Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tim Tebow:
Quarterback, Winner, Not Jesus Christ

First, and foremost, I'm a big Tim Tebow fan. He doesn't have the best throwing mechanics and at times his passes look like my sister is quarterbacking the Broncos, but I like him because he's an extremely rare human being. In a world in which our favorite athletes eventually let us down, Tim Tebow doesn't appear to be like all the rest.

I grew up loving Kevin Garnett, but as I get older and learn more about the kind of teammate and person Garnett was to certain people, it's clear he wasn't this amazing person as some people in the media wanted to portray him while he was here. Sure, KG was fantastic in the community, talked about how much he wanted to stay in Minnesota for his career, and he was one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA, so I'm glad he was a Timberwolf. However, sucker punching Rick Rickert during a summer scrimmage because Rickert was playing better is inexcusable and disgusting. Also, having such a poor relationship with Wally Szczerbiak that the team decided to make that ill-fated trade that brought both Mark Blount AND Ricky Davis to the Timberwolves. When you hear about these things as an adult, you understand that these athletes you once looked up to are just regular people as well. But as a kid, you are crushed. You look up to these players like they are superheroes of some kind, but the fact is a lot of the stars we fall in love with are nothing more than spoiled brats who use their athletic abilities to get whatever they want. (See Roethlisberger, Ben and Woods, Tiger)

Tim Tebow is young. So there's definitely still a possibility that over the next decade or more, Tebow will do something that lets down a lot of his fans. But if I had to bet on any one player staying out of trouble, doing the right things, and being a good teammate, Tim Tebow would be atop the list. I like Tebow because he's a great person and a good athlete. I'm glad the Broncos are 7-1 with Tebow leading the way.

What bothers me is when religion is brought into the discussion. I believe in God. I pray. That certainly doesn't qualify me to understand the workings of God, but I feel fairly safe saying most people who believe in God would agree that God doesn't care if the Denver Broncos win or not. There are children starving all across the world, people getting diagnosed with cancer at record rates, and I'm supposed to believe that the Almighty is working through Tim Tebow? A football player? That is ridiculous. I understand Tebow is a great kid and he's extremely religious, and that's great. If he wants to believe God is talking to him, fine. It's his life, his legacy, and if he has no problem being remembered as the religious quarterback, then neither do I.

But again, anyone that believes God is working through Tim Tebow baffles me. I would have a real issue praying to God every night if I believed He cared more about Tim Tebow and the Broncos beating the Chicago Bears than he does about clearly more important issues.

Now, as I write that, I understand we all have different beliefs in what God can and can't do. Tim Tebow clearly has a different understanding of the things the Lord will do than I do. I'm not saying Tebow's wrong, because when it comes to faith there is no right or wrong answer. But I feel pretty safe saying God isn't a Broncos fan, and he sure as hell doesn't care if Tim Tebow wins or not.

So, it's my opinion that the Broncos are not 7-1 because God wants them to win, but rather because they are playing much better over the last eight games than their first five. Seems reasonable, right? Let's take a look:

To me, football stats don't need to be as complicated as baseball. Total yards and turnovers are generally a good guide to see how the game went. Kyle Orton started 5 games, although he was pulled at halftime of the 5th game. For clarity sake, I counted Orton as playing 4.5 games and Tebow as 8.5.  Here are the Broncos' numbers per game with Orton under center:

Record: 1-4
Opponent's Winning Pct*: .615
Points Scored: 20.2
Points Allowed: 29.8
Passing Yards: 207
Rushing Yards: 91
Turnovers: 2.7
Passing Yards Allowed: 268
Rushing Yards Allowed: 114
Takeaways: 1.3

*Opponent's Winning Pct is based on every team's current record, as of Dec 15, not what their record was when they played the Broncos.

And here are those same statistics in the games Tebow's started:

Record: 7-1
Opponent's Winning Pct: .453
Points Scored: 20.9
Points Allowed: 19.8
Passing Yards: 137
Rushing Yards: 191
Turnovers: 1.1
Passing Yards Allowed: 214
Rushing Yards Allowed: 129
Takeaways: 1.3

A few things jump out right away. Of course the records are much different, as Tebow has brought the Broncos into first place in their division. What really surprised me was the winning percentage of the opponents the Broncos have played while Tebow's been under center.

With Orton, the Broncos did indeed go 1-4, but aside from getting blown out by the Packers the Broncos were in every other game down the stretch. Fourth quarter comebacks have long been considered a skill by those who work inside of football, while others who like to use stats have always wondered if it was indeed a skill or just a matter of circumstance. If you've always believed that some people are clutch and some people aren't, plain and simple, then the Broncos season would seem to support that argument. Tim Tebow continues to win incredibly close games, while Kyle Orton had a knack for losing incredibly close games. But it's important to remember that at least for this season, Orton's comeback attempts were against better teams. That doesn't mean Tebow would have failed, because we've learned not to doubt the kid, but it does make a difference.

Looking further into the stats, it's clear that the Broncos defense is not "influenced" by Tim Tebow. They aren't playing a lot better with Tebow leading the offense; the only defensive statistic that is considerably improved since Tebow took over is points allowed per game. With Orton, the Broncos were allowing more than 29 points per game. With Tebow, it's fallen 10 points to under 20. Some would say that's because the defense is "playing harder" for Tebow. I disagree. The defense is playing about as well as they were at the beginning of the season, getting the same amount of takeaways and allowing a similar amount of total yards, but the major difference is the Broncos rushing attack. Opponents simply aren't getting as many possessions, or short fields off turnovers, like they were with Orton in the game. Another reason is that the opponents haven't been as good, so naturally they won't score as many points as better teams.

While the Denver offense doesn't throw the ball well with Tebow, the fact is they weren't throwing the ball all that well with Kyle Orton playing either. The Broncos have sacrificed 80 yards per game in the passing game by switching to Tebow, but their offense has gained 100 yards rushing. For a team that was already among the league's worst in passing yards per game, it made a lot of sense to switch to Tebow and at least try to lead the league in rushing. The Broncos offense is extremely old-school, but it's working in large part because the team has consistently been running over teams.

I can't explain Tebow's fourth quarter comebacks. Logic would dictate that it can't keep happening; he can't always come through in the 4th quarter of a close game, right? I think it's a combination of Tebow's abilities and determination, but I also think the Broncos have been greatly helped by a weak schedule. Simply put, it's a lot easier to lead a game winning drive against the 4-9 Miami Dolphins than it is the Baltimore Ravens in January.

The Broncos made a colossal mistake letting Kyle Orton start the season as the starter, especially after the team was an abysmal 2-10 last season when he started. Despite all the "experts" saying Orton looked better in training camp, the fact was we had years of data to suggest Kyle Orton wasn't going to win football games for the Broncos. Nobody could have predicted Tebow would lead them to this many wins, and there's at least a chance the team would still be 8-5 even if Tebow started from day one, but to not give him the starting job after what Kyle Orton had done last season was wrong at the time and looks even sillier today.

Tebow has a big task this week. If he can lead the Broncos to a win against the New England Patriots, more and more critics will disappear. To this point the Broncos have a lot of thrilling wins, but they haven't beaten a true contender yet. Getting shellacked by both the Packers and Lions, arguably the two best teams they've played all year, isn't a good sign for the playoffs. But if they can defeat the Patriots, they'll have to be considered a Super Bowl contender.

Tebow might not be Jesus Christ, and God might not care if the Broncos win or lose, but I think even those two would enjoy watching Tim Tebow on Super Bowl Sunday. I know us mortals would love it.


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