The Tim Tebow experiment has begun, with the Denver Broncos posting an 18-15 come-from-behind overtime victory over the winless Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon.
I’ve been critical of Tebow and his frequently irrational fan base, but none of that matters now. All that matters at this point is whether he’s a viable quarterback for a team that hasn’t accomplished much this century. So in the interest of objective evaluation, let’s take a cold, hard look at Tebow’s performance yesterday. Namely, let’s examine what he did well, what he didn’t do so well, where he deserves credit and where he doesn’t deserve credit, etc.
Results are results, and this is a W. Period.
- With the Doncos down 15-0 in the fourth quarter, Tebow came to life, passing for 137 yards and making a couple of very crisp plays (including a nice scramble for a TD pass to Daniel Fells and an even prettier thread-the-needle throw to Fells down the seam, setting up the TD).
- The offense clearly has some faith in him, even though the locker room was solidly behind former starting QB Kyle Orton previously.
- Not Tebow’s fault: Matt Prater missed two very makeable field goals, and you can’t blame him for Willis McGahee’s drive-ending fumble.
The Bad (or at least, the Not Great)
While much will be made of the comeback, more needs to be made of the reason the team needed to come back in the first place.
- That 137 yards in the fourth looked good. The 24 yards through the first three quarters … not so good. His performance was so bad that, halfway through the third quarter the previously worshipful broadcast team was wondering, with their microphones on, whether John Fox might be better off going back to Orton (who was simply dreadful this season).
- The knocks on Tebow all along have been that a) he can’t read defenses and check through his progressions; b) he’s not an accurate passer, and; c) he’s slow to get rid of the ball. This game provided ample evidence for all three criticisms. (Arm strength isn’t a question and never has been. Tebow is like a young Mike Vick in that he can throw the ball through a battleship…if he can hit the battleship.)
- He got sacked what seemed like dozens of times (although it was actually only seven), and a lot of it was his fault because he simply couldn’t get the ball out of his hands.
- Tebow got hot once Miami went in the prevent defense with a two-TD lead in the fourth quarter. He was able to hit wide open receivers underneath as Miami elected to give up the short pass, and this is where a significant majority of his passing numbers on the day occurred. It’s good that he was able to do this, but it’s a mistake to make too much of it.
- In OT, Tebow was irrelevant. On the first possession, he handed off twice and then got sacked…again. On the second (and deciding) possession, he handed off three times. He did what he was supposed to there, but it was a great defensive play by DJ Williams and Matt Prater finally showing up that put the Fins to bed.
Final grade? Call it a C. Tebow did enough to get the win, but the competition was bottom-of-the-barrel and his main accomplishment on the day was validating criticisms about the flaws in his game. If he plays the rest of the season the way he did today, expect Denver to spend its top pick in next year’s NFL draft on the best quarterback available.
Intangibles are great, but this is the NFL, and tangibles matter, too.
An edited version of this article was first published as Grading Tim Tebow’s Performance in Denver’s OT Win Over Miami on Blogcritics.