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16 January, 2012

The Tebowmeter

   by Gus Ramsey

    If you follow me on Twitter you know my measuring stick for Tim Tebow has been called the Tebowmeter. I began the Tebow as Starting QB Era by setting the Tebowmeter at 5.5, slightly on the good side of optimistic. I said all season long I would not share my official stance on Tebow as the long-term QB of the Denver Broncos until the season was over.

   So here we are. The season is over.

   Tebow showed improvement and showed he is capable of winning games. He threw the deep ball very well. He can run, both by design and scrambling, and withstand the punishment. He is more than capable of rising to the occasion when the pressure mounts. As John Elway said today, the great players rise to the pressure they put on themselves, not the pressure put on them by others. Tebow displayed that he is capable, at times, of doing that.  As Elway said today, Tim deserves the right to go into training camp as the starting quarterback.
   Tebow inspired and energized the organization and most of it's fans. He clearly is a role model in the highest form. At a time when people complain about what pro athletes have become, he is a standard bearer. He is selfless and humble. No one can deny the good he does off the field or the sincerity with which he approaches being a role model. He also proved to have no issues being a leader of the team. Denver as an organization is lucky to have Tim Tebow as an employee.

   I'm very curious to see what he can do after having an off-season of OTA's, mini-camp and training camp as the number one QB. How much can Elway and the QB coach actually help? The things Elway can teach him in film study may prove to be more valuable than anything.

  In honor of Elway, here are my seven concerns about Tebow.

1)  I still have some serious concerns about Tebow as a viable quarterback in the NFL. First off, it's hard to imagine him playing this way in five years. In order to last, he'll need to be able to handle a more traditional offense. There is a reason the average life span of an NFL running back is four years.
2) I'm still very concerned about his ability to read defenses. When he has one-on-one, man-to-man coverage, he looks comfortable in making decisions and throws. But when he plays against a defense like the Patriots presented him, lots of looks and players moving all around, he looked confused.
3)  He needs to learn the value of the check-down. There were countless times when a back or tight end was sitting in the flat, with no one within five yards of them, and Tebow wouldn't throw it to them. Some times he would wait and find receivers down field and try for the big play, but many other times he would run or get sacked. The NFL is all about moving the sticks, and those check-down passes help you do that. He should remember the Bears game when he kept finding the back underneath the deep zone. Those were more designed than an impromptu drop-off pass, but the value in taking what they give you should have been learned there.
4)  Can he complete a slant pass? (Not deep ones like the one to Thomas, the quick ones where the receiver catches the ball inside of five yards of the line of scrimmage.) As I watched the 49ers and the Saints, I was struck by how often Alex Smith threw a seven-yard slant to one of his receivers. Denver didn't have that play in their offense this year. (Tebow did throw one in the playoffs against the Patriots and Thomas dropped it.) Maybe they were called and the receivers couldn't get open, or Tebow didn't pull the trigger, but it's a play that was virtually non-existent this season.
5)  The release remains a problem. The strip-sack of him by the Patriots in the playoffs was entirely because he was bringing the ball down to his hip on his throw. Somehow, some way, that has to be fixed. The game-winner to Thomas against the Steelers he got rid of in .5 seconds. His average release time is .6 seconds. So we know he can do it and we know that 1/10th of a second can make a huge difference.
6)   He needs to learn to make progressions. John Elway talked about it in the press conference today. Elway is hopeful that film study will help Tebow in this area. There were just too many times where it was one look, which became a stare, and then became a run. This is not uncommon with young QBs, but it has to improve.
7)  Lastly, he needs to be consistent. Even the most ardent of Tebow supporters can look at that 46.5 completion percentage and deny his play was sporadic. Teams can't succeed riding a performance roller coaster at the quarterback position. I understand that the coaches were preaching "don't turn it over" and Tebow did well not to throw picks, but they have to instill a confidence in him to make throws on time and let his receivers make plays. With that, the off-season work and short passes becoming part of the repertoire, I am hopeful that Tebow can become a more consistent performer.

   Tim Tebow has now been in the NFL for two seasons. He has played eighteen games where he attempted a pass. Here are his stats compared to another QB's first two years in the league.

Tebow (18 games with a pass attempt):
186-399, 46.6%,  2,836 yards, 19 TD, 9 int. Team record as a starter, 9-7.

Other QB (19 games, all as a starter)
267-501, 53.2%, 3,217 yards, 11 TD, 21 int. Team record as a starter, 3-16.

   The other QB is Steve Young. This is in no way an attempt to suggest that Tim Tebow will rise to the level of Steve Young, but it does show that improvement can be made after a few years in the league. In Young's case, it certainly helped to get out of Tampa Bay and go play for Bill Walsh and with Jerry Rice. Another example is Mike Vick, who was only a 52% passer through his first three seasons. If Tebow dumped the ball off more, perhaps his completion percentage would be in the low to mid 50s.

   So with all of that, I am putting the Tebowmeter at a 7. He deserves a full year to show what he can do, to show that he can learn and develop and prove that he can be a consistent NFL quarterback. That said, the steps he needs to complete to raise the Tebowmeter to an 8 or higher are significant.

****a few other thoughts on this season****

  As far as 9 and 9 seasons go, it was a pretty memorable one. The victories over the Dolphins, Jets, Vikings and Bears will not soon be forgotten. The playoff win over Pittsburgh will never be forgotten. The draft proved to be a good one as Von Miller, Quinton Carter and Orlando Franklin appear to be legit. Rahim Moore and Chris Harris (an undrafted free agent) might be solid contributors in the seasons to come. The jury is still out on tight ends Virgil Green and Julius Thomas, but hopefully they emerge next season as Tebow and the Broncos need to incorporate that position into the passing game more often.
   Von Miller will be great. The thumb injury ruined his season, but he is going to be a stud.
   The offensive line played really well. Adapting mid-season to a new scheme and going from a statue of a QB to a read-option QB is no small task. Orlando Franklin, as the right tackle for a lefty quarterback, will end up being the most important player they drafted this year besides Miller.
   I like John Fox. I like his demeanor. I like the way he handles the media. I like what I see from NFL films in the locker room when he is talking to his team. And I like the way he sticks to his guns, plays the game the way he thinks is best to try and manage it, and doesn't stray from that.
   The Broncos will need two more running backs. McGahee was wearing down at the end of the season and is 30 now. If Denver continues to run this offense, they need three backs they can rotate in there. Knowshon Moreno is not one them.
   They need another wide receiver. Thomas is going to be a stud. I'm not sold on Decker. He drops too many catchable passes for my liking. I'm not sure what to make of Eddie Royal. I think he can still be good but he certainly has fallen a long way from his rookie season, for whatever reason. They need another dynamic, big dude in the receiving corp.
  They need to sign free agent kicker Matt Prater.
  Even though they may be improved next season, there record may not reflect it. Besides their division games, their other home games are against, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Carolina and Houston. Their non-division road games are Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Tampa and New England. That's a tough looking schedule.

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