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Comparing Florida's Tim Tebow to Other Great College QBs: Part One

Thomas McGrathContributor IAugust 12, 2009

MIAMI - JANUARY 08:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators celebrates after a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game at Dolphin Stadium on January 8, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

I am by no means a Tim Tebow hater. As a Christian, I actually admire his character and the work he puts in to being not just a great football player but a great human being. 

That being said, I am not ready to hand him the title of "greatest college football player ever" or even "greatest college football QB to ever play." 

Let's take a close look at Tebow in comparison with some of college football's great QBs.

First, let's examine Tebow's strengths (or his presumed strengths). 

Here are the qualities he is most credited with. In parenthesis is how the attributes equate to the field.

  1. Toughness (style of play)
  2. Leadership (winning)
  3. Mobility (running)
  4. Arm Strength (long passes)

In my opinion, these are the attributes that you most hear associated with his name.  Now, let's see how they stack up against some of the greats.

As a Nebraska fan I am obligated to begin with one of my own; Tommie Frazier. Before Tebow, Frazier was almost unanimously thought of as the best dual-threat quarterback in the game's modern history (recent arguments also include Vince Young). 

Part of that was the offense that Nebraska ran, which asked Frazier to run more often than he threw. Let's take a look at how they stack up.

 

1. Toughness.  This might be the hardest one because both players were the toughest in college football at different times. Both were also tough in different ways. Tebow is tough because of his physicality. 

In contrast, Frazier was much more of a finesse runner (although I know eight Florida defenders who might disagree). Frazier was tough in that he was constantly playing through an injury. The blood clot in his leg (a life-threatening injury) gave him excruciating pain his junior and senior years at Nebraska. 

Although Tebow has been banged up at times, there is nothing he has compared to this. Overall, there is just no way to pick a winner in this category.

EDGE: N/A

 

2. Leadership. Frazier finished his college career with two losses, two national titles, and a missed field goal away from a third. Tebow is a great leader, no doubt, but he also gets credit for things he didn't do. 

I can't tell you how many people in college football have been led to believe that Tebow is a two-time national champion. Yes, he is in terms of rings, but he didn't win his first one as a starter. 

In fact, his stats (and contributions) in that title game mirror the late Brooks Berringer's (Frazier's backup) numbers in the '96 Fiesta Bowl, and his season stats mirror Berringer's 1994 stats. I don't see anyone calling Berringer a national champion quarterback. 

Also, Tebow has yet to have an undefeated season. 

His record with the Gators already includes three times as many losses as Frazier had at Nebraska, despite the national titles. When you examine the facts (instead of listening to ESPN), this one isn't that close

EDGE: Frazier

 

3. Mobility.  Once again, this is a hard category because they have different types of mobility. You won't find footage of an 80-yard Tebow run. In contrast, just about every Frazier play you see is him breaking a big one for a score. 

Conversely, you will find some football of Frazier running right at the heart of defenses, even though Tebow does it more often and more effectively. Due to that, and the fact that Frazier ran an offense that demanded him to run almost every play, he gets the nod.

EDGE: Frazier

 

4. Arm Strength.  Easily the hardest category. It's Frazier by a mile...kidding.

Look, Tebow only throws about 20 percent of his passes longer than 10 yards (meaning that's how far he throws them not how far the play ends up going for) and I'm not convinced he has a world-class arm. 

That being said, he has a good arm and it certainly keeps defenses on their toes.  Frazier rarely threw, so while his arm might have been great it wasn't an important factor in Nebraska success. Tebow's arm, on the other hand, is a necessity for the Florida offense.

EDGE: Tebow

 

OVERALL:  Right now the edge goes to Frazier. Two titles to one and fewer losses. He also ran the greatest offense in college football history, while Tebow's has been less dominant. If Tebow can put up numbers like he had two years ago and go undefeated with a title, then he would beat out Frazier. 

For right now though I'll go with Tommie.

The next challenger comes from the epicenter of college football. It's the only other player that has rivaled Tebow when it comes to media coverage in college. 

Hell, ESPN ran a show that proclaimed his team the second greatest of all time (Kirk Herbstreit named '01 Miami and Mark May named '95 Nebraska ahead) BEFORE they won the national title (which everyone knows ended up going to Vince Young and Texas). 

The player, of course, is Matt Leinart. Let's see how the USC star stacks up to Tebow.

 

1. Toughness. Wow!! This is embarrassing. If you are a USC fan don't bother reading this. Actually, I'll go easy on you.

Fact is that Tebow is one of the toughest football players in college football history and Leinart wasn't the toughest player on his team.

EDGE: Tebow

 

2. Leadership.  This is almost identical to the situation we had above. I won't bother repeating my Tebow points, but here is what Leinart did.

Two national titles (including one undefeated) and a 37-2 record at the school with by far the most pressure put on a starting QB. Just like above it's fairly close, but there is also a clear winner.

EDGE: Leinart

 

3. Mobility/ Accuracy: That's right, I had to tweak the category. It's not fair to compare the mobility of the two players because Leinart's offense didn't require him to use any mobility (although its safe to assume he wouldn't have been tearing it up in an option system).

Due to that I have replaced his category with accuracy. This makes this even tougher. 

What it comes down to is that while Tebow's mobility makes him a great player, he could survive without it. Leinart, on the other hand, only went as far as the accuracy of his passes. 

He had an average arm (sorry for giving away the next category), which meant that all of his passes had to be placed perfectly. They usually were, which is why he gets the edge here.

EDGE: Leinart


4. Arm Strength: USC fans would like to remember Leinart as having all of the physical gifts in the world, but it's not true. He had limited mobility and an average arm. Really, his career was built on accuracy (as discussed above). 

He could get the ball downfield, but not like Tebow can. Tebow has a good arm and the threat of a deep ball is what opens up his running game.

EDGE: Tebow

 

OVERALL: Really close. Two very different QBs. Right now I'll give the edge to Leinart because of the second title and the better record, but Tebow is definitely the more physically gifted. I expect that by the end of this year Tebow will have surpassed Leinart.

That's all for today. Comment on what QBs you'd like to be compared next.

Off the top of my head, here are tomorrow's top candidates: Vince Young, Doug Flutie, Charlie Ward, and Ken Dorsey.

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