Tim Tebow Released: Why the Florida Star Was a Better College QB Than Pro

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Tim Tebow Released: Why the Florida Star Was a Better College QB Than Pro

The Tim Tebow era in New York has come to an expected close.

The former Florida quarterback was released by the Jets on Monday morning, according to a release from the organization. The move leaves the professional future of the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner in doubt, as most NFL teams either have their quarterback positions solidified or have a corps of signal-callers already under contract.

So, what happened? Why has Tebow failed as a quarterback at the professional level after leaving Florida as one of the most decorated quarterbacks of the modern era?


System

First and foremost, the system Tebow ran at Florida under former head coach Urban Meyer simply didn't prepare him to play quarterback at the next level.

Meyer had been successful with quarterbacks, particularly with former Utah quarterback Alex Smith. But Tebow's offense at Florida was different. It wasn't just the spread option with Tebow under center; it was the spread option with a focus on the power running game of the quarterback.

Tim Tebow 2007 highlights

Not many quarterbacks are capable of running that kind of system. Meyer wisely recognized what he had in Tebow and adapted his system accordingly.

His efficiency was the key to his success.

Tebow finished in the top five nationally in passing efficiency in each of his three years as the starter at Florida (2007-09), due in large part to the threat he posed as a running back. He averaged 4.26 yards per carry, with the majority of those yards being tough, between-the-tackles yards that are typically handled by a power running back.

Marc Serota/Getty Images
Former Florida QB Tim Tebow

Safeties had to respect his ability to play ground-and-pound as a rusher. That drew them up to the line of scrimmage and kept cornerbacks honest, which created wide-open passing lanes for Tebow and minimized  the impact of his slow delivery and faulty mechanics as a passer.

But that approach just didn't translate to the NFL. 

Quarterbacks can't take the pounding delivered by the bigger, faster and stronger front sevens in the NFL. What's more, general managers don't want to invest millions of dollars in quarterbacks who willingly seek contact, especially quarterbacks who struggle grasping the timing and tight passing windows in the NFL.

Tim Tebow Completion Percentage

For Tebow to be successful long term in the NFL, an organization would have to commit to him, adapt its offense to accentuate his strengths and build a roster accordingly.

It's hard to find a running back who wants to play in a system in which the quarterback gets 15 or so designed carries a game. It's hard to sign wide receivers who know that, more times than not, they're going to be used as possession receivers rather than home run hitters.

Denver did it temporarily during its run to the NFL playoffs in 2011. But that wasn't the direction it wanted to go long term—not with Peyton Manning on the market, at least.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 in OT in the NFL Playoffs

Mechanics

Tebow's mechanics have long been a sore spot. His delivery is slow, his footwork is sloppy at times, and his lower body doesn't do much to stabilize him during the throw.

He didn't regress in the pros; he just didn't evolve.

Tim Tebow sits down with ESPN's Jon Gruden prior to the 2010 NFL draft

Tebow himself even recognized his shortcomings before his senior year in college, working on his delivery and mechanics with then-quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, according Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel.

Said Tebow:

[Loeffler's] worked more so on my footwork and some of the drops, and the hitches off those drops....I think he will really help me. It's not too much throwing mechanics, more footwork and body position.

But in reality, it didn't matter. Not in Florida's offense.

Even as a senior, Tebow's mechanics didn't change all that much. He was comfortable doing what Meyer's scheme asked him to do and got the ball in the proper place at the proper time.

It's all about comfort, and Tebow's comfort in his motion and mechanics was enough to get him to the NFL. But his inability to adapt while achieving similar results is ultimately what has prevented him from sticking in the NFL.

Even during Denver's playoff run, Tim Tebow's mechanics were sloppy

When he tried to evolve, he became less effective.

At that point, why bother? The window to be a successful NFL player is short, and the likelihood of Tebow going through a total mechanical overhaul and finding a team to take a chance on him is smaller than sticking to what got him there.

 

Competition

Tebow, for the most part, dominated the nation's toughest football conference. Typically, that's a compliment to any player. In Tebow's case, though, it was also a detriment because it prevented him from evolving as a passer.

Tebow and the Florida coaching staff recognized that playing grown-man football with Tebow was the path of least resistance. Why get cute on 3rd-and-4 when you know Tebow could get those tough yards against front sevens that simply couldn't stop him?

There's no reason to.

He was a grown man playing big-boy football against young men attempting to do the same. Even in the SEC, that's a mismatch.

Florida recognized that college defenses simply weren't capable of consistently stopping a power rushing attack out of the spread with a quarterback who was willing and able to play a variety of roles.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Former Florida QB Tim Tebow

Tebow is an example of all that is right and wrong in sports today.

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He achieved ultimate success as a college player doing what he's done his entire life, under a head coach in Urban Meyer who was willing and able to build his system around the strengths of his quarterback.

He found that luxury in Denver for a brief period in 2011 with John Fox, leading the Broncos into the playoffs and over the Steelers in the Wild Card Round.

Ultimately, though, the NFL was too stubborn for Tebow, and he wasn't flexible enough for the NFL.

Such is life.

What we found out along the way, though, was that Tebow had what it took to elevate the Florida program to near-dynasty status in the toughest college football conference in America.

If that's his legacy as a football player, it's not a bad legacy to have.

 

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