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December 12, 2011

Good Analysis of Tebow, From a H8r

From ArthurK., this guy is a definitely not on Team Tebow, and yet his analysis seems persuasive.

Michael Irvin, I think, is on Team Tebow, generally, and he said similar things: It's not what Tebow does during those first ineffectual three quarters, it's what he doesn't do, which is throw a lot of interceptions. Because he doesn't throw a lot of interceptions, Denver's defense (which is really a lot more responsible for Tebow's success than his arm or his legs or his faith) is never far out of the game. They're not exhausted and demoralized. They're not giving up a bunch of short-field touchdowns and then hating themselves.

As this guy says:

Passer efficiency ratings and context-neutral stats simply don't capture what Tebow does well. He isn't an NFL-level passer on a consistent basis, and yet he also isn't novel or completely unconventional. In fact, he does what every non-elite quarterback blessed with a great defense is told to do in the NFL: protect the ball and keep the game close. In general, Tebow has done a wonderful job over the last seven games at limiting his turnovers and giving his team a chance to win by keeping them within striking distance. He's just another "game manager" quarterback that actually adheres to the requirements of the job description, taking very few risks with the ball early in games and often making a single, lock-on read before pulling the ball down and running with it. In even the most extreme cases, Tebow is tasked with a half-field read featuring a single route combination and a dump-off option to go with his default scramble impulse.

If a quarterback doesn't have the skill and anticipation to make meaningful NFL-caliber throws, everyone in their right mind usually calls for that guy to become a "game manager" focused on not losing the team the game with costly turnovers and errors. Early game situations marked by grossly inaccurate passes and an inability to diagnose coverages and pressure schemes aren't necessarily a death blow to Tebow's reputation or his legitimacy. Countless quarterbacks have been asked to become game managers but have chosen to perilously overstep their bounds just to escape the label, even at the expense of team wins. Meanwhile, Tebow is not scared to prioritize ball security over his stat line or his reputation as an NFL quarterback. If he has to use his legs to get first downs and avoid turnovers, it beats the potentially disastrous alternative. To deny the value of that dedication would be to ignore a key aspect of Tebow's impact: he allows his defense to do their job and keep the game close. Tebow Time is real in large part because he is committed to his role as a game manager.

But he's also missing something. Young starting quarterbacks tend to throw a lot of those interceptions. They also tend to get sacked a lot. They also tend to lose a lot.

Tebow isn't losing. That may not be primarily due to his skills, but he's got an advantage that a lot of debut quarterbacks don't: He's learning to win while he also learns the game.

There was a quarterback for the Texans a few years back who I thought got a raw deal. David Carr (thanks, commenters!) The guy got sacked constantly. Constantly. For some reason I always thought he could/should be a top quarterback... but he wasn't allowed to be. His apprenticeship consisted largely of being blindsided by defensive ends.

His offensive line just couldn't protect him.

But I had to wonder what actual lessons he'd learned from that. I figure the lesson he'd have to learn-- which any human being would learn -- is "Passing is awful and results in pain and having my spine twisted by a 300 pound man running very fast at me."

In other words, no matter what he learned on paper or from films, the real lesson he was learning -- the lesson his body and his experience taught him -- is that if he holds the ball for more than one and a half seconds he's going to be hit by a small car.

He also learned to lose, because (not really due to his own failings) he just did it so much. He was damaged goods, and his career stunted, because in his formative years, he basically just learned how to get his ribs cracked.

This writer goes on to knock Tebow for having poor pattern-recognition skills and not developing the ability to "see the whole field" quickly and make sound decisions not via the intellect but via feel and muscle memory. But that's ludicrous -- no debut quarterback can do that. Not even Peyton Manning did that.

I think Tom Brady was pretty solid at that out the gate, but I also think he had one more year of experience as a back-up, and also, he is freakishly good at playing the game with his eyes.

That's something every quarterback (with the qualified and also trivial exception of Brady) has to learn, and they learn that as they play.

I think the odds are still against Tebow ever being a truly elite quarterback. But when you consider that he's passed a bunch of gates already -- a bunch of gates where he could have failed -- he's at least in the hunt. It's a mistake to claim he's something other than what he is -- a young, inexperienced quarterback who is constantly re-setting his feet and who throws a lot of inaccurate passes and who still sees the field in "fast motion," as opposed to the slowed-down motion that the true elite quarterbacks see it in -- but he's getting a chance to learn in real games, which only a smattering of quarterbacks ever get, and he's learning about winning while doing so.

One potential problem is that he's learning the wrong things, and maybe will keep sticking with his bad mechanics because those bad mechanics are, somehow, winding up producing wins, but no one seems to be whispering he's uncoachable or arrogant or unwilling to learn.

If Tebow were a third-year starting quarterback, I'd say this stuff -- staring down the one receiver he intends to throw to, constantly re-shuffling his footing, not seeing the whole field -- was a big problem, and he should be benched to become a backup.

But he's not. He's a first-year starter. (I know he was drafted last year, but I really don't think you can learn the quarterback position (or most other positions) by any other method besides playing in real games.) And there's a metric ton of things he doesn't know, and doesn't do well.

And yet, during this apprenticeship, he's 7-1. He's doing something right, then, isn't he?

Oh, and while Denver's defense deserves the bulk of the credit here, Michael Irvin also pointed out that Denver had the same defense when they opened the season 1 and 4.

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posted by Ace at 12:35 PM

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