freeman

Tim Tebow: 480 yards, 1st in the league

League Leader: Tim Tebow, 480 yards

Rushing Yards per Attempt:

Of course, Brady comes back down to earth in yards per attempt. Tebow does as well, but that's to be expected as a couple quarterbacks aren't asked to run as frequently (Brees) and have broken free on their only attempts (although Cam Newton boasts a higher rushing YPA than Tebow)

Tom Brady: 3.50 YPA, 12th in the league

Tim Tebow: 5.52 YPA, 4th in the league

League Leader: Christian Ponder, 7.86 YPA

Rushing Touchdowns:

Who's a threat in the red zone to break for a touchdown? Clearly Cam Newton. However, Tebow and (take note) Mark Sanchez are able to run the ball in for a score. Mobility makes the offense more dangerous in the red zone and Tebow is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league. It's just a matter of him getting to the red zone in the first place.

Tom Brady: 0 TDs, tied for 9th with the majority of quarterbacks

Tim Tebow: 2 TDs, 3rd in the league

League Leader: Cam Newton, 8 TDs [fact: Mark Sanchez is 2nd with 4 rushing TDs]


So looking at these numbers, it's easy to say that Brady is a better passer and Tebow is a better runner. That's no surprise. What might be interesting is what Tebow is good at:

1. Protecting the Football: Tebow won't turn the ball over by making a bad decision. The Patriots defense thrives on taking advantage of opposing mistakes. If he doesn't make a mistake, will the defense be in trouble?

2. Tebow is a dangerous runner: Obvious? Yes. But something that has to be taken into account- he will break for yards and he must be treated as a dangerous running back when he tucks the ball.

3. Kid can sling it: Tebow is near the top of the league in yards per completion. If the Patriots secondary allows Tebow to complete the ball, then the defense will be torched more than anyone could expect. The secondary cannot afford to challenge Tebow into making plays because he will and he will make big plays.

So, despite common though, Tebow is actually a very dangerous quarterback. Yes, his completion rate is at the bottom of the league. Against the Patriots defense- does that really matter? The Patriots are allowing nearly 64% of passes to be completed. If Tebow can take advantage of the weak defense, the Broncos can stick with the Patriots all game.

The main point: Don't overlook Tebow. He's actually an average quarterback- and average quarterbacks destroy the Patriots defense on a regular basis.

(subnote: I averaged all the rankings [no weights or anything] and Brady ranked in the top three of the league. Tebow ranked around 7th-10th. Yeah. All of his rates [ie: X per attempt], other than completion rate, are towards the top of the league.)