Breaking Down the Many Flaws That Define Tim Tebow's Game

Ryan Alfieri@Ryan_AlfieriCorrespondent IIIMarch 29, 2013

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 30: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Jets hands the ball off to Joe McKnight #25 during an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

It is no secret that Tim Tebow is one of the most competitive and driven players in American sports. After all, he has been able to seemingly will his team to victory countless times dating back to his days as a Florida Gator. 

Still, despite one fluky successful season as the starting quarterback for the Cinderella 2011 Denver Broncos, the NFL remains undefeated against horrifically flawed quarterbacks, regardless of how many games they won in college. 

We all know about Tebow's deficiencies as a pocket passer. His elongated throwing motion makes him stand out like a sore thumb when practicing next to conventional quarterbacks.

But Tebow's deficiencies go beyond the way he physically throws the football. 

In addition to his fundamental mechanical flaws, Tebow struggles with elementary reads (including the option) and does not trust what he is seeing on the field—a disastrous combination for an NFL quarterback.


When Tebow went through the annual NFL human car wash (otherwise known as the "draft process"), every flaw in Tebow's game was exposed and broken down beyond the point of recognition. 

Tebow's throwing time has been clocked at .60 seconds by this terrific breakdown of Tebow's throwing motion and how it has (or has not) changed since his college days:

Why, exactly, is Tebow's motion so much slower? Tebow has a tendency to bring the ball down unnecessarily far, almost down to his hip—giving defenders a split second of extra time to read his eyes and make a play on the ball. 

Plus, dangling the ball down low makes it that much easier for defensive ends flying off the edge to get their hands on it and force a fumble. 

However, elongated deliveries are not uncommon for even some of the top quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers holds the ball all the way down by his waist, but he has incredibly fast arm movement that negates any flaws in his technique. 

Problem is, Rodgers is a rare specimen and can do things with a football that no one on the planet can replicate. Tebow is an average athlete that has physical limitations that prevent him from being able to overcome his glaring mechanical flaws. 

Not Trusting His Eyes

Tebow could get himself a release as fast as Tony Romo's, but until he becomes more efficient at reading defenses, nothing else matters. 

To find a game in which Tebow played as a full-time quarterback in a "regular" offense, you must go to Week 8 of the 2011 season, in which the Lions wiped the floor with the Broncos. It was after this game that the Broncos overhauled their offense to something Tebow was able to run without losing the game for his team. 

This play is a rare snap in which you will find Tebow under center. The Lions play man coverage, which forces Tebow to make accurate throws, despite the fact that the reads are generally easier to make. 

The ball is snapped, and the tight end has a good step on the covering linebacker in man coverage. After executing a play action, Tebow has time and space to throw the ball, and the read is clearly defined. 

However, Tebow does not trust what he sees, and takes a split-second hesitation. This, combined with his elongated delivery and inaccurate pass, results in an incompletion. 

In this play, the offense clearly won the battle. They got a favorable matchup with a tight end against a slow-footed linebacker and fooled the defense into thinking run. Had a "regular" quarterback been under center, this would have been an easy pitch-and-catch that would have likely resulted in several yards after the catch. 

These are not throws that only someone like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady could make. These are the types of throws that even the quarterbacks on the inactive list should make. Tebow could have made this throw, even with his elongated throwing motion—but he is clearly overwhelmed when operating a "normal" NFL offense, which slows his game down even further. 

The Read-Option

What? Tebow? Bad at the read-option? 

Yes, contrary to popular belief, Tim Tebow has never been very good at actually making the correct reads in what is a relatively simple offensive system, dating back to his days in Gainesville. 

Let's take a look at one example from a critical Monday night game against the Tennessee Titans:

Here, Joe McKnight is going to be the option runner, going in motion before the snap. There are two key defenders on this play (highlighted):

Tebow is reading the play-side defensive end—he will hand the ball off based on which direction he will engage his blocker. If he goes inside, Tebow hands the ball off. If he chases McKnight, it will open up a blocker for Tebow to run inside. 

The backside defender essentially puts a clock on how much time Tim has to execute the play, as he will come unblocked. 

The ball is snapped, and the play-side defensive end goes inside, opening up a lane for Joe McKnight. Tebow, however, elects to keep the ball, where he will be run down by the unblocked backside defender with converging linebackers and safeties. 

Tebow had no chance on the play, but McKnight did. He would have been one-on-one with a defender with a lot of space to work with, which is exactly what the Jets are looking for. 

This is not just a waste of a down. This was a chance for the Jets to get a huge play on the ground in a game where they struggled to move the ball all night. 


There is no question that Tebow is one of the strongest quarterbacks in recent memory, as Rex Ryan illustrated last June:

I saw this in the weight room. A player had challenged him, holding these big huge sledgehammers. They held them doing this big iron cross kind of deal. The big lineman went first. [Tebow] said you want to go first or second. The big lineman said he’d go first. He went for about a 1:04, shaking. Tim went for 1:18. This guy is crazy with how strong he is and the kind of focus [he has]. I see that from him. He’s super competitive.

However, strength does not equate to athleticism as a runner, which was the only (overrated) aspect of his game that got him snaps with the regular offense. 

In addition to his struggles executing the basics of the option, Tebow's limited running ability was perhaps the biggest reason for the colossal failure of the package. 

The primary reason the Jets traded for Tebow was because they believed that their offense was missing a Wildcat player after Brad Smith left in free agency at the end of the 2010 season. Tebow was supposed to be their "athlete" that would bring what was a successful package back. 

As it turns out, the Jets massively overrated Tebow's athletic ability, and the results were evident:

Player Attempts Total Yards Average
Brad Smith 38 299 7.9
Tim Tebow 32 102 3.2

The fact that Brad Smith also contributed as a league-leading kick returner and wide receiver says enough about the gap in athletic ability between the two players. 

Is Tebow Doomed?

Stating that Tebow is a fundamentally flawed quarterback is not breaking any news. After all, he was not selected in the first round of the 2011 draft because he was a blue-chip arm talent. He has gained his fame and success because of his attitude, leadership and religious beliefs, not because he blows opponents out of the water every week. 

However, Tebow's flaws are not easily corrected with some coaching. Once a throwing motion has been used over and over for several years, it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to completely erase muscle memory and change the way a quarterback goes about throwing the ball.

You can work on his release for hours in practice, but once the lights turn on and the game starts, players almost always revert to what they are most comfortable doing, even if it is less effective. 

From a mental standpoint, Tebow certainly has the capacity to learn the complexities of and NFL offense, but he will need plenty of in-game experience before he becomes well-versed in reading defenses. As cold and harsh as it may sound, NFL coaches and general managers are not going to put their careers on the line just so Tebow can get the "fair" shot so few players have enjoyed. 

After all, it is hardly a coincidence that Rex Ryan is hesitant to speak on Tebow's future just a few months after Mike Tannenbaum was fired:

As much as Tebow is looked upon as an international icon, the cold reality of the NFL endures through it all. There have been plenty of players just as determined to succeed in the NFL as Tebow, only to fail because they were not naturally gifted enough to compete with the best athletes in the world. 

There is no shame in not making it as a starting quarterback in the NFL, as very few people walk this earth with such an esteemed title. Perhaps Tebow is just another great college player that was simply not built for the professional ranks.


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