Tim Tebow, a comparison

There’s a cult of Tim Tebow apologists. They’re primarily located in Denver, and despite their stubborn resilience their numbers may have dwindled somewhat over the past two weeks, and especially over the past 24 hours.

I am not a member of this cult, mostly because I restrict myself to participating in only two cults. But I’ve remained fascinated by it, and often confused. While the concept of a losing franchise placing an abundance of hope on the shoulders of one young man is certainly common in sports, it feels different with Tebow. Maybe that’s because of the religious aspect, or maybe it’s his reputation as the clean-cut good guy.

No one really knows, and no one wants to know. We’re quite happy either hating or loving mindlessly, and there’s nothing wrong with being polarized by a polarizing figure. It creates discussion and promotes analytical debate around a central target who plays in a league that doesn’t need a place to direct its daily coverage, but will gladly pounce on one anyway.

But when the watchmen on each end on Tebow’s polar divide keep relentlessly tugging to reach further extremes, the result is outlandish statements and accusations. Last night those came in the form of Mark Kiszla’s column in the Denver Post that’s now been linked on this blog three times today (if links were completions we could make Tebow’s Hall of Fame bust now).

In his writing Kiszla argued that Tebow isn’t an NFL quarterback, and then later during a radio appearance with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd he went further, saying that Tebow is the worst quarterback in the NFL. This kind of reaction is expected, and both points could very likely be proven correct in the near future. But that doesn’t make the waffling opinion held by Kiszla and many others any less frustrating.

Technically Tebow isn’t a rookie, but in his mind and body he is following a locked out offseason that barred him from contact with coaches. So a rookie just made his fifth career NFL start Sunday, and we’re already confidently declaring him a colossal failure?

Tebow was terrible yesterday, and terrible for all but five minutes last week. But from Cam Newton to Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger we’ve been saturated with young arms who achieve some degree of immediate success, and we forget that being a rookie quarterback in this league isn’t supposed to be easy.

So here’s a little quiz, the kind where I list anonymous players to reveal a surprising link or a previously overlooked trend. Below is a set of statistics for the first five starts for five quarterbacks selected in the first round over the past five years (we like symmetry). One is Tebow, and that should be pretty obvious. Then there’s a bust, a Pro Bowler and a rookie of the year, and a quarterback who’s currently second in passing touchdowns this season.

Comp % Passing TD INT Passing Yards Rushing Yards Rushing TD Fumbles
Quarterback A 48.2 7 4 984 321 3 5
Quarterback B 51.5 3 5 884 46 0 2
Quarterback C 54.0 3 7 1,062 54 2 2
Quarterback D 54.2 4 3 863 50 0 1

If you haven’t concluded that Tebow is Quarterback A yet, please consult your nearest Where’s Waldo book and do not stop searching until you’ve completed it cover-to-cover. Tebow’s completion percentage is inferior, while his running ability is far superior. Not surprised by this? You shouldn’t be.

But with Tebow’s reputation as a quarterback with poor mechanics, arm strength, and accuracy, he somehow still has fewer interceptions over his first five games than Matthew Stafford (C), and more yardage than Matt Ryan (D). The bust is Brady Quinn (B), and overall there isn’t a wide, cavernous gap between any of the four young arms, again with the exception of Tebow’s running ability.

If we can put Quinn, Stafford, and Ryan side-by-side without seeing a blatant contrast after five games, what’s the need for a rush to judgment on Tebow?