Comparing Tim Tebow to Other Great College QBs, Part Two

Thomas McGrathContributor IAugust 13, 2009

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

After a great response from yesterday’s article I feel I need to address one thing. One comment pointed out that the article demonstrated the respect I have for Tim Tebow as a player. I could not agree more. 

As I said yesterday, I am anything but a Tebow hater and I am writing these articles not as a slight to him, but purely out of curiosity. I am just skeptical about his place in the history of college quarterbacks, and feel that it's worth examining closely.

Anyway, today, we have a new set of competitors. Before we begin, let's review the criteria. These are the attributes for which I believe Tebow is most credited (if you have another one feel free to let me know for the future). In parentheses is how the attributes equate to the field.

1.      Toughness (style of play)

2.      Leadership (winning)

3.      Mobility (running)

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4.      Arm Strength (long passes)

It’s easy to dismiss this next player; the NFL did throughout his career. Most people remember his career for one play, and forget the “magic” that he displayed every time he touched the ball. 

Doug Flutie did what few quarterbacks in college football history have done: changed a program. Neither of the quarterbacks we examined yesterday had the same impact on their programs that Flutie had on his, and it’s certainly interesting to see how that stacks up with Tebow.

1. Toughness

Like the situation with Nebraska's Tommie Frazier yesterday, it’s hard to compare these two players’ toughness because they showed it in such different ways.

Tebow, as most know, is tough because of his brutal style of running. Bobby Bowden went so far as to compare him to Bronko Nagurski (Nagurski was a fullback on offense and was known for his brutal running style).

Flutie, on the other hand, was tough because of his situation. Not only was he undersized (5’10", 180 pounds), but he played with a mediocre surrounding cast against some of college football’s best teams. Flutie's ability to hang in and take a hit is what makes him tough.

Overall, I have to give the edge to Flutie. Tebow’s grit is the reason he’s as good as he is, but Flutie’s determination was almost all he had (Edge: Flutie).

2. Leadership

As a comment yesterday pointed out, leadership comes down to more than winning. I would agree.

Although yesterday’s comparisons worked quite well considering the similar situations all three quarterbacks were and are in (high profile teams with plenty of surrounding talent), this doesn’t quite work today.

Based on records and championships alone, Tebow is head and shoulders (no pun intended) above Flutie. Based on leadership of a team, however, it’s a lot closer.

Tebow will finish his college career with plenty of team accolades. He will have won a national title and (probably) played in four New Year's Day (or later) bowl games (three as a starter).

Flutie never played for a national championship and Boston College never approached Florida’s current success. 

What Flutie did, however, was take Boston College to three bowl games (never done by a quarterback in BC history) and single-handedly put the program on the map. He led an undersized, undermanned team to one of the greatest upsets in college football history against Miami in 1984.

Overall, it’s just way too hard to compare. They were both extraordinary leaders in very different ways (Edge: N/A).

3. Mobility

This category is harder than one might think. Flutie will never be remembered as one of the top scrambling quarterbacks of all time (like Tebow will), but he should be remembered as one of the most mobile.

Tebow's mobility is well documented and it’s easy to credit because of the statistics he puts up. It doesn’t take a football expert (maybe that’s why ESPN has caught on) to realize that Tebow is an elite dual threat quarterback.

Flutie had what some football analysts like to call “escapability” (not to be confused with Bud Light’s “drinkability”). This is just a fancy (or ridiculous) word for the ability to keep a play going when it breaks down by using your feet. Good examples of this can be seen in Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo (in college, maybe Colt McCoy).

Due to a less-than-great offensive line at Boston College, Flutie was forced to employ his “escapability” quite often.

Overall, I still have to give the edge to Tebow. Flutie’s mobility might have helped keep him upright, but Tebow’s makes big plays. (Edge: Tebow)

4. Arm Strength 

Unlike USC fans with Matt Leinart (who, as I mentioned yesterday, liked to exaggerate his physical gifts), most college football fans tend to sell Flutie short on his natural gifts.

Sure, he was small, but the guy had a cannon for an arm. If he didn’t, he never would have made it in football. Tebow has a good arm as well, but it only takes one viewing of “Hail Flutie” to see that Flutie had the stronger arm (Edge: Flutie).

Overall, this was hard because of the different situations of the two quarterbacks. Similar to Matt Leinart, Tebow clearly has the superior talent. Still, any quarterback that single-handedly changes the face (or puts on the face) of a program deserves elite status.

Tebow is close, but it will still take another big year from him to reach Flutie's status.

I'm going to compare this next quarterback against Tebow even though I believe I know the final answer. The reason I am picking this QB is a recent press conference by Steve Spurrier.

You know, the one where Spurrier gave his self-serving explanation about why Tebow was left off his preseason All-American ballot while throwing his assistant athletic director under the bus.

As a D.C. native, I grew up a fan of Spurrier press conferences because of his seemingly uncontrollable habits to say something ridiculous and blame others for his mistakes. 

In this particular press conference, he said something that really struck a nerve.

Based on his love affair with the guy when he got the Redskins head coaching gig, I knew Spurrier thought Danny Wuerffel walked on water.

What I didn’t know, however, is that Spurrier considered him to be the best college QB ever (including Tebow).

That’s right, at the same press conference where he was apologizing about leaving Tebow off his ballot, he managed to slip in that he coached the greatest college football quarterback ever.

Only Steve Spurrier.

Anyway, let’s take a look at Mr. Wuerffel. Maybe after examining the facts, I will have a different opinion altogether.

1. Toughness 

No need to really say anything here, but let’s do it for giggles. The "fun 'n' gun" offense is designed to prevent a quarterback from being tough. It’s an offense that is predicated around the QB sitting in the pocket and finding one of his seven receivers downfield.

Part of the reason Spurrier's comment struck a nerve was that a year before Wuerffel was crowned college football’s golden boy, the same Florida team (with Wuerffel at the head) was massacred by Nebraska (led by Frazier) in the national title game. 

In that game, Wuerffel displayed anything but toughness. He fumbled when he was sacked and threw the ball away six times (three of which were intercepted) to avoid hits.

Can you imagine Tebow doing that? Me neither (Edge: Tebow).

2. Leadership 

This one surprised me. I was ready to give this to Tebow before I even looked at it. Part of the reason for that is my own bias, having watched my Nebraska team carve up Wuerffel (whereas these days I don’t want to think about what Tebow could do to my Huskers). 

When I took a closer look, however, I changed my view.

As I said yesterday, I don’t give Tebow credit for the Gators 2006 national title. He didn’t win it. Ninety percent of the time, he rode the bench. 

I could probably name you five backup quarterbacks in the last 20 years who played as much as Tebow did that season and you wouldn’t think of them as title-winning QBs. 

That being said, Tebow's record as a starter is impressive and does include a national title.

Wuerffel also won a title at Florida, and although I will always remember his 1995 year for the way it ended, it was impressive that he got the Gators to that point. You also can’t overlook that he was the first quarterback to establish dominance at Florida.

Overall, they are both winners in very similar situations (Edge: N/A).

3. Mobility/ Accuracy

Just like I did for Leinart yesterday, I have to change the category. I don’t know what Wuerffel’s mobility really was, but Spurrier probably would have been angry to find out.

The fact is that the "Fun 'n' Gun" not only fails to utilize mobility, it discourages it. For that reason, I had to replace it with accuracy in Weurffel's case.

Tebow’s mobility makes him the college QB he is, but he could still be successful without it. He has the arm skills to be a drop back passer (at least in college), so it’s fair to assume that his mobility is more of a luxury than a necessity.

On the other hand, Wuerffel’s college career was built on his accuracy. His completion numbers are only (and I mean this out of respect because they are still great numbers) around 60 percent, but based on the offense he ran, that statistic is incredible.

That offense is designed for a quarterback to complete a pass of greater than ten yards on one of the three plays. The fact that Wuerffel did it almost two out of three times is impressive (Edge: Wuerffel).

4. Arm Strength

One would think that the "Fun 'n' Gun" offense requires the quarterback to have a strong arm. That’s what I thought, but after watching some tape of Wuerffel, I can see that he was able to throw downfield successfully more because of his accuracy than his arm strength.

Much like Tebow, Wuerffel was able to depend on the separation his receivers got for many of his throws. I watched at least five passes during which he underthrew his receiver, but the receiver had enough space and time to wait on the ball.

Although Tebow doesn’t have an elite arm either, he rarely does this.

The proof of this is Wuerffel's lack of success in the NFL. Although the NFL doesn’t enter into this discussion, it does provide good backup for this point, with which a lot of people might disagree (Edge: Tebow).

Overall, both quarterbacks deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve done. Heck, Tebow says that watching Wuerffel while growing up was the reason he went to Florida. 

Unless you take that to mean that he gets credit for Tebow’s accomplishments (which it doesn’t), however, the edge goes to the current Gator great.

Please comment below. Feel free to let me know where I am dead wrong. I tried to do a fair amount of research but I’m sure I missed something.

Also, in your comments include players you would like me to compare in the future. I plan on doing a couple more of these, but it really all depends on what qualified candidates I feel there are. Let me know and I’ll try to do them.


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