The Tebow era is under way: grading his performance vs. the Dolphins

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.

The Good

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.

12 replies »

  1. What I loved was right after the kick when they declared it a win for “Denver and TeBow” and I’m thinking “how about some freaking credit for the guy who just kicked the winning points considering it was FIVE SECONDS AGO”. Nope, let’s mention TeBow 900 times post game like he’s the only one on the team.

    I really don’t understand the rabid following for a guy who is still a young and inexperienced player. It’s like Elway! Elway! Elway! but without the years of being the team quarterback, winning seasons, or Super Bowls. I’m surprised they can enunciate so well around his d-.

    I have no issue with the guy, but it’s just so over the top and insulting to the contributions of the rest of the team.

  2. So, let me see if I’ve got this right. Tebow is Denver’s messiah because he played well for 5 minutes against a team that is trying to lose every game because they want to win next year’s Andrew Luck lottery? Damn, those Tebow fans are going to be absolutely insufferable for the next week.

    • Nothing new there. The sad truth is that no matter how badly he does, any sliver of success will be hailed as the Second Coming and any failures will be blamed on other factors. This is why I hated that they traded Brandon Lloyd, although I understand that he wanted out and I don’t blame him. Now, if there’s an incomplete pass, it will be because the team traded away all the good receivers. They won’t mention that the pass was actually in the third row and that Jerry Rice couldn’t have caught it. If he gets sacked it will be because the line sucks. Well, it has some holes, but yesterday the sacks were happened because he had no clue how to find a receiver and get rid of the ball.

  3. @fikshun I’m neither a Tebow Lover or Tebow Hater, but the haters and sarcastic comments comparing Tebow to the Messiah, Jesus, Moses, etc. Is waaaaaay more annoying than Tebow supporters happy that the Broncos got a win.

    • Maybe, but it’s nowhere near as annoying as having to listen to wave after wave of pro-Tebow hype that’s little more than barely disguised pro-evangelist code. The sarcasm aimed at him is, on the whole, not a percent of what the non-evangelist football fan has to endure. So let’s at least get some perspective about that part.

  4. @Jake – I respectfully disagree (but then I would, given my “messiah” comment). I think one of the more obnoxious stunts of the season was Tebow Lovers putting up billboards, demanding that he start. Really? Those fans didn’t have better things to spend their money on?

    If Tebow were the leader he’s been claimed to be, why didn’t he put a stop to the billboard talk? Why not come out and say “hey guys, that’s really awesome of you, but really, Orton’s the quarterback and this is the coach’s decision. If that money is really burning a hole in your pockets, I’d be honored if you’d give it to charity X instead.”?

  5. What’s this about Tim “Baby Jesus” Tebow kissing other men on the mouth? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that….)

    Now correct me if i’m wrong, but wasn’t he often subbed out during passing situations when he was at Florida under Meyer? Still hasn’t developed much then. I also wonder if this is just what it is for fleet-footed quarterbacks who play in run-spread systems in college. Denard Robinson still can’t regularly plant his feet to throw with accuracy, and i’m wondering if he ever will be able to. Hard to believe that they’re uncoachable in certain aspects, so maybe nobody bothers to coach them on those quarterbacking fundamentals for the bulk of their careers.

  6. The thing too many people who don’t really know much about the game fail to grasp is that reading defenses and checking down through the progressions in a pro-style offense isn’t something you can pick up overnight. It’s freakin’ hard as hell and if you didn’t play a pro-style system in college the jump to the NFL is going to be extremely challenging, even if you’re a hard worker and smart as hell.

    Once you get past what a great Christian boy Tebow is he’s really not much more than a poor man’s Vince Young. He’s got a better attitude than Young, but VY had better technique. Not sure which is smarter, although TT probably works harder.

    All in all, though, Tebow’s ceiling is probably a step or two below Young’s, and if you commit to building your franchise around that, well, the good news is that you’ll have some great draft picks….

  7. That’s what’s happening at Michigan right now. Al Borges is trying to teach a running spread QB the technique of a pro-style QB. You can see the issues with reading defenses, checking down and good footwork. Robinson still has another year, so he might be the best of both worlds by next season. (But he’ll always be too small to QB in the NFL.) I’ll hazard a guess that in a few years Devin Gardner will be the most highly touted QB entering the NFL, with almost a full college career learning pro-style technique, speed/running ability enough to be recruited for the Rogriguez spread-n-shred, and a good-sized frame.

    I don’t watch a lot of NFL, but it does seem that spread concepts are gaining a foothold. Maybe Denver needs to do some scheming and building around Tebow’s skill set if he’s going to be the cornerstone. Using a QB to run in the NFL is dangerous business, and i don’t know if you can create enough of a speed advantage against NFL LBs to really spread the field laterally with consistency.

  8. That’s what I was thinking too. I didn’t watch the game but I checked on the live stats periodically. At one point in the third quarter, I think Tebow’s passing was something like 2 for 5 while he’d rushed 6 times for 40-something yards. I couldn’t help but think if they wanted to have a running back take snaps from center, why not just go out and get a running back?

  9. “Now correct me if i’m wrong, but wasn’t he often subbed out during passing situations when he was at Florida under Meyer.”

    Okay, I’ll correct you, since you’re wrong. No, he was never subbed out. As a freshman, one year they won the national championship, he was sometimes subbed *in* as a wildcat option, but once he took over the QB position in his Soph year (the one where he won the Heisman), he was never pulled until he and the Gators had the game sewed up, which was usually well before the start of the 4th quarter.


    “If Tebow were the leader he’s been claimed to be, why didn’t he put a stop to the billboard talk? Why not come out and say “hey guys, that’s really awesome of you, but really, Orton’s the quarterback and this is the coach’s decision. If that money is really burning a hole in your pockets, I’d be honored if you’d give it to charity X instead.”?”

    He did exactly that.

    “Well, I guess I appreciate the support, you know, but we got people in charge here that we trust and trust they’re going to do the right thing,” Tebow said while advising the fans donate their money to his charity instead.

    If you people don’t know what you’re talking about, perhaps it’s best to be quiet.