Denver Broncos: Tim Tebow Head to Soul

Chaz MattsonAnalyst IMay 17, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators stands on the sidelines during the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Cincinnati Bearcats at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images


“Head, shoulders, knees, and toes!

Head, shoulders, knees, and (don’t forget about the soul)!”  ~ A popular kid’s song


Perhaps you'd heard the hype prior to him ever becoming the starting quarterback at the University of Florida.


Maybe you cheered for him in college to succeed, or maybe he was a bitter rival that caused your favorite program to respect his raw abilities as a football player.


It’s also possible you pulled for him in the Heisman Trophy race in 2007, when, as a sophomore, he won the honor in his first season as the full-time starter for the Florida Gators.


As a football fan, given his accomplishments, you already knew more than you wanted to know about Tim Tebow. In the 2010 NFL Draft the Denver Broncos beat Tebow’s hometown Jacksonville Jaguars and the interested Buffalo Bills to the punch on landing his skill set.


So now Tebow watch has begun. 


The Denver Broncos brain trust, currently led by Head Coach Josh McDaniels, dared to be creative enough in the draft to move down only to trade up and land Tebow. Josh McDaniels has been glowing ever since, but the real question is, will the Broncos offense start to make an impact this season?


It’s fair to be skeptical, until proven otherwise, when it comes to Tim Tebow’s abilities and potential to eventually become an NFL starting quarterback. One thing is certain, if he succeeds in the NFL, it will be a statement to define and validate both Tim Tebow and his coach Josh McDaniels with a resounding Gator clap – Chomp!


If Tim Tebow fails at the quarterback position, he still has other skills to draw upon as a football player and could still succeed in the league without being the starter.


If he fails to make an impact at all in the NFL, that would probably make a bigger statement of a different ilk. He probably has the greatest cross-over skills of any quarterback in the NFL since former Colorado Buffalo and Pittsburgh Steeler Kordell Stewart became known as “Slash”.  The name was based on Stewart’s ability to play multiple positions (QB / RB / WR).  Regardless of what comes out of Josh McDaniels mouth on how Tim Tebow will be used, he is the next version of “Slash” in the NFL.


Coach McDaniels is intently focused on getting Tim Tebow reps at the quarterback position and making him a quick study in the Broncos offense from the quarterback position.  It should be that way, so Tebow knows the offense his coach appears intent on making him lead someday.


The Denver Broncos have gone from having a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler to landing a yeoman’s quarterback in Kyle Orton with little experience at backup in 2009.  Now, it seems the Broncos stable of quarterbacks is deep with a variety of skills, with no one quarterback proving to be perfect on the surface.  However, if you could pick and choose the best from each quarterback you might choose Kyle Orton’s veteran calm and cool intellect, Tom Brandstaters height and arm, Brady Quinns potential as a pocket passer with arm strength, and Tim Tebow’s athletic ability and football instincts to match his book smarts.  Certainly between the four there is an amazing quarterback among them.  Each has their own story to prove.  Which leads to this thought that all four quarterbacks could start in the NFL with other teams before this is all said and done.  This has the potential to become the equivalent of “Quarterback-U” for the NFL, seemingly taking rejects, underachievers, and the under-estimated and turning them into something special.  There is that potential with this group of Broncos quarterbacks.


Then again, between all of the Broncos quarterbacks there might not be a guy who will ever become a top ten NFL QB.


So it’s with those realizations that the Denver Broncos pursued the athletic talent of Tim Tebow to help push the position of quarterback into what it should be.  It’s a role that demands supreme leadership and excellent aptitude to handle every possible situation thrown at quarterbacks.  Tim Tebow is not an NFL starter yet, however because of his inherent athletic intangibles to match his football skills, he will make an impact and be on his head coaches version of the fast track.


The questions are yet to be answered about Tebow.  They are, however, important when looking at one of the Denver Broncos most important draft day selections since the likes of Jay Cutler, Brian Griese, and Terrell Davis.


In understanding the importance of this investment with the Denver Broncos, the following is an overview and analysis of Tim Tebow, head to soul.


Tim Tebow’s Vital Stats


Born:   August 14, 1987

Hometown:   Jacksonville, FL

Height: 6’ 3”

Weight: 236 - 245 lbs.


Career Passing Stats at the University of Florida

Year    CMP     ATT      YDS      CMP%  YPA     LNG      TD        INT       SACK    RATING

2006       22         33       358         66.7   10.85       55        5           1             0      201.73

2007     234       350       3286      66.9      9.39       66      32          6             13     172.47 

2008     192       298       2746       64.4      9.22       70      30          4            15     172.37  

2009     213       314       2895       67.8     9.22       80      21          5            29     164.17


Career Rushing Stats at the University of Florida

Year    ATT      YDS      AVG     LNG      TD       

2006         89      469      5.3          29         8

2007     210      895      4.3          25       23

2008     176      673      3.8          26       12

2009     217      910      4.2          55       14


Average Passer Rating: 177.69

Total Career Yards:   9,285

Touchdowns:   88

Fumbles / Lost: 0 / 0


Drafted: Selected #1B (25th overall) in the NFL 2010 Draft by the Denver Broncos via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens.  The deal sent a 2nd , 3rd , and 4th round draft picks to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for the first round selection. 


As a Football Player

Tim Tebow is a football player first and foremost.  That is the central and most important piece of information to understand when analyzing his ability to move forward in the NFL.  Over the last two decades, teams have experimentally put amazing athletes on the field in hopes of turning them into NFL-caliber football players.  Sometimes those experiments succeed, sometimes they don’t.  Usually in those test case scenarios, the athletes have some catching up to do in understanding what it takes to play football.  In Tim Tebow’s case, he is a football player first who happens to be a great athlete.  He has superior work ethic and a determination to succeed in the NFL.  That is the real X-factor here.  Above all he’s got a shot because he appears ready to dictate his own destiny in professional football.  It will end with a result on his terms since he has a coach that believes his abilities will transfer well at the NFL level.


Perhaps when it comes to understanding Tim Tebow as a player, there is no better endorsement than that provided by his head coach in Florida, Urban Meyer.  He was interviewed in late 2008 leading up to the National Championship game against Oklahoma by ESPN and provides the following response.


“He’s the best player I’ve ever coached.  I don’t know if he’s the best quarterback or best runner or best thrower I never said that because you really have to take your time to evaluate that.  As far as the best football player and best competitor he’s different.  You maybe go the rest of your life and never be able to coach a player like that.  So Tim is a tremendous player and then you just stop right there and say Tim is a better person.  He’s more committed to his faith, he’s more committed to his family, and he’s awful, awful committed to his coaches and his teammates.”


Urban Meyer, Florida Gators Head Coach

December 7, 2008 live interview with ESPN


As far as endorsements go it doesn’t get much clearer or better from any head coach about any player.  In a nutshell those sorts of things don’t just happen.  So the key to understanding Tim Tebow’s development is that he is a football player, not just a quarterback.  He will see time at quarterback, but he will probably see time at other positions as well given the learning curve and demands at the NFL quarterback position.


Head (Brain Power) and Eyes

It has been a part of a mild controversy while Tim Tebow was in college.  Some analyst said he showed the ability to read and check down well, others believed that he would miss open receivers on his progressions routinely.  Some of that, however, is not easily quantifiable information without knowing exactly how Tebow was coached on how to make certain reads.


Charlie Casterly (the former GM of the Houston Texans and also in Washington) has gone on record and is betting against Tim Tebow based on his lack of accuracy and decision making.  There are other analysts however, like Mike Mayock of NFL Network, that do believe Tebow can have the ability to work his way out of his weaknesses and become a viable NFL starter.


Certainly Denver Broncos headmaster Josh McDaniels felt comfortable with Tebows ability to pick up the Broncos offense after spending a day with him reviewing film a week before the draft.  He certainly has the book smarts and studies hard.


On the field of play however, at live NFL game speed, is the real test of being a make or break player.  Can Tim Tebow make good reads and excel at “on the fly” decision making?  Until he starts in the NFL, that question will remain a Pandora’s Box in the Broncos locker room.  He will be susceptible to roll coverages if his motions are too slow or if he makes a lot of poor decisions.  Those coverages lead directly to turnovers, so fans will know how he's doing when he has the ball.


One important point of note regarding Tebow’s head is that he did suffer a major concussion from a hit he took against the University of Kentucky in late September 2009.  This could have an impact or come into play should Tebow get his bell rung in the NFL.


Nose (Instincts on the Run)

Tebow has a superior ability to run north and south and hang on to the football.  Tebow’s first fumble in college came in his last game, the Senior Bowl all-star game played at the end of January.


Jawbone (Ability to Take Big Hits)

Throughout his college career Tim Tebow did not back down from any challenge presented to him on the football field. One sack that came last season against Kentucky did challenge his ability to be in control on the field all the time. The concussion suffered from that hit kept Tebow out of action the remainder of that game, but it probably would have kept him out the following week as well had there not been a fortunately timed bye week on Florida’s schedule.


Tim did return against LSU two weeks later on the road and went 11 for 16 for 134 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the 13-3 game that had SEC Championship ramifications.


On the NFL side, Tim has had to learn to keep his chin a little more elevated than he had been doing in college.  This is all designed to help his ability to read and feel comfortable in the pocket.



Tim has the neck of a tight-end or a halfback, which essentially means he’s not afraid to mix it up when it comes to blocking or running with the football.  This is what opens up the avenues for Tebow in the NFL.  While his high draft position brings pressure with it, he won’t entirely be relied upon to become the starter sooner than later unless he is entirely capable.  Tim will help the Broncos in running the ball and possibly blocking and catching and running routes.  He is multi-talented and that is Tim Tebow’s most lethal element on the football field.


Shoulders (Power, Strength, and Throwing Mechanics)

The key for Tim Tebow moving forward is to make his quarterback mechanics compact.  If he is unable to tighten up his mechanics and make good reads, Tim Tebow will in all likelihood play H-back for the Broncos, occasionally carrying the ball and running basic tight-end pass routes. 




Tim Tebow has a very good ability to throw on the run.  This is a skill that has to be developed and Tebow is very close to a natural passer on the run.  Under Josh McDaniels the Broncos did not show any roll-out passing last season with Kyle Orton.  If Tebow starts it could be an interesting twist the Broncos may consider implementing at some point in time under this regime.  It would probably serve as a nice change of pace and not a central piece to the offense, as the Broncos used to run under Mike Shanahan with Jake Plummer at quarterback.


At the Senior Bowl in January, Tim Tebow had noticeably shortened up his throwing motion.  Additionally, with the Broncos that motion has been receiving a great deal of attention as well.  All reports and accounts of Tebow’s motion mechanics in Denver are that they are much sharper and improving from where they have been in the past.  Tim Tebow is making progress in his young NFL career, one that has yet to solidify his contract deal with the Broncos.




At Florida he was more of a touch passer, lacking overall zip on the ball. Although he has the power and ability to make the throws, mentally he has to push himself to make the throws with power and velocity.


There has been much discussion about Tim Tebow’s throwing mechanics, but here is the breakdown in a nutshell:  On his drops, he has a tendency to place the ball lower than mid-chest and wind up a bit like a baseball pitcher.  This would cause a long stride from his legs in the motion to take place.  In the NFL that translates to precious time lost on timing routes and can result in sacks.


Since the Senior Bowl, Tebow has worked with the likes of John Gruden and Josh McDaniels, among others, to change his overall mechanics so he is ready to compete in professional game.


Chest (Power)

There is no question that Tebow has strength in the Chest area, however as a passer in college it’s probably safe to say he under-utilized that strength. 


The trick here is to have power to all parts of the field when throwing the ball without tipping the defense off as to which direction the ball is going.  In the past Tim Tebow could tip a defense off purely based on his body language and the time it would take to release the ball. 


This is an area that, based on reports as recent as one from today’s passing camp in Dove Valley, Tebow still shows some weakness.  This is an area that requires mental focus and determination with a free-willing attitude to make the throw.  Again Tebow has the raw potential to make these plays happen consistently, however he must push himself to get to that point consistently.



In college, Tebow made it on the national scene in large part because he played for two National Championship teams.  What made him more of a household name is how he handled the press and how he approached game day.  Probably no other time testified more about his heart for the game of football than when he personally failed to pick up a first down on a quarterback sneak against Ole Miss.  Florida lost that game 31-30 and Tebow made a vow to the press, the fans, the coaches, and his teammates that no one would work harder than he would to ensure Florida would not lose another game that season (2008).


Florida did not lose a game the rest of the season and wound up winning the National Championship over Oklahoma 24-14 in large part because Tebow helped to elevate the play of the team around him.


That is the intangible Tebow loyalists swear by.  He is a rah-rah guy with a lot of heart, much like Josh McDaniels is a rah-rah guy.  Their personalities click.  Having said that, most players in the NFL are not rah-rah guys and most rah-rah coaches don’t last in this NFL. 


That is not to say NFL players and coaches don’t have heart, they absolutely do.  However it is more out of their professionalism that NFL players perform at a high level on Sunday.


Waist and Hips

During Tim Tebow’s throwing motion, this is one area where he will have to work the hardest.  In college, Tebow had a very big and long stride to match his baseball like wind-up throwing motion.  This causes stiffness in the hips and lower torso.  Good quarterbacks and running backs alike have good agility.  Agility really starts in the hips but is executed through the legs.  


Tim Tebow must be able to open up his waist and hips while throwing to any place on the field as needed.  Certainly a loss in power of throwing the football is directly tied to the hips, i.e. how well they swivel and open up.  The other component here is the speed.  Tim Tebow must get faster at making these decisions mentally and physically execute them at NFL speed.   He is getting more attention on these areas at Broncos camp, but certainly will have to work hard to overcome these deficiencies.


Legs (Power and Agility)

As a quarterback, and as previously mentioned, Tebow’s agility needs work in the pocket because he is stiffer than most at the position. 


On the whole however, Tim Tebow has great legs for an NFL quarterback.


Why?  It’s because he is able to run with power and effectiveness unlike any other quarterback outside of the likes of Vince Young and John Elway.  Tebow will escape defensive linemen, linebackers, and blitzing safeties alike almost entirely out of his leg power and low center of gravity.  He runs the football like a running back.


Keep this much in mind.


Tim Tebow ran for more touchdowns in college than Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, did in his college tenure.  They both played for the University of Florida.  Tebow nearly ran for a thousand yards last season, unheard of for quarterbacks not running in an option-oriented attack.


This area will remain a question mark however, because Tebow runs excellently for a quarterback, but is only slightly above average when comparing him to running backs at large. 


Additionally the jury is out when it comes to seeing how he will rate as an NFL tight end since that is an unknown at this juncture.

Knees (Agility) 

Again it’s all about agility.  He appears to have good movement in his lower legs in the pocket, but the key with the knees is being fast and staying healthy.


Ankles, Feet, and Toes (Agility)

Tim Tebow has the ability to make great cuts while running the ball and that can lead to missed tackles.  He has a north and south mentality which is power centric to his makeup.  Again keeping his lower legs healthy is a key to giving him the potential of going from a potentially good one to being a special player.




He’s a Soul Man


The most important element to Tim Tebow is actually not on game film at all.  Tim Tebow’s faith is what seems to give him a purpose.  Certainly football is important to Tim Tebow, but he is into practically acting on his faith in God as well.


It’s been a point of controversy, criticism, jokes, and some analysis as well.  Some people believe Tim Tebow can do no wrong, while others believe he’s not the messiah.  There are peripheral groups of Tebow fans who appear to support him based on issues related more tightly with faith and right-winged conservatism than anything else.  People often try to attach themselves to professional athletes and make them role models for their causes.  Tim Tebow and his mom also became targets of greater criticism following their pro-life and family values commercial which ran during the Super Bowl.  It seemed most of the criticism was unfairly leveled aimlessly driven at an ad that had nothing negative to say about the pro-choice movement.


With Tim Tebow, football fans the world over are about to see if he is up to the task on the field.  Off the field he puts his money where his mouth is.  In 2008 he went on his own self-proclaimed Tebow Philippine Missionary Trip ministering to orphans, the sick, and others in need.  He makes it clear that his goal is to be a role model for kids.  While in the Philippines, where he was born, Tebow worked alongside medical personnel cutting out cists on a patient in need.  Tebow has also had a speaking engagement at a Florida prison, sharing his faith and calling on prisoners to seek an answer in Jesus Christ.


Regardless of his personal beliefs, what is refreshing to see is an athlete willing to act on his faith.


With that sort of emphasis on character and up bringing, it’s hard to count Tebow out in the race to be the Broncos starting quarterback.


Most immediately he clearly is not better than Kyle Orton and may never be, so it leaves this draft pick and draft class grade on hold for a least another year or two.


It does however leave a lot to think about with a lot of possibilities to be imagined somewhere between the head, heart, and soul.


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