Denver Broncos: Ask Thyself of Another Tim Tebow (Part 2 of 3)

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Denver Broncos: Ask Thyself of Another Tim Tebow (Part 2 of 3)
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Tim Tebow has a diverse skill set that lends itself to becoming a "slash" prior to him starting for the Broncos.

The Overview of Tim Tebow’s Development

 

The only way any of the following information makes any sense at all is if you keep an open mind on Tim Tebow.  He is not a starter right now, though the Denver Broncos have had some challenges currently with Kyle Orton at the helm.  The ultimate understanding really comes from not jumping to conclusions on Tim Tebow being a good fit in Denver, because that has yet to prove itself out.  There is no doubt he was a phenomenal college football player, the challenge the Broncos currently have is finding a quarterback. 

Probably the most outstanding question at the moment in Broncos camp has to do with Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Adam Weber.  Are any of them capable of leading the franchise into the future?

Tim Tebow's followers have blindly endorsed him regardless of how he has looked at combines, practice, preseason and limited regular season work.  The following is strong because of what he overcame in high school and in college at the University of Florida.  Tebow went on to win two national championships and the Heisman Trophy, which in part is why he is a target.  Heisman Trophy winners have traditionally been busts at the NFL level with few having better professional careers than collegiate ones. 

 

So the critics of Tebow are likely quick to pull the plug on his NFL career.  The following information may or may not change your angle, but the information forces the reader to focus on a body of information, largely statistical and historical in nature, and then you can come to your own conclusions.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The target and criticism on Tebow has been his throwing motion and mechanics as an NFL quarterback..

Some think Tim Tebow is a starting quarterback, others say he is not.  Meanwhile he has yet to prove to the Broncos organization that he is capable of running this team. 

Moreover, with his limited play time, it might be time for the Broncos, Tim Tebow and the die hard loyalists to hold out a new view on his abilities.  Perhaps Tim Tebow should become an NFL quarterback by becoming a “slash” player first.  The benefit is clear should he get more playing time, and it would take some of the pressure off of him as a quarterback. 

So take your time, read this information, review it a few times, think long and hard about the possibilities.  Certainly Tim Tebow is a team player and has outstanding character, but can he lead the Denver Broncos right now?

 

Preseason results made it a resounding “No” from an execution standpoint.  That in and of itself is the rub.  Tim Tebow has not been proficient enough in running the Broncos pass intensive offense.  In some regard the belief in Tim has been reminiscent of a high school quarterback trying to make a collegiate roster with overbearing parents saying their athlete isn’t seeing enough time.  Sure the kid has potential, but it’s unfulfilled.

So fans clamor, give their strong opinions and wait. 

But what about the possibilities, the pure potential, that perhaps Tim Tebow’s best route to getting what he wants is similar to the way Kordell Stewart became the starter in Pittsburgh.  That route came through being a dedicated “slash”.  For Tim Tebow it should become more of a possibility. It’s not a bad road into the position of quarterback. 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Tim Tebow was not ready to become the starter after a lack-luster pre-season. The Broncos felt the lockout hindered his development, meanwhile Kyle Orton struggles to set himself apart as the starter in Denver.

However, the overwhelming discussion of “the Tebow package” has been overboard, especially considering how brief his past appearances in actual games have been.  Absolutely the Tebow package should become more expansive and implemented but only if there is competence and dedication organization wide to make it a success.  To date the Broncos and the coaching staff have yet to cross that bridge.  It takes time, but that time might not come in Denver.  That is the reality check that Tim Tebow and fans alike should be prepared for if his quarterback play is not up to par.

 

So pressing forward, this one request remains.  Take it all in, and draw your own conclusions.  Do yourself a favor and study the following information, then make your own educated opinions with the backing of historical data on your side. 

Maybe Tim Tebow is an NFL starting quarterback in waiting, maybe he’s a backup, then again maybe he’s a running back, a tight end, a slot receiver, a combination of some sort—a slash.”   Perhaps he doesn’t have what it takes to become a quality NFL starter and he’s just an over-paid bust in the wait.  Whatever the case might be, keep an open mind while formulating your opinion.

 

A Brief on the History of Other “Slash” Players

In the earliest forms of the game, the concept of iron man football usually implied that players would play both an offensive and a defensive position. With low roster numbers it was necessary in the early days to have players who knew the game from both sides of the ball.  It was somewhat rare that players would play more than one offensive position, though occasionally they might switch out or swap on defense to confuse the offense or find a better match-up.    

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
For some the meaning of Tebow packages near the goal line make a lot of sense. Tebow nation wrestles with not understanding why he's not in the game at other times.

 

The College game and professional game started to deviate around the 1940’s in their rules and game philosophies.  So at the college level players were always pushed to more or less “give it the old college try” to fill in the gaps that their teams had.  This led to players playing a couple positions on their team.  Occasionally, at the professional level there were a few offensive players who would play a combination of tailback, fullback and flanker.  Few players could play a combination well that included the quarterback position.  However the concept of a true “slash” player was still a long way off.

At this point it’s critical to define what a “slash” really is for the sake of this discussion.  In a nutshell a “slash” is usually a quarterback, but he may not be a starter, and it may not even be his regular position.  A slash” by definition plays multiple positions on the offensive side of the ball, which makes him a threat to run, pass or catch on any given play. 

Now, due to the fact that these are NFL quarterbacks we are talking about, keep in mind the financial investment into players like these certainly impacted statistics in other areas.  For example, John Elway did catch three passes during his career.  He could have been called upon at least a little more to run and receive than he was based on his ability alone.  However, he was far too valuable to the Broncos franchise as a pocket passer. 

 

So the financial and franchise investment in any player absolutely has an impact on how they are used.  That will in all likelihood remain food for fodder for as long as these sorts of things are talked about.  Now it’s time to get into analyzing these standout talents that have forged the path for “slash” to be a part of the game.  It’s important to look at now because Tim Tebow is such a unique talent that in order for him to succeed in the NFL it’s important to know how he can fit in, if at all.  So embrace the history lesson a little while.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The game and the jerseys have evolved, but it's important to know the history.

In 1968 Marlin Briscoe became the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.  He started training camp as the number eight quarterback on the depth chart.  Call it ironic but it is true, three of the most influential “slash” players got their start with the Denver Broncos, all at the quarterback position. 

Briscoe is best known for becoming the first starting NFL quarterback who happened to be African American.  Additionally, he was one of the first quarterbacks to make things happen with his legs.  While in Denver he became the starter after the starting quarterback Steve Tensi went down with a season ending broken collarbone and his replacement Joe DiVitto was ineffective.

 

Briscoe went 2-3 as the Broncos starter that year and connected on 93 of his 224 passes, good for only 41.5 percent.  However, he also rushed for 308 yards and scored three rushing touchdowns as the Broncos quarterback.  He also threw for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns in his only season with Denver, his rookie campaign.  Briscoe was later dealt to the Buffalo Bills where he played flanker and wide receiver.  He also played for the Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots during his nine seasons in the NFL.

Though he never played quarterback again, what was born was a player who was a true pioneer, a true “slash” of the old school “iron man” ilk.  During his career as a receiver and a flanker, he totaled an additional 3,537 yards through the air while scoring 30 touchdowns.  His quarterbacking skills were not developed further during the course of his career.  However, his receiving skills helped him find his niche in the NFL, and he showed the world he had a diverse skill-set, which even for it’s time was under-appreciated.

Tom Hauck/Getty Images
John Elway had slash-ability but the Broncos wisely chose to protect him as the franchise quarterback.

About 13 years after Marlin Briscoe played in Denver, Jim Jensen played quarterback, special teams and wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins from 1981 to 1992.  He was a one of a kind at the time.  He was a college quarterback but had to find a way to stay on the Dolphins roster once Dan Morino was drafted to become the next franchise quarterback in Miami. 

 

Jensen wasn’t afraid to mix it up either, so he could play special teams and even line up at tight end on occasion, usually for blocking purposes.  He never had amazing numbers but he could get the job done. Regardless of the work, he could block and tackle well. 

A very important footnote to remember about Jim Jensen is that he came into the NFL as a quarterback from Boston University who finished with a 17-3-1 record.  He was a solid college quarterback who could not play that position at the NFL level, yet he was able to stick around out of the urgency to retain an NFL career as a “slash”.

Two years after Jensen’s entry into the league, John Elway was drafted by the Baltimore Colts and later traded to the Denver Broncos.  Elway was not a true “slash” though he did catch a few passes in his day; he was a quarterback that was a pure passer.  His weapons were his rocket arm and his legs that got him out of numerous hairy situations and helped to create plays. 

 

His legs also helped him run for more yards and touchdowns than any other quarterback prior to his era.  In some regard, Elway, Randall Cunningham and Steve Young are at least somewhat responsible for NFL teams seeking more mobile quarterbacks.  The eventual entry of Kordell Stewart into the NFL altered that equation even more, but we’ll hold that thought for the moment.

Marlin Briscoe was a true pioneer during the course of his NFL career.

Immobile quarterbacks have long been targeted by strong blitz packages to limit their success on the field.  Mobile quarterbacks turned the tables on the defenses so that they had to “stay at home” in order to not surrender big plays to the more agile quarterbacks. 

That is where John Elway, Steve Young, and Randall Cunningham became highly influential players.  These NFL greats impacted the future direction of the quarterback position and advancing the “slash” concept without really being full-on “slash” types themselves.

In the old NFL it used to be frowned upon by coaches that their quarterbacks would run and scramble to pick up yards, over time the philosophies changed to make it more acceptable and mainstream.  The list of quarterbacks with slash-ability has grown since the mid to late 1980’s. 

 

Greats like Elway, Young and Cunningham did as much damage with their legs as they did through the air.  That template of play also lent itself to opening up other facets of the offense like the spread offense, which initially made defenses porous.  While none of the quarterbacks mentioned had any significant receiving stats, the possibility was born for having more athletic quarterbacks.

Then in a somewhat unexpected way came Kordell Stewart who was unique in his own right and how he was used.  For the first time a fully embodied, and fully embraced “slash” was born into an NFL franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  In fact Stewart’s nickname with the Steelers soon became “Slash."

Stewart had a rare ability to run with the ball well while having an accurate arm, and he could run receiver routes well.  Route running is probably the second hardest skill to acquire in football behind playing quarterback.  But it’s important to understand the Pittsburgh Steelers took a gamble to embrace Kordell’s skill set.  Generally speaking, “slash” players are usually not the best at their position, unless they are quarterbacks first.  However in order to be a “slash” you have to rank or be seen as someone that can cause headaches or mismatches for the defense.

 

The success and influence of Kordell Stewart’s career on the Steelers organization eventually led them to select Antwaan Randle El a former quarterback in college at Indiana.  Randle El was a lesser quarterback but a much better receiver and kick returner than Kordell, but he still fit within the Steelers scheme despite the differences.  This was again in large part because the organization fully embraced the approach of taping into a diverse skill set of a unique athlete.

The other monumental “slash” quarterback has been Michael Vick.  His running abilities have set him apart from any other player in NFL history.  No other quarterback had his ellusiveness or his rocket arm as a combination.  Again, the organization had to get on board in further developing Vick into an NFL ready product. 

The Atlanta Falcons had the right coach at the right time when they selected Michael Vick.  Dan Reeves who coached John Elway in Denver had learned some very hard lessons in how he had personally failed Elway during his time in Denver and he wanted to ensure that would not happen to Michael Vick.  Vick took a few years to develop into the ultimate weapon that he still proves he can be in the modern NFL.  Vick did incur significant legal issues outside of football, it caused him to lose and let down his former team the Atlanta Falcons.    

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Steve Young was one of the most mobile pocket passers of all-time.

 

Once Michael Vick paid his dept to society the Philadelphia Eagles decided to give him an opportunity to work his way back into the NFL as a backup quarterback.  That is where his “slash” skill set was essential to getting him into the line-up sooner than later when the Eagles decided to trade starting quarterbacks Donovan McNaab.  Then the new starter, Kevin Kolb, went down with an injury and Vick proved his worth immediately.  Michael Vick became the starter and Kevin Kolb was eventually traded this past offseason.  The Philadelphia Eagles are now Michael Vick's team, a significant marker for slash” players and the NFL to look at well into the future. 

So despite the off-field issues that occurred in the prime of Vick's career, he will long remain a significant part of NFL history as he pursues an NFL championship with the Philadelphia Eagles.  

So it’s clear, in order for “slash” players to advance, they do need organizational support, and it will take patience, and possibly a lucky break here or there, for them to make their impact. 

 

Chronology of Stats from NFL Template “Slash” Players

The following is a short list of some of the most significant “slash” contributors/players in NFL history.  The issue at hand is how “slash” types should be used or better utilized in their systems.  Parts of that answer lies within the history and statistics of those who went before.  While players are not created as equals, the interesting thing to note throughout the statistical analysis is their strengths which are super strengths and weaknesses which are lesser strengths.  How Tim Tebow is used will become the focal point of the third segment of this article due out Monday.  In the meantime, here are some highly significant careers and statistics to look at and analyze.

Ken White/Getty Images
Randall Cunningham turned the tables on the defensive coordinators.

 

Marlin Briscoe (QB record 2-3-0)

Career Span: 1968-1976

 

Career Completion Percentage:  41.6

Passing Yards:  1,697

Yards Per Game:  144.5

Yards Per Attempt:  7.3

Yards Per Completion:  17.1

Touchdown Passes:  14

Interceptions:  13

QB Passer Rating:  62.1 

Rushing Attempts:  49

Rushing Yards:  336

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Kordell "Slash" Stewart upped the ante when he helped to keep the Steelers as perennial playoff contenders.

Rush Average:  3.2 

 

Rushing Touchdowns:  3

Receptions:  224

Receiving Yards:  3,537

Receiving Average:  15.8

Touchdowns:  30

 

Jim Jensen (QB record 0-0-0)

Career Span:  1981-1992

Career Completion Percentage: 57.1

Passing Yards:  102

Yards Per Game: .6

 

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Michael Vick is the ultimate template for future "slash" players. He's proven he can elevate his teammates, but can he win a Super Bowl?

Yards Per Attempt:  14.6

Yards Per Completion:  25.5

Touchdown Passes:  2 

Interceptions: 0

QB Passer Rating:  188.7

Rushing Attempts: 26

Rushing Yards:  142

Rush Average:  5.5

Rushing Touchdowns:  0

Receptions:  229

 

Receiving Yards: 2,171

Receiving Average:  9.5

Touchdowns:  19

 

John Elway (QB record 162-89-1)

Career Span:  1983-1998

Career Completion Percentage:  56.9

Passing Yards:  51,475

Yards Per Game:  220

Yards Per Attempt:  7.1

Yards Per Completion:  12.5

 

Touchdown Passes:  300

Interceptions: 226

QB Passer Rating: 

Rushing Attempts:  774

Rushing Yards:  3,407

Rush Average:  4.4

Rushing Touchdowns:  33

Receptions:  3

Receiving Yards:  61

Receiving Average:  20.3

Touchdowns:  1

 

 

Steve Young (QB record 102-55-0)

Career Span:  1984-1999

Career Completion Percentage: 64.3 

Passing Yards:  33,124 

Yards Per Game:  196.0

Yards Per Attempt:  8.0

Yards Per Completion: 12.4

Touchdown Passes:  232 

Interceptions:  107

QB Passer Rating:  96.8 

 

Rushing Attempts:  722

Rushing Yards:  4,239

Rush Average:  5.9

Rushing Touchdowns:  43

 

Randall Cunningham (QB Record 85-58-1)

Career Span: 1985-2001

Career Completion Percentage: 56.6

Passing Yards:  29,979

Yards Per Game:  186.2

Yards Per Attempt:  7.0

 

Yards Per Completion:  12.3

Touchdown Passes:  207

Interceptions:  134

QB Passer Rating:  81.5

Rushing Attempts:  775

Rushing Yards:  4,928

Rush Average:  6.4

Rushing Touchdowns:  35

 

Kordell Stewart (QB Record 50-36-0)

Career Span:  1995-2005

 

Career Completion Percentage:  55.8

Passing Yards:  14,746

Yards Per Game:  117.0

Yards Per Attempt:  6.3

Yards Per Completion:  11.2

Touchdown Passes:  77

Interceptions:  84

QB Passer Rating:  70.7 

Rushing Attempts:  560

Rushing Yards:  2,874

Rush Average:  5.1

 

Rushing Touchdowns:  38

Receptions:  41

Receiving Yards:  658

Receiving Average:  16.0

Touchdowns:  5

 

Michael Vick (QB Record 48-34-1)

Career Span:  2001-2006, 2009-present

Career Completion Percentage:  55.4

Passing Yards:  2,198

 

Yards Per Game:  150.6

Yards Per Attempt:  6.9

Yards Per Completion:  12.5

Touchdown Passes:  97

Interceptions:  60

QB Passer Rating: 80.4

Rushing Attempts:  677

Rushing Yards:  4,783

Rush Average:  7.1

Rushing Touchdowns:  32

 

Note:  Michael Vick's Stats were compiled through three games of the 2011 season.

 

Vince Young (QB Record 30-18-0)

Career Span:  2006 - present

Career Completion Percentage:  57.9

Passing Yards:  8,098

Yards Per Game:  150.0

Yards Per Attempt:  6.8

Yards Per Completion:  11.8

Touchdown Passes:  42

Interceptions:  42

QB Passer Rating: 75.7

 

Rushing Attempts:  264

Rushing Yards:  1,380

Rush Average:  5.2

Rushing Touchdowns: 12

Note:  Vince Young's Stats were compiled through three games of the 2011 season, he is currently Michael Vick's backup with the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

Tim Tebow (QB Record 1-2-0)

Career Span:  2010 - present

Career Completion Percentage:  50.0

Passing Yards:  654

 

Yards Per Game:  218.0

Yards Per Attempt:  8.0

Yards Per Completion:  16.0

Touchdown Passes:  5

Interceptions:  3

QB Passer Rating: 82.1

Rushing Attempts:  43

Rushing Yards:  277

Rush Average:  5.3

Rushing Touchdowns: 6

 

Note:  Tim Tebow’s Stats were compiled through three games of the 2011 season. He is currently Kyle Orton’s backup with the Denver Broncos.  His passing stats are over three games even though he played in nine games in the Wild Horses offense under Josh McDaniels.  Currently Tebow has not been used under John Fox, but he is implemented into some situational packages.

 

Antwaan Randle El (QB Record 0-0-0)

Career Span:  2002-2010

Career Completion Percentage:  81.5

Passing Yards:  323

Yards Per Game:  NA – Randel El was never a starting QB, a “slash” nevertheless.

Yards Per Attempt:  12.0

Yards Per Completion:  14.7

Touchdown Passes:  6

 

Interceptions:  0

QB Passer Rating:  156.1 

Rushing Attempts:  79

Rushing Yards:  438

Rush Average:  5.5

Rushing Touchdowns:  0

Receptions:  370

Receiving Yards:  4,467

Receiving Average:  12.1

Touchdowns:  15

 

Punt Returns:  311

Return Yards:  2,557

Average Return:  8.2

Touchdowns:  5

Kickoff Returns:  79

Return Yards:  1,759

Average Return:  22.3

Touchdowns:  1

Note:  Antwaan Randle El was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2011 preseason and is currently a free-agent.

 

 

 

Cam Newton (QB Record 1-2-0)

Career Span:  2011–

Career Completion Percentage:  59.8

Passing Yards:  1,012

Yards Per Game:  337.3

Yards Per Attempt:  8.6

Yards Per Completion:  14.5

Touchdown Passes:  4

Interceptions:  4

QB Passer Rating:  85.1 

 

Rushing Attempts:  25

Rushing Yards:  98

Rush Average:  3.9

Rushing Touchdowns:  2

Note:  Cam Newton has played in all three NFL games of this his rookie campaign at press time.  He already has had the best debut by a rookie NFL quarterback in the history of the league.

 

So now that you’ve seen some of the histories of those who have laid the ground work for “slash” quarterbacks to play in the NFL.  It’s time to apply it all to Tim Tebow and his chances to play as a “slash” or start at the NFL level.

For the final installment on Tim Tebow’s current and projected influence, read Pt. III due out on Monday.  If you like the article please tweet or paste it to your Facebook account.

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