Oh hello, trolling headline asking an open-ended question. Have you drawn Tim Tebowmaniacs to this page? No? Well, let’s carry on anyway.

Earlier this morning Gary Myers of the New York Daily News reported that Tebow pushed to come to New York instead of Jacksonville because with the Jets he sees a clear path towards passing Mark Sanchez, and resuming his career as a starter. Whether or not Tebow actually had any input on his future NFL place of employment remains up for debate, with Tebow saying that it was entirely the Broncos’ decision, and John Elway maintaining that Denver’s management was in contact with Camp Tebow throughout the negotiating process.

But let’s set aside those squabbles for a moment, mostly because in this discussion they’re irrelevant. Tebow is in New York now, and if we believe Myers’ report, he’s quite confident in his ability to make Sanchez stand on the sidelines and watch him throw wobbly passes.

Sanchez’s contract could make this a short post, because realistically the five year, $58.5 million deal he recently signed off on with $20.5 million guaranteed does more than just secure his status as a rich New York baller and shot caller for a while. It also guarantees that barring a truly historic collapse, he’ll be the starting quarterback next year, although with Tebow in place as the wildcat captain, the Jets can easily pull Sanchez without really pulling him.

But forget about the finances. We want to know who is the better quarterback, and who would win a true competition if one were to ever take place.

The answer is that it’d be pretty much a dead heat, which is a strong statement on Sanchez’s career, and his regression last year.

Let’s sit down for some real talk here for a second, although I’m not sure why you were standing up. At this point in their respective careers and with the seasons both quarterbacks just finished, the Jets aren’t realistically looking at either of the QBs atop their depth chart as elite passers. They’re seeking efficiency, and calculated, careful control. Until either arm shows more improvement and consistency in the pocket, they’re looking for an Alex Smith imitation, and with Tom Moore still on staff as a quarterback consultant, there’s still hope for progression.

To do that, the quarterback at the helm of the Jets’ offense needs to make every pass attempt matter, and he needs to come through in the clutch. With some number crunching and scouring help from intern and new GLS family member Devang Desai, we tried to define that very vague, elusive category of clutchness. The most basic definition falls under a few areas:

1. Again, how efficient is the quarterback with each pass?

2. How many mistakes does he make?

3. Can he be relied on to win a close game?

The sample size is clearly small with Tebow, so we used only the 2011 season while comparing him to Sanchez. To gauge the efficiency/inefficiency of Sanchez and Tebow, we looked at the percentage of their throws that were either touchdowns or interceptions. Ideally that would produce a reflection of their ability to manage a game, and as Smith demonstrated with the 49ers, that’s a core foundation, and one Sanchez is lacking.

Player Pass Attempts Completion % TD % P/Attempt INT P/Attempt 4th Q Comebacks GW Drives
Tim Tebow 271 46.5 4.4 2.2 6 7
Mark Sanchez 543 56.7 4.8 3.3 4 4

Tebow attempted far fewer passes overall, and fewer of those passes arrived at their intended target. Tebow’s lack of attempts makes the two about even in interceptions per attempt, since it’s unfair to downgrade Sanchez when he threw 272 more times. And considering Tebow’s reputation as the fourth quarter miracle man, there’s surprisingly little separation in the comebacks and games won on the final drive.

Maybe we’ll see a larger difference if we only look at games where there was a gap of seven points or less in the fourth quarter…

Final Margin 0-7 Attempts Completion % TD% P/Attempt INT P/Attempt
Tebow 244 47.3 4.5 2.2
Sanchez 184 57.6 6 3.8

When it mattered most, Denver took the leash off of Tebow and he was allowed to pass more often. After trailing Sanchez dramatically in overall attempts, he now has a sizable lead in throws when the game ends with a winning margin of seven points or less. And while he was chucking in those close games, Tebow was much more careful than Sanchez, throwing 1.6 interceptions less on a per attempt basis.

A more broad look at the fourth quarter should settle this…

Fourth Quarter Pass Attempts Completion % TD % P/Attempt INT % P/Attempt QB rating
Tebow 124 54 4.8 3.2 84
Sanchez 148 54.1 6.8 3.4 83.6

The difference in attempts is again minimal compared to Sanchez’s overall lead in that area, and so is the interceptions per attempt. Sanchez holds the advantage in touchdowns, but what’s remarkable is that Tebow–a quarterback who completed 46.5 percent of his passes overall throughout the season, and had two games when he completed less than 30 percent–is nearly tied with Sanchez in fourth quarter completion percentage.

Tebow’s passer rating jumps significantly in the fourth quarter too after it was 72.9 overall, and so does Sanchez’s (78.2 overall). Still, the fact that Tebow is ahead is damning for Sanchez.

That’s the overall theme here. They’re close, and far too close for Sanchez to be comfortable.