What Have We Learned About Tim Tebow?
Tim Tebow is the most well-known backup quarterback in the NFL—maybe in the history of the NFL. He was already subject of more air time, column inches and water-cooler talk than anyone in the league—and then he went to the Big Apple.
You don't trade for the most attention-getting quarterback on the planet just to park him on the bench behind your unquestioned starter. Clearly, the Jets have a plan for him beyond holding a clipboard and chastely endorsing underwear.
But can he execute it?
Statistically, Tebow had a brutal preseason: he completed only 13-of-36 passes for 151 yards (just 4.19 yards per attempt), no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also sacked seven times for a total loss of 46 yards. His passer rating was a shocking 26.5.
As a passer, Tim Tebow has never been outstanding. His notoriously slow and funky release, combined with his slow and often poor decision-making makes it difficult for him to run a modern NFL offense. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller graded Tebow's passing skills as part of the B/R NFL 1,000 project and he came up a lackluster 55 out of a possible 100.
The Jets offensive line play has been poor enough to draw national headlines and starter Mark Sanchez hasn't fared much better behind it either—no touchdowns, two picks, six sacks, 59.6 passer rating. But it's Tebow's shortcomings as a passer that are his biggest problem.
Tebow's release has tightened up on shorter throws but when he wants to go deep, he still dips the ball low, brings it way back behind his head and throws like a baseball pitcher:
This isn't a question of aesthetics; Tebow's long windup gives opposing defenders more time to see where he's going with the ball and contribute to, if not cause, his inaccuracy downfield.
Slow Decision Making
The biggest problem Tim Tebow faces in becoming an NFL starter is his decision making. He simply doesn't see the field well enough or make good decisions fast enough to be consistently successful in the NFL.
On this play, Tebow has several options open but he doesn't see them. By the time he gets through his progressions and waffles on whether to throw the ball, none of his options are open anymore. He's got nothing left but to break down and run and he leaves an awful lot of yards on the table.
This is the opposite of "take what the defense gives you." It's "pass up the opportunity to convert a first down." That's lethal in the NFL, where every advantage is crucial.
Tebow's shortcomings as a passer are supposed to be offset by his athleticism, his ability to pick up yards on the ground. The Jets have been working on a "Wildcat"-like package that deploys Tebow as a runner, but in the preseason he's not had much daylight and he's been too slow to get there.
Tebow is athletic but in the NFL he's just too slow to be effective as a designed runner. Unlike Miami's Wildcat, which froze defenders trying to defend Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and the short pass all at the same time, using Tebow as a runner just gives the defense a big, slow target to hit.
In specific situations, like around the goal line, a designed run might work—but you can't build an offense around that.
On a regular basis, Tebow's rushing ability can't justify taking carries away from running backs. When Tebow's running can be effective is on broken plays or on rollouts where he's sure to be facing outside linebackers and safeties in the open field.
Oh, My Goodness, Tim Tebow, You Have to Make This Throw
This play combines almost all of the shortcomings above: Tebow is slow to see multiple wide-open targets; he finally sees receiver Stephen Hill running for the end zone with nobody anywhere near him; he takes forever to commit to the throw; he winds up and releases—and the pass is terribly under-thrown. Hill can't hit the brakes and backtrack fast enough to get to the ball, and a guaranteed touchdown vaporizes into an incomplete pass.
That can't happen.
Wide receivers never get that open in the NFL. That's a free touchdown, the defense handing you six points. Any NFL quarterback has to be able to see him come open—and once they see him, must be able to deliver that ball. Coming up short there is absolutely unacceptable.
Tebow has shown flashes of progress and has made a few plays with both his legs and his arm. With a multidimensional offense and a special teams body, he's an interesting guy to have on the roster. As a passer, he's improving but still lucky to have made a roster at all.
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