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Tim Tebow: Flash in the Pan or Changing the Game?

Tim Tebow (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The NFL has had its fair share of intriguing storylines this season. Passing records are being shattered left and right, one team remains unbeaten and as always, some teams have exceeded expectations while others have underachieved.

But by far the most talked about storyline of the NFL is Tim Tebow.

Since the lefty was given the starting job over Kyle Orton, the 1-4 Broncos have won seven of their last eight games, and are in a position to win their division. In almost every win, Tebow has performed poorly throughout most of the game, only to mount a comeback at the very end to pull out the win.

With every crazy win and the closer we come to the playoffs, the legend of Tim Tebow grows and questions arise: “Can he keep it up?” and “What happens if he does?”

The Nature of the Tebow Win

Recently I was explaining the typical Tebow game format to my mom: terrible for 50-55 minutes, good enough at the end to win it. The question she asked was “Why can’t he just play well for 60 minutes? Is he procrastinating?”

While I don’t think procrastination is the cause of Tebow’s style, the first question is a legitimate one.

Throughout NFL history there have been some quarterbacks who are better in pressure situations than others, and most of these quarterbacks are considered NFL greats: Bobby Layne, Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach and Bronco legend John Elway.

Now the owner of the Broncos, Elway, did have the occasional game where he was terrible for the majority of the game and able to come away with the win at the end. His classic championship win over the Browns in 1987 for example. But for the most part, great quarterbacks play well for most of the game.

No one can really know why Tebow plays like this.

It could be he is great at adjusting to the defensive scheme, or that the Bronco offensive attack tends to wear down the defense. At least some of it has to have to do with Tebow, not mechanically sound or accurate, but passionate enough for victory to elevate his play when it matters.

In only one game, against Minnesota, has Tebow played even remotely well throughout the game. That game is also the only time Tebow has led the offense to more than 18 points. And in today’s game just winning six games while scoring below 20 points, no matter how you do it, is a small miracle.

Can he keep it up?

No. Or more specifically, he can’t consistently win scoring less than 20 points per game or having to overcome a two score deficit late in the game, like last week.

At some point Tebow will come up against an offense that is good enough to score points, and he is going to have to perform well for 60 minutes, or he will lose.

As much as we like to credit some of these wins solely to Tebow, in reality there’s a lot of luck involved. Last week’s game probably exemplifies this the most. Tebow was able to finally cut the Bear’s lead to three late in the game, but he needed to get the ball back with 2:08 left.

And as good as the Broncos defense and Tebow are, if Marion Barber simply stayed in bounds every play on that drive, the Broncos would’ve got the ball back with under 20 seconds left with no timeouts, rather than 56 seconds.

And if the Broncos aren’t playing at Mile High, home to thin are and long field goals, Matt Prater probably doesn’t make the 59 yarder to tie it.

As entertaining as it is to watch and as consistent Tebow’s style has been translating to wins, it is simply not sustainable. Sooner or later Tebow will lead a game-winning or game-tying drive only to see the other quarterback respond with a touchdown of his own. Or, trying to mount a two score comeback, the other team will simply run the clock out on Tebow.

If Tebow wants to continue to win at the rate he is winning currently, at some point he will have to be consistent throughout the game.

Would I want him as my Quarterback?

No matter what he does for the rest of the season, Tim Tebow has been a success for the Denver Broncos. He has taken a bad team and turned them into a contender. Although their success can’t be solely attributed to him, his leadership and will to win seems to elevate his teammates.

The question I have is whether Tim Tebow is a quarterback you can build a team around. If he is coached well and surrounded by better receivers can he become a guy who can win games when the defense isn’t playing well. Because, as I stated before, I don’t think Tebow’s current method of winning is sustainable.

The answer to this question will determine whether or not I would want him on my team.

How Tebow Could Change the Game

Throughout NFL history there has always been progression from the quarterback position. Average passing statistics have gradually increased year after year. The statistics of the premier passers of the ’50s and ’60s would be considered below average in today’s standards.

The No. 1 measure of greatness in an NFL quarterback has always been accuracy. Tebow is the worst in terms of completion percentage currently, and one of the worst the game has seen in recent memory. To put things in perspective, Tebow’s current completion would be considered below average as far back as the late ’50s.

But for a second lets consider Tim Tebow continues to consistently win the way he has done so far.

The NFL is a copycat league by nature, so teams would start to look more at the innate ability of a quarterback to lead and inspire a team, the ability to win close games, than mechanics and accuracy.

While I do feel Tebow will eventually start to lose if he continues to play the way he does, if he does somehow continue to win games the way he does, he’ll have changed the game.

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One comment for “Tim Tebow: Flash in the Pan or Changing the Game?”

  1. I think I’ve just had my fifteen minutes of fame.

    I just hope that Tom Brady can find a way to break his own poor record of playing in Denver–is it the mile high thin air?–so that the Patriots can win today. I hope the Patriots score so many points that not even a fourth quarter comeback will allow Tebow to catch up.

    Posted by Ellen Argyros | December 18, 2011, 6:20 am

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