Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tebow The Better

The freak show known as the Denver Broncos starring Tim Tebow rolls into town this Sunday. Whether Tebow’s incredible and unexplainable run of success will continue against the Vikings remains to be seen. One thing that we do know is that the longer this thing goes on, the more entertaining to watch it becomes.

Well, not the games themselves actually. Watching Tebow is liking watching the NBA; there’s really no point in tuning in until the fourth quarter because that’s when the outcome will be determined. And the style that Tebow plays is not exactly must see TV. As Reed Albergotti explained in today’s WSJ (sub req):

Watching Tim Tebow run the read option for the Denver Broncos on Sundays has got to be one of the most gratifyingly bizarre spectacles in the modern history of the NFL.

This is an offense that hasn't been allowed anywhere near the league in 30 years. This is an offense that high-school teams like to try when they run out of ideas. If this offense were attached to an automobile, it would be the 8-track player.

And when it comes to watching Tebow run that option, the quality of the viewing experience is about the same as the sound performance of an 8-track player. But we’re not watching for the quality of the football being played. As Albergotti mentioned, it’s the inexplicable and bizarre nature of Tebow’s success that has us all tuned in.

In the early days of the Tebow Era (now officially crowned), I was an agnostic. I don’t particularly care about the Broncos and didn’t really care personally about Tebow one way or another. I, like most, thought his quarterbacking skills would never work in the NFL and that he’d eventually settle into a bit role in another position. His openly expressed Christianity didn’t bother me (as it obviously does to many of his most voracious critics), but neither did I find it to be a reason to rally to him. Other then some mild level of curiosity as to whether he could play in the NFL or not, I was largely indifferent to him.

Recently though, I’ve found myself becoming something of a believer. Mostly not because of what Tebow has done on the field, but because of the impact that his success has had among the NFL intelligentsia off the field. I find it amusing to watch panel after panel of NFL “experts” bang their heads on the table and try to explain how Tim Tebow keeps winning games even though he can’t play quarterback at the NFL level. Each improbable victory drives these pundits more and more over the edge and their frustration at not being able to explain or predict them is delightful to observe. Yesterday, one of the ESPN analysts finally ran out of answers and with a straight face said that the only thing that could explain Tebow’s success was divine intervention.

I’m not sure about that, but it is refreshing that in our age of abundant information, credentialed expertise, and unshakable belief that we have the answer to every question, a phenomena like Tim Tebow can come along and throw a wrench into the whole hubristic works. Scientists weren’t really able to explain how bees could fly until 2005. It’s still not clear exactly how or why giraffes evolved to have such long necks. And no one-no matter how they know about football-can explain why Tim Tebow just keeps winning football games even though he has no business doing so. Isn’t it wonderful?

So I say we all quite worrying and embrace the mystery that is Tim Tebow. How long will it last? When will it end? Who cares? Just enjoy the ride and savor the spectacle of all those NFL “experts” who keep pulling their hair out trying to figure it out.

The Nihilist ponders the mystery of Tebow:
The success of Tim Tebow stands in stark contrast to that of fellow rookie Christian Ponder, now the starter for our local losers. Statistically, Ponder is the more productive quarterback, averaging 208 yards passing and 236 total yards per start to Tebow's 112 yards passing and 183 total yards per start. In terms of points scored per start, the offenses are nearly identical at 19 points per game. Yet Ponder is getting little praise at 1-4 and the national media loves Tebow and his 5-1 record.

So why are the Broncos having success while the Vikings struggle? Is Tebow's superior leadership driving his team to victory? Hardly. The answer is defense. In Tebow's six starts, the Broncos have given up 20 points per game. In Ponder's five starts, the Vikings have given up 30 points per game, a 10 point difference. If you added 10 points to the Broncos opponent's score, Tebow would be 1-5 instead of 5-1. Likewise, if you subtracted 10 points from the Vikings opponent's score, Ponder would be 3-1-1 instead of 1-4.

When Denver's defense falters, Tebow will be exposed for what he is: a curiousity talented college player with the wrong skill set for the NFL.

The Elder Makes A Half-time Adjustment

Nihilist, your skepticism regarding Tebow, while predictable, is well-argued. However, you might want to consider this while comparing Ponder to Tebow. Despite the Vikings defensive shortcomings, did Ponder still have the opportunity to pull off victories in those losses in the manner that Tebow has done?

The first Green Bay game? Definitely.

The second Green Bay game? Absolutely not.

The Oakland game? Yes.

The Atlanta game? It's not as clear cut, but with the Vikings down by ten with five minutes left they had the ball near the Atlanta goal line. If Ponder can punch it in, they cut the lead to three and have a chance to win. Recall that Tebow lead the Broncos back from a 15-0 deficit late in the fourth quarter against Miami.

So you could legitimately say that despite the defense, Ponder had a chance to win three of the four games he has lost. I'm not blaming him for the losses and frankly feel much better about his future prospects as an NFL quarterback than Tebow, but you at least have to give Tebow some credit for winning those games in the fourth quarter. Yes, the Broncos defense made it possible by keeping them in the game. But Tebow still had to finish and as ugly as it has looked at times, he has done just that.

It'll be fun to watch them go head-to-head this Sunday.