Tim Tebow vs. Terrelle Pryor: Which Controversial QB Has Brightest Future?
They're cut from cloths both completely different and strikingly similar.
Tim Tebow and Terrelle Pryor are both former hyped college quarterbacks, though one was a two-time national champion, while the other never lifted his team to the lofty plateaus expected. They both turned heads with their running ability, though one was a straight-forward bruiser, while the other was elusive, quick and dangerous in the open field.
They're both polarizing to the public, though one puts people off due to a squeaky-clean image characterized by religious intensity, while the other does so with a sullied reputation characterized by a program-dismantling scandal and bouts of immaturity.
And both have had their NFL futures doubted by the pundits. In that regard, Tebow and Pryor are in the same boat, though they took wildly different paths to get there.
Tebow and Pryor have had to face the same questions, over and over, about whether they could make it as quarterbacks at the NFL level, as neither one had to rely on his arm to excel in the college ranks. And yet, here they are, field generals on NFL rosters, Tebow going to Denver with a first-round pick and Pryor now in Oakland via a third-round supplemental draft choice.
With both at the beginnings of their professional careers, it's easy to wonder which controversial quarterback will have the better career. Let's look at some qualities, both on the field and off, and both physical and mental, that are vital for any quality NFL quarterback.
Here's where both players have to get to work in proving themselves.
The last we saw of Terrelle Pryor, he was still at Ohio State, still leaving much to be desired in terms of accuracy and efficiency. The last we saw of Tim Tebow, in Miami last Sunday, he was completing passes to coaches on the sideline and mistaking patches of grass for open receivers.
If neither improves as a passer, neither has a bright future. You can have guts and be a winner, but there's a reason Ken Dorsey isn't an MVP candidate these days. If you can't throw, you will get exploited. The question between these two players is which has the most room to grow.
Between the two, Pryor seems to have more to offer throwing the ball. His ball has great speed, and he has decent touch on deep passes. Best of all, he has a smooth delivery on deep passes that looks easily repeatable and less taxing on the arm. His arm angle hovers between sidearm and three-quarters, but you don't have to have Tom Brady's delivery to make it in the NFL. Just ask Kurt Warner.
We've already seen Tebow at the pro level, and the two biggest concerns regarding his throwing ability are consistency and motion. Tebow's delivery is currently slow and long, which costs him precious split seconds both in beating the rush and in making the window of time his receiver is open.
Even before he's stepped on the field in an NFL game, Terrelle Pryor might already be able to call himself the most athletic quarterback in the league.
He's a 6'6", 233-pound specimen. His athletic attributes, including a 40-yard dash time of 4.36 seconds from his pro day, rival those of wide receivers and cornerbacks, not quarterbacks.
So if it's the Olympics and I need a 4x100 team, then yes, I'm calling Pryor. But the question is, whose athleticism, Tebow's or Pryor's, will lead to a brighter quarterbacking future? It's a push.
Pryor will dazzle more with his running ability, but if he tries to bring his college game into the pros, it'll cost him eventually. It happened with Michael Vick. It happened with Vince Young. It hasn't happened yet to Cam Newton, a quarterback Pryor has been compared to, but Cam's only played seven games, and at 6'5", 248 pounds, he's huge.
Pryor is big, but he's no Newton. He's got an inch on Cam and 12 less pounds. Don't scoff at that difference. Only 11 pounds separate Pryor from Tom Brady's weight, and last I saw, No. 12 doesn't shake off many tacklers.
Tebow, on the other hand, is three inches shorter than Pryor and weighs more. Given his stockier build, Tebow looks like a fullback rather than a wideout in the pocket.
It's a combination that makes him harder to bring down, and with his running style, he's more built to last. Tebow's runs are primarily up the gut, giving the heavy hitters less time to build up speed and square him up. It's a style that Pryor will find difficult to maintain in the NFL.
Given his size and style, Tebow becomes a whole new weapon in short yardage and goal-line situations, and he will be able to buy himself time in the pocket. Pryor will be more explosive when he takes off, but he invites injury more when he carries the ball.
Tim Tebow quickly found out that no matter how many Heisman Trophies or national championships you win, if you come from a spread-option offense, you're going to have doubters.
After all, the quarterback doesn't have to be pinpoint accurate in the spread option. He runs too much. The system doesn't translate to the NFL. So on and so forth.
It's true. Tebow didn't have to make Peyton Manning throws to get by at Florida. You know, the ones where the receiver runs 30 yards downfield, turns quickly and a perfect spiral is right in his hands. The impossible ones.
But with numerous receivers at his disposal, Tebow showed he could make reads and react quickly. He could find where the mismatches were. With a completion percentage never below 64 percent and a yards-per-attempt total never below 9.2, he did a good job of finding the open man.
Terrelle Pryor, according to some reports, elected to take off and run when the first read wasn't there, rather than take the extra second to look for the open receiver. He gets credit for playing in a pro-style offense, but that becomes less important when the quarterback is consistently fleeing the pocket and improvising.
There are clearly complexities in NFL defenses that still befuddle Tebow. He was sacked seven times against Miami, often at the mercy of the Dolphins' blitzes. Miami defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is not exactly Rob or Rex Ryan, and Tebow obviously has work to do. But as he has shown throughout his football career, he tends to figure it out eventually.
Arm strength, pocket presence and accuracy are all important for a quarterback to have, but maturity is as important an intangible as exists at the position.
The quarterback has to be at home under the bus. If the team wins, it's his duty to deflect praise to his teammates. If his team loses, it's his duty to heap the blame on himself. He has to work the hardest on the team and carry more responsibility than any other player.
He has to serve as the face of the team and answer for any issue that develops. If a receiver is dropping balls, the quarterback has to talk about it. If a coach is fired, the quarterback has to talk about it. If the punter gets in a fight with a cornerback, the quarterback has to talk about it.
So a quarterback has to be comfortable in the spotlight and be able to operate knowing every single move he makes will be dissected and analyzed. This is where Tebow has excelled and where Pryor has raised red flags.
Leadership comes naturally to Tebow. He's a visible source for inspiration during victories, but is so in defeat as well, as he proved following a one-point loss to underdog Mississippi in 2008. He promised to put the team on his back, and then he followed through. The Gators didn't lose again and won the BCS National Championship.
Even in his brief tenure in the NFL, Tebow has impressed in this regard. He endured a potentially humiliating start to his NFL career, in which he was buried on the depth chart and coach John Fox and vice president of football operations John Elway did little to defuse rumors that they were not sold on a quarterback drafted in the first round of a different regime.
Tebow kept his mouth shut throughout the entire ordeal, and when his time came, he was ready. He went in and instantly gave the team a lift, leading Denver to a win and coming as close as possible to a second.
Pryor became linked with scandal after the violations that blew up at the end of Jim Tressel's tenure at Ohio State, and those mistakes remain the biggest detriment to the picture of him as the face of a franchise.
That's not the end of the heat that's been leveled on Pryor. He has a LeBron James-esque ability to talk/tweet himself into criticism, defending Michael Vick by saying, "Everybody kills people. Everybody murders people, steals from you, steals from me,” and tweeting that he, "must be the worst QB/player" after finishing as an honorable mention for Big 10 Player of the Year.
To Pryor's credit, he seems to have been working for this moment even during his college career. He chose Ohio State to play in a pro-style offense, thinking it would open up the most NFL opportunities. He's been preparing himself to play quarterback in the NFL for years, but he has yet to show he can handle the oppressive demands of the position as well as Tebow has.
The most important thing a quarterback can do for his team is be at his best when it matters most. So far, Tim Tebow and Terrelle Pryor have shown it in spades.
Tebow had a well-earned reputation for being a winner coming into this season, having been the offensive MVP in a national championship game victory, and he's shown that his competitive nature has allowed him to keep it up in the pros.
He stunk for most of his first start of the season last week against Miami, but when there was a chance to win it, he upped his game. He went 8-of-13 for 121 yards and two touchdowns over two drives, bringing the Broncos all the way back from being dead and buried down 15-0 with 5:23 to go.
That's what Tebow does, and it can't be belittled or pushed aside. He's gutsy, he's clutch and he's a winner.
Pryor has shown he can have it in him as well. He started two BCS bowls and was the MVP in both of them, going 37-of-62 for 487 yards, four touchdowns and only one pick in a Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl victory. Perhaps most impressively, he ran for "only" 187 combined yards. He proved his big-game ability, and he did it with his arm leading the way.
He never won that Heisman Trophy or national championship he seemed destined for. That will always be the disappointment of his college career. He did, however, make it to the big stage. And once there, he flourished.
But Pryor hasn't gotten a chance to show if he can carry that magic into the NFL. Tebow has, and he's succeeded. He knows how to win, and he's not afraid of the big moment. He looks forward to it, and it brings out the best in him. So far, it's the only thing he has in common with quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but it's the greatest asset to have.
For that reason, Tebow currently projects as the quarterback with the brighter future. He brings an assured package of intangibles that quarterbacks already in the league don't have, and he's shown he can make it at the top level. Pryor can prove the doubters wrong as well, but he needs a chance to do it. Tebow is already on his way.