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Can Tebow Work?

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Can Tebow work? It’s a basic question really, and one that has all the pundits’ cardiologists giddy with dreams of dollar signs in their noggins. The pro-Tebow contingent is asking, why can’t he work in the NFL? It’s a different look offense that defenses haven’t seen, won’t it take them by surprise? And if he can’t work, how does he keep winning? Slow down there Skippy.

First, give DEN’s defense some credit. They’re playing out of their minds. Second, in general, NFL defensive coordinators are not dumb. They can break down tape and adjust to a different look. Third, in this exalted winning streak you speak of, Tebow’s Broncos beat MIA (who hasn’t?), OAK in Carson Palmer’s first start since 2010, and KC in a game in which Matt Cassel lead all passers with a Marino-like 93 yards. They also got obliterated by DET in the process.

I will readily admit that Tebow does some things very well…like say, this:

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Boobies aside, my feeling is, no, Tebow cannot work in the NFL without a significant increase in his ability to conduct a pro-style passing game. The reasons for this are many. Let’s take a look at a scout’s take coming into the draft.

Besides Tebow’s poor, (and incredibly well documented), mechanical, how shall we say, “uniqueness”, David Syvertsen’s take was that Tebow underthrew intermediate routes and couldn’t “throw the receiver open” which is something that any QB who hopes to be successful long term in the NFL has to do. In addition, because Tebow had been playing a read option, (some refer to it as the zone read), offense in college he had very little experience surveying the whole field and reading the defense pre-snap.

For those who would like a very quick tutorial on the read option offense it takes less than 5 minutes to read this breakdown of the offense’s basics.

Understand that Florida’s offense only worked because they were able to run the ball effectively whenever they damn well pleased. Consider this: the Florida Gators won one championship (2008) during Tebow’s three years as a starter in Gainesville. Check out Florida’s stats for those three years:

Year Pass Att. Pass Yds Pass Y/A Rush Att. Rush Yds Rush Y/A
2007 361 3341 9.26 477 2682 5.62
2008 329 2995 9.10 545 3469 6.37
2009 364 3305 9.08 555 3105 5.59

The Gators gained over 5ypc on every rush during Tebow’s three years as a starter but in the year that they won the title they went for an astounding 6.37 ypc on 545 carries. The old adage “3 yards and a cloud of dust” looks both old and dusty compared to 6+ypc. So it would seem that the more they rushed, (and the more read option they ran), the better they were.

But before you go crazy and say the Broncos are Super Bowl bound if all they do is run read option with lots of carries for Tebow, check this out:

Year Tebow’s % of total carries Tebow’s % of total rush yds.
2007 44.0% 33.4%
2008 32.3% 19.4%
2009 39.1% 29.3%

Now THAT’S a tasty nugget. That’s right; less is more when it comes to Tebow. Less passing, less rushing attempts, less rushing yards…all better for the offense. But this means you need a stud or two (or three) to carry the load and take the punishment that comes with all those carries. (Tebow had Rainey, Demps, Harvin, etc. at Florida.) Furthermore, you need an offensive line full of mashers.

The Broncos are likely starting Lance Ball at RB this week as Knowshown Moreno is done for the year and Willis McGahee is nursing an injury. Moreno is looking injury prone and McGahee might be getting thin on tread. Strike one. Working from left tackle to right tackle here are the years of experience for the Broncos’ starting o-line: 4th, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st. Granted, young doesn’t mean bad but o-line is all about cohesiveness and working as a unit. The best o-lines in the league are the ones that have been playing together as a unit for long periods of time. Strike two…but admittedly this has the potential to get better as the unit gels.

Strike three is the NFL. Sure, Tebow played in the SEC where the nation’s best college defenses live but as much an SEC-phile as I am, I don’t think it’s a shock to anyone when I say that NFL defenses are just plain better. Yes, Tebow is 3-1 this year as a starter but for God’s sake people he had a 25% completion rate last week. Even if you count the two drops he would’ve been 4 of 8 in passing and that would’ve been the first time he’s had a 50% completion rate.

The last thing to undermine GB2’s quest for read option immortality is his coach. John Fox’s comments don’t exactly reflect undying confidence, do they?

“I mean, what the hell? You don’t get points for style in this league. Let me tell you something: My man is really good in this offense. You know what I mean? If we were trying to run a regular offense, he’d be screwed.”

Hey Coach Fox, don’t hurt yourself patting GB2 on the back too hard there.

The bottom line is this: Denver is starting Tebow to shut the fans up so they can move on next year with either Brady Quinn or a QB from the draft. NFL defenses will begin adjusting to the read option and this little experiment will end quickly in an unsightly manner when Tebow gets blasted by some LB with a head full of steam, a soul full of hate, and a heart full of bad intentions. There’s no roughing the passer on running plays. There’s no rule protecting defenseless runners. Completing 25% of your passes is not an option (no pun intended) in the modern NFL. I give Denver credit for trying to make the most of what they have but the truth is that you can cook $hit anyway you like…it’s still $hit. The read option in the NFL as a long term offensive strategy is $hit fricassee.

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Just a cooyon from the bayou who can yap a bit about ballin'.

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One Response to "Can Tebow Work?"

  1. Jonathan Hornak says:

    I like your analysis and as a Broncos fan I know Tebow is temporary but he’s way better than Orton has been haha. The game I went to in October was the game that Orton had a 2.8 passer rating at half (threw more interceptions than completions, so if they had a negative rating possible then he would have had it) and they finally put Tebow in and the Broncos did well. For some reason he lifts the spirits of the entire team so they make it work somehow. It will be interesting to see if Tebow can adjust and grow to be a full blown NFL QB or not.

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