11 Jan

Tebowmania is sweeping the nation, with some going as far as wondering if he’s the second coming. A more reasonable question is if he’s a legitimate NFL quarterback? By looking into each component of what makes a good quarterback, I hope to help answer the latter question, while ignoring former one.

Let’s start with winning-percentage. Quarterbacks, much like starting pitchers in baseball, are judged largely based on a binary system of wins and losses, regardless of how variables outside of their control (opposing defense and their own offense) affect the outcome. Still, good QB’s have high winning percentages; Tom Brady’s is .781. Tebow is 9-6 as a starter, winning at a 60 percent clip. NFL teams that go 10-6 usually make the playoffs, while 9-7 teams sometimes do. Tebow scores here, like one of his 6 rushing touchdowns this season.

Passer-rating is a statistic no one quite understands, but everyone uses to determine a quarterback’s ability. The rating is a combination of stats like completion percentage and yards per pass attempt, along with touchdowns and interceptions thrown. The rating actually grades similarly to the ones you got in school. Any player close to a 100 rating is elite. 80’s is the average range. Tebow’s career 75.1 rating puts him well below average. His grade here is as low as the passes he throws that hit the ground before they reach their intended receiver.

In football, more so than baseball and basketball, a player’s performance can be difficult to quantify. An example of this is a QB making a perfect pass, his receiver tipping the ball, and an opposing player intercepting the ball, thus making the perfect pass count against the player’s QB rating. Because of football’s sometimes arbitrary statistics, the opinions of experts is given extra weight. Tebow has been maligned for everything from his awkward throwing mechanics to his inaccurate passes. Seemingly, his only supporter is Skip Bayless, who has praised him for being a “gamer, baller, and shot-caller.” His score here the same as his QB rating was at the blow-out loss in Buffalo (38).

Football intangibles are really a combination of tangible things: winning percentage; 4th quarter QB rating; game-winning drives, and the ability for a kicker and defense to win the game. Tebow has excelled in the fourth quarter, has numerous game-winning drives, and has won games because of his defense and kicker. His score here is like his QB rating against division rival Kansas City (102).

Tebow’s ability to gain yards unconventionally is at the heart of the argument over his legitimacy as an NFL QB.  A quarterback’s mobility can help win games by gaining an extra set of downs by charging forward when there’s no open receiver instead of taking a stack; or, avoiding a pass rush, and finding an open receiver after a play breaks down. Tebow is unique amongst running quarterbacks, because he runs college style option plays. The running quarterback has not been properly analyzed in a way we can quantify this qualitative skill. Advanced NFL stats has a statistic quantifying a QB’s points added per play; in this stat Tebow ranks 34th in the NFL this season. He’s obviously an elite rusher for a quarterback, but we do not know exactly how valuable this skill is, which is a main reason why Tebow is such a polarizing figure.

Tim Tebow is obviously below-average at conventional quarterback skills like passing accuracy. He’s obviously well above-average at unconventional skills like running the ball. He has intangibles on his side, and the scouts against him. He’s a winner for the most part, but hasn’t faced the best teams either. Overall, he’s still an enigma, and if he beats the Patriots this week, he’ll be a legend. His future on-field production is nearly impossible to predict.

Advanced NFL Stats

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