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Tim vs. Sam: Head to Head, Arm to Arm, Who Wins?

Michael KellerAnalyst IIIJanuary 9, 2017

Tim vs. Sam: Head to Head, Arm to Arm, Who Wins?

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    This 2009 FedEx Cotton Bowl BCS Championship game publicity photo of Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow was taken before the game. Tim and Gator U won this battle, 24-14.

    It is the only time they actually played against each other in college, but will most likely face each other in the NFL. 

    As early as it is in their professional careers, let's take a look at them, where they are today, and where we might see them a few years down the road.

    I am reluctant to use college statistics and awards to predict NFL success (kind of like wearing your high school letter jacket in your freshman year at college).

    But against my better judgment, I will break my own rule and do it here.

    The statistics and awards were compiled from their respective official college websites, ESPN, and Wikipedia. I am sure I missed something or possibly made errors of omission or mathematics, but any of those are mine.

    I will present them in alphabetic order by last name, so as not to be accused of favoritism.

Sam Bradford: College Statistics and Accomplishments

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    Sam Bradford - University of Oklahoma

    6'4", 223

    Games Played: 31

    Cumulative Efficiency: 175.2

    Completions: 604 

    Attempts: 893

    Completion %: .676

    Total Passing Yards: 8403

    Touchdowns: 84

    Interceptions: 16

    Avg Yds/Gm: 271

    Awards and honors

    • 2007  Sporting News Freshman of the Year
    • 2007 Second-team All-American by Sporting News
    • 2007 SI, College Football News Honorable mention All-American
    • 2007 All-Big 12 honorable mention 
    • 2007 All-Big 12 Academic Team
    • 2008 ESPN the Magazine Second-team Academic All-American
    • 2008 All-Big 12 Academic Team
    • 2008 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, All-Big 12 first team
    • 2008 CBS Sports, AP, Sporting News First-team All-American
    • 2008 Davey O'Brien Award winner
    • 2008 Heisman Trophy winner
    • 2008 AP College Football Player of the Year
    • 2008 Sammy Baugh Trophy
    • 2008 Sporting News co-Player of the Year
    • 2008 Harley Award

    Not a bad list of accomplishments for 31 games played. A Heisman, a bunch of other awards, a surgically repaired throwing shoulder — but no BCS championship. 

Tim Tebow: College Statistics and Accomplishments

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    Tim Tebow - University of Florida

    6'3", 240

    Games Played: 55

    Cumulative Efficiency: 176

    Completions: 661 

    Attempts: 985

    Completion %: .671

    Total Passing Yards: 9286

    Touchdowns: 88

    Interceptions: 15

    Avg Yds/Gm: 169

    Rushing Yds: 2947

    Attempts: 692

    Avg Yds/Gm: 54

    Touchdowns: 57

    Awards and honors

    2006 season

    • SEC All-Freshman Team
    • SEC Freshman of the Week

    2007 season

    • Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week
    • SEC Offensive Player of the Week, three times
    • Davey O'Brien Award winner
    • Heisman Trophy winner
    • Maxwell Award winner
    • Walter Camp finalist
    • Sporting News Player of the Year
    • Harley Award winner
    • NCAA QB of the Year
    • First-team Academic All-American
    • Manning Award finalist
    • National Offensive Player of the Year
    • AP,, COaches First-team All-SEC 
    • AP SEC Offensive Player of the Year
    • AP Player of the Year
    • AP, Walter Camp, Sporting News, SI, ESPN, CBS Sports, First-team All-American
    • James E. Sullivan Award
    • Roy F. Kramer SEC Male Athlete of the Year
    • ESPY Best Male Athlete

    2008 season

    • College Football News First-team All-American
    • ESPY Best Male College Athlete
    • Heisman Trophy finalist
    • Manning Award winner
    • Maxwell Award  winner
    • SEC Chmpionship Game MVP
    • AP,, Coaches First-team All-SEC 
    • Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year
    • Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year
    • First-team Academic All-American

    2009 season

    • First-team Academic All-American
    • Heisman Trophy finalist
    • AP,, Coaches First-team All-SEC 
    • Walter Camp Second-team All-American
    • SEC Offensive Player of the Year
    • Sugar Bowl MVP
    • SI College football Player of the Decade

    Tim sure racked up the awards and some great statistics, including the Heisman. And don't forget the jersey sales and the shoe contract and that cool underwear contract.

    Oh, and two BCS Championship rings as well. 

So What Does This All Mean?

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    When looking at the statistics and the awards, some jump out and are quite obvious and some not quite so obvious.

    Final QB Rating: Both within a point, with Tebow winning by .8 (176 to 175.2).

    Final Completion %: Almost EXACTLY the same, within a percentage point.

    Touchdowns passing: 88 for Tebow, 84 for Bradford.

    Heisman Trophy: Both.

    And other awards too numerous to recap, but Tebow has more hardware than Bradford.

    Now here is where it gets more interesting.

    Games played: Tebow 55, Bradford 31.

    In some ways, that makes Bradford's numbers more impressive, but think why those game counts were so different. Both started as true freshmen, but Bradford had over a season less due to those two shoulder injuries.

    And let's look at Tebow's 57 rushing TDs:

    Bradford had none or at least none that I could find. This shows us a couple of things. One, Tebow was a scoring machine on the ground in Urban Meyers' spread offense, where running was as much of an option as throwing. And he did most of his throwing on rollouts or scrambles. Two, he proved to be rather durable, with only a few injuries that limited his playing time.

    But even though both played in Spread offenses, Bradford's was almost all from the pocket, more closely mimicking the pro style of play. He was a pass-first and run only to save your life.

The Future is Now

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    Bradford is thrown into the breach and is expected to carry a woeful team on his back right off the bat. Will he succeed? Probably not right away, and not with the current talent around him.

    He will make rookie mistakes and he will get banged up, both physically and mentally.

    But he will be learning under fire and will be a seasoned QB at the end of this season (if he survives intact).

    Bradford looked a bit spooked in his first "game" as a pro, bobbling a snap and short-arming a ball that should have been completed. He had some good throws as well, with MINN winning 28-7.

    But he is finishing the preseason stronger with a 15-22, 189, two TD game in a winning effort against New England.

    It looks like with the injury to AJ Feeley and Bradford's play, he will be the starting QB to start the Rams' season.

....... Or Not

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    Tim Tebow was also a first round draft choice, but taken 24 positions down. He came into the NFL with about a 50/50 balance between supporters and naysayers.

    "His mechanics and throwing motion are all wrong."

    "He knows how to win."

    "He never played under center."

    "He is on a mission from God."

    So, with all this hype surrounding him coming into the league, he goes and does an Elway mini-me helicopter on the last play of the first "game" and bangs up his ribs, missing the next game.

    He came out in the Steelers game last week and looked more decisive, making his decisions quickly and made some nice throws with zip on the ball. He threw a rookie INT but also threw to a fellow rookie (Eric Decker) for a short TD.

    Bottom line, he may have played himself up to the backup role and will provide some spot duty running some different looks this coming season.

It's 2015 and the Winner is ..........

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    With all of the above background out of the way, it is time to deliver my verdict.

    Sam Bradford has the advantage of starting now and learning under fire. That can also backfire and lead to some confidence issues if things go South early on.

    Tim Tebow has the luxury of watching and learning behind a solid veteran in Kyle Orton, as well as a great QB development team in the Brothers McDaniels.

    Tebow also has a stronger offensive line to play in front of him, potentially keeping him healthier.

    Bradford has the more NFL-like characteristics, an accurate arm and good decision-making characteristics, as well as more experience making reads from the pocket.

    Tebow can run, which is a good and bad thing (see last play of CIN game).

    So my verdict looking through the crystal ball to 2015 is that Tim Tebow will be the more successful QB in five years.

    This decision for me was based partially on the fact that even with Stan (Wal-Mart Moneybags) Kroenke now owning the team, the Broncos will be a better organization five years out.

    But the most important difference is my belief that Sam Bradford's shoulder won't hold up and he won't be in the NFL come 2015.


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