Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tim Tebow 3.0: the blueprint for success

It’s strange how deathly silent the sports media has been on Tim Tebow after the Broncos recent win. Despite being more than willing to trash Tebow after his horrific performance against the Lions, there only seems to be a few sentences here and there about this past Sunday’s success.  But to begin, I’d like to point out 2 things:

1.        Tebow’s struggles were against some pretty good teams.  Yes, the Dolphins are 1-7 but they just smashed the Chiefs on the road and the week before nearly beat the Giants on the road as well.  The Lions, as everyone seemed to forget, are a very good team this year. Not only that, but they were coming off a 2 game losing streak and determined to get back to their winning ways.  The Lions are 6-2, hardly an accident or fluke at this point.  Not only that, but the Lions (along with the Dolphins) have a very good defensive line, and against the below-average Denver offensive line, Tebow never stood a chance.  Heck, even Tom Brady looked horrible last week when he was constantly pressured and hit. As the saying goes, “it all starts up front.” Tim Tebow’s success or failure will largely be dependent on the performance of the O-line.

2.       The Broncos are just a bad team in general. Cam Newton and Christian Ponder are getting lots of love, and deservedly so, but the Panthers and Vikings are far better teams all around.  Carolina’s record the last 3 years: 12-4, 8-8, 2-14.  Three years ago they won 12 games! Their demise was due to poor QB play (Delhomme, Moore, and Claussen).  Throw in a decent QB and they’re competitive, yet for all Newton brings to the table, the team is still 2-6.   The Vikings are another example: 10-6, 12-4, 6-10.  This is a team that was a Brett Favre interception away from the Super Bowl two years ago!  This is a team that has arguably the best RB in football in Adrian Peterson. Again, what’s been the demise of this team? Poor QB play from Favre last year and Donovan McNabb this year; Ponder is 1-1, with that one win coming against the Panthers.  Given the all-around talent, both teams should improve with decent QB play.  The player who should be getting criticized is Blaine Gabbert; the Jaguars are 1-5 when he starts.  Jacksonville’s record the last 3 years: 5-11, 7-9, 8-8.  This was a team on the upswing and having a decent QB would continue that upward trend, yet Gabbert’s poor play is pulling them down.   Oh, and Denver’s record the past 3 years: 8-8, 8-8, 4-12 (and remember after that 6-0 start in ’10 they went 6-20).  Denver was clearly a team on downside before Tebow even got a start. 

I predicted (see my Facebook) that Denver would beat the Raiders and the Chiefs.  So far I’m 50% right.  Playing against average to below-average teams will provide a clearer picture of what Tebow can do. Last week was a solid foundation from which to build on if the Broncos wish to go all-in on Tebow.  Certainly one game is not enough of a sample size, but it does provide a blueprint on how to succeed.  Play strong defense, run the ball well, and don’t turn the ball over.  These are certainly easier said than done, but these three things were certainly true of John Fox’s Carolina teams so there’s no reason to think he can’t make it work here.

The real question is whether Denver wants to build around Tebow; because for the offense to succeed around him, the team must acquire players that will fit in a similar offense to which he ran at Florida (the zone-option read play was hugely successful against the Raiders). Are the Broncos willing to take that big of a risk? We’re talking 2-3 years of drafting players to fit into this system and then if that doesn’t work, another 2-3 years fixing the mess.  It means drafting a La’Michael James next year instead of a Landry Jones next year, and so on.  Is Elway—whom himself was the conventional NFL gunslinger QB willing to go against everything he knows and everything the NFL has been for the last decade-plus—willing to take a shot on Tim Tebow and take the risk necessary to acquire the personnel necessary for the system to work? I doubt it.  Starting Tim Tebow was more about shutting the fans up and saying “I told you so” when he failed.  So far it isn’t working as the Broncos are 2-1 so far under Tebow, but time will tell.

Can Tim Tebow be successful in the NFL? I think so, but not in the conventional “Brady/Manning” mold. Will Tebow ever throw for 300+ yards and complete 65% of his passes? I doubt it. But Tebow did account for nearly 250 yard of offense last game, and ten yards running is as good as ten yards passing in my book.  Converting all those runs to passes, his line would be 22/33, 242 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT with a QB rating of 108.3. Decent stat-lines I’d say. With a solid defense and good running game, the Broncos would be a very competitive team.  Can the Broncos win with Tebow? It’s all up to John Elway.

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