Tim Tebow: Why the Denver Broncos CAN Make a “Running QB” Work in the NFL
The fans think one way, the doubters think another. The talking heads and ex-QBs think it is a joke.
But these people are all dealing in opinions.
Here, I am dealing in facts.
Facts that I made up, but facts nonetheless.
Let me take you on a journey through one man's matter-of-fact opinion of the facts on all those other opinions.
(Along the way, be sure to roll over the pictures for my hilarious photo captions.)
Proof? You Can’t Tackle the Proof!
Turn on talk radio, and all you hear is that a running QB can’t last in this league. It sounds reasonable…but where is the proof?
Fact: There is no proof that a running QB can't work.
Since nobody in the Super Bowl era has tried it, we can’t know for certain that it is a fact.
Everyone says a running QB can't work, but please back up your claim with a historical example.
Until someone shows me the evidence that an offense built around a running QB has been tried—and has failed (and more than once)—I won’t be convinced that it shouldn’t at least be tried.
And so what if it isn't a record-breaking offense? Just look at how many "traditional, pro-style” offenses are failing right now?
Exactly half of them!
Old Fashioned Doesn’t Work in Politics, Clothing, Cocktails, Sex…or Pro Football
Or does it?! (In football, I mean.)
Every offense is old-fashioned. There is nothing truly "new" in football.
The excellent book on football history, Blood Sweat & Chalk, details how all these "new-fangled" offenses are actually just very old concepts, dusted off the shelves of the history books.
The Spread offense, for instance, was invented in the 1930s, and is oddly another offense that people have said—wrongly—couldn’t be adapted to the NFL. It seems like a crazy, new, highly-inventive offense, but it is actually older than the "pro formation."
Like Napalm in the Morning, Let's Spread the Field a Bit
Another argument we hear is that, “Only 'the Pro-Set' offense can work in this league.”
We have seen a variety of offenses win over the last few years, including the spread offense from New England, New Orleans and Green Bay. These are among the most decorated teams in football in the last decade.
Before that, we saw the West Coast Offense (however you define that) revolutionize the sport (from a RUNNING league into a PASSING league) in the 1980s.
Remember, for most of pro football’s history, the game was dominated by running the football.
Moving Targets Are Hard to Hit
If the pocket is such a safe place to be, why does the NFL keep changing the rules to protect defenseless QBs?!
One of the most [over]used arguments is that running QBs will take more, and harder, hits. That might be true. But that is true for QBs on the run, but not necessarily running QBs.
Again, we've seen no historical evidence that actually shows a running QB is more likely to be hurt.
Remember: a moving target is hard to hit (which is why Call of Duty, Revolutionary War Warfare wouldn't be much fun).
Blowing All These Holes in Your Arguments Is a Pain in My Cassel
Even "traditional" QBs get hurt!
Let’s look at the pocket QBs who are out for the year with injuries:
Football is a violent sport—no matter what position you play or how you play, injury is a risk always just one or two inches away.
He Just Might Be Crazy Like a (John) Fox
And so what if Tebow gets hurt?
People say that the Broncos can’t let their most valuable possession run and get hurt. But this is wrong on at least two levels.
A. Tim Tebow isn’t very valuable if he isn’t on the run—his running actually opens up the running game for the backs. Remember, before Tebow started, the Broncos' running game was only middle of the pack.
We've all seen his passing. Traditional, drop-back footwork is not Tebow's strong suit. He throws like he has two left feet.
Three left feet actually, because his throwing motion is more like a kicking motion.
B. If Tebow gets hurt, it just makes the Broncos’ coaching staff's jobs that much easier. As bad as that may sound, a badly-hurt Tebow allows John Elway and John Fox to say, “Well, we gave him a chance, he got hurt, and now we have to draft a pocket QB because we can’t put our future on the line.”
Let’s face it, injury may be the only way out of the “Tebow Conundrum” for Broncos’ brass.
Conspiracy Alert / Nerd Alert: is it possible that the Broncos are running Tebow like a dog in the hopes that he really does get hurt?!
By "Throwing an Air Ball", Do You Mean "Passing Gas"?
Maybe more teams should be passing on passing.
Right now, it is a passing league. Everyone has drafted, schemed, practiced and played to stop the pass.
A defensive end who is adept at dropping into zone coverage may not be so great at holding his ground against an offensive line that is firing forward 55 times a game.
A linebacker who plays pass first may not be used to trying to read the option.
A tall, lanky defensive back who is used to covering tall, lanky receivers probably won’t want any part in trying to bring down a 245-pound Tim Tebow.
If everyone is trying to pass, and if everyone is trying to stop the pass, then maybe the best answer is the easiest answer—run instead!
Sometimes, it pays to be different. If you want to be noticed in a room full of blue, wear orange.
Unfamiliarity Breeds Contempt (for Defensive Coordinators)
Even in college football where there is more variety in offensive schemes and alignments, teams hate facing the option.
It is hard to read, it is impossible to accurately mimic in practice, it gives all kinds of angles and advantages to the offense, and, of course, it adds two to three options to a play that may otherwise be a bad call against a certain defense.
In the NFL, nobody has seen this kind of offense since they were in high school.
If they went to high school in 1928.
Of Course This Video Camera Isn’t On. Ignore That Green Light.
“This cute option stuff may work for now, but eventually defenses will catch on.”
Uh, last time I checked, this was the NFL. Everyone watches film! Everyone adjusts accordingly. All schemes are figured out! That’s why football has evolved.
Football is more chess than it is checkers. It is a series of adjustments based on what you do, how the other team defends that, and how you can adjust again.
Essentially, a good coaching staff knows that you know that they know that you know that they know.
(When will then be now? Soon. ...Inconceivable!)
Everyone has to innovate, or their offense quickly goes stale and is easy to defend. Whether you are the Denver Broncos or the Green Bay Packers, each play needs to deceive the defense, because defenses catch on pretty quick.
And as football has evolved, sometimes you need to go back, full circle, to the beginning, to make something old seem like something new.
(Then again, I tried telling my wife that I could make her seem new by appreciating her old. It didn’t go well.)
Ok, so You Sprint 100 Yards…I’ll Jog 150 Yards Backwards and Blindfolded.
Would you ever like your chances of winning if you always played 10-on-11?
The beautiful thing about option-based offenses, where the QB is a threat to run, is that it is a true 11-on-11 contest. When the QB hands off the ball and clears out for the running back to shake, scat and scoot, the game is actually 11 men to 10 in the defense’s favor, because they never have to account for the QB anymore (except for the VERY rare trick play).
This is what makes the “Wildcat” offense so successful… you have made it so every player has to accounted for.
Where Tim Tebow has the advantage over the average Wildcat running back is that he is a QB, and so he is a true threat to throw the ball downfield and complete a pass.
Well, sort of.
Don’t believe me? Look no further than the results of Tim Tebow as a starter.
In the last 32 games, the Broncos are 6-20 with Kyle Orton, a traditional pocket passer with a high completion percentage.
With Tim Tebow, he-who-shall-not-complete-more-than-two-passes-a-game, the Broncos are 4-3.
Tebow has thrown a touchdown pass in every single game he has started. In six of those games, he has thrown and run for a touchdown. In the four games he has started in 2011, he has thrown seven touchdowns and only one interception.
These stats compare favorably with just about any first-year starter you can name.
(Check out this article by Woody Paige of the Denver Post. You’ll see some pretty big names, both historical and current, that don’t measure up with that “lowly QB with the poor throwing motion,” Tim Tebow.)
And Tim Tebow is doing it with one of the WORST teams in football over the last three years.
(Quarter)Back to the Future
“But is this the guy you want to bet the future on?”
This is one of the biggest arguments against Tim Tebow.
Would you bet the future on Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Matt Schaub, Michael Vick, Ben Rothlisberger, Tony Romo, Mark Freeman, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Colt McCoy, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, Tavaris Jackson, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers…or even Peyton “The Neck” Manning?
And let's not forget...
Tom Brady was once a sixth-round pick who only got in the game because Drew Bledsoe got hurt.
(So, nobody was betting the future on Brady.)
Aaron Rodgers dropped like a bomb in the draft, and then had to sit for THREE years behind an aging, insane Brett Favre.
(So, nobody was betting the immediate future on Rodgers.)
(So nobody was betting the future on Brees.)
There is no such thing as a sure thing (win or lose) in the NFL. So quit worrying about (betting) the "future."
Back to the Past (In My Hot Tub Time Machine)
Look at this list of QBs:
- Roger Staubach
- John Elway
- Fran Tarkington
- Steve Young
- Archie Manning (maybe not quite a Hall of Famer. But he has Hall of Fame loins!)
All are Hall of Famers. All ran for more than 2000 yards in their career. All drove their coaches—and opposing defenses—crazy with the running and scrambling**
Now look at this list:
- Mark Brunell
- Dante Culpepper
- Kordell Stewart
- Donovan McNabb
- Steve McNair
- Ben Rothlisberger
- Michael Vick
All of these guys have run for well over 2000 yard in their careers (except Big Ben, who is around 1000) and are among the more accomplished QBs of recent memory—and some on their way to the Hall of Fame.
Michael Vick, had his career not gone temporarily to the dogs, was on his way to 10,000 career rushing yards! And people say running QBs can't last?! It is only a handful of RUNNING BACKS who have approached the 10k plateau, and Vick may have gotten there as a quarterback.
(And didn't Michael Vick just have his ribs broken...STANDING IN THE POCKET!)
** I realize that there is a difference between a QB who scrambles in order to pass and a running QB. However, NONE of these QBs was allowed to be a running QB. Imagine the stats that any of them could have put up with just a few designed running plays, like the ones Michael Vick has, or the QB draws that John Elway scored on so many times.
There Is Nothing New Under the Sun (including This Section)
Just because we haven’t seen it [recently], doesn’t mean it can’t work.
Just because it could be stopped, via scheme or injury, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used while it isn’t.
Just because it forces the offensive coordinator to dust off his copy of The Delaware Wing T for High School Success videos doesn’t mean that it can’t work (remember, the Spread, uh, spread, from college and high school to the pros).
Just because people think—but have no stats or evidence to back up the claim—that running this offense puts Tebow in more danger (when, in actuality, it may limit his defenseless contacts), doesn’t mean that they are right.
Just because it is a passing league now doesn’t mean that it always was…and just because it is a passing league now doesn’t mean that the wisest course of action is to play directly the type of defense everyone wants you to.
Sometimes, like corduroy, acid-washed jeans, Members Only jackets, bell bottoms, top hats or grey flannel suits, if you just wait long enough, anything can come back into style.
And wouldn’t it be cool to be the one who brings it back?
(I’m wearing acid-washed, corduroy bell bottoms right now!)
(What am I saying?! This is a blog. I’m only wearing my underwear.)
(And a top hat.)