The Playbook Abides: Tebow(etheus) Unbound - Part 4

Broncos, Gators, and Tebow fans of the world, unite!  This is our final installment of Tebow(etheus) Unbound.

Today we're looking at Tebow's final four throws (13-16) from Sunday's game.

You can go back and read Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 if you'd like.  Or jump right into today's breakdance breakdown.  At the end of today's piece, as an added bonus, I gathered my summary thoughts on Tebow.  I thought it was time to finally take a stand on him.

For those Raiders fans who can't read wait until the end, I'll put it this way:  I think the guy can play.

Yes, after watching all of his throws from last Sunday dozens and dozens of times, I'm pushing all of my chips to the center of the table and I'm betting on Tebow.  Sure, he didn't play with more than a quarter of the playbook.  Sure, the sample size was small.  Sure, he's going to struggle like other rookies have.  And sure, the easiest thing to do is to sit on the fence so that I can later claim I was right about Tebow, no matter what direction the Broncos go.  But after watching each of these throws dozens of times, I'm confident in his abilities to be the Broncos' quarterback of the future.

I don't say that lightly.  Many folks read my thoughts the day Tebow was drafted.  I thought the pick was ridiculous.  I listened to all the draft experts explain to me why Tebow was destined to be a glorified tight end.  And I believed them.  Even as late as last week, I was wondering if the Broncos ought not try and do everything in their power to draft Andrew Luck.

Those draft experts were wrong.  So was I.

My apologies, Mr. Tebow.  Carry on.

Pass 13

When: 13:53 of the 4th Quarter

Where: Denver's 25-yard line

Down & Distance: 2nd and 9

The Dope: Oakland was now leading 30-20.  The Broncos needed to score quickly, but showed a run-heavy 122 personnel package (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR).  They came out in a single back or "Ace" formation with trips to the right.  

I believe Brandon Lloyd (84) was likely the primary receiver, while Jabar Gaffney (10) was the secondary option.

Tebow Pass 13

What Tebow Saw:  This late in the game and with a ten-point lead in hand, the Raiders began playing more deep zone coverage.  Tebow (15) could easily see the two safeties playing 2-deep and that the linebackers were already playing well off the line of scrimmage.  It's likely he knew Lloyd would be doubled on his "go" route before the snap of the ball.

The Happening:  Tebow gave a great ball fake to Lance Ball (35) and took what amounted to a seven-step drop.  He quickly looked to Lloyd up top, but saw that Lloyd had no chance against the double team.  Gaffney, however, had separation on his deep "cross."  Tebow then threw a very nice touch pass over Gaffney's shoulder.  The result of the play was a 32-yard gain.

The Bottom Line: Tebow did everything right here.  He gave a great ball fake and his footwork was solid.  He stood tall in the pocket and delivered with perfect touch.  And I believe that Gaffney was his secondary receiver on the play (although it's almost impossible to know with 100% assurance). 

Grade:  A

Pass 14

When: 11:10 of the 4th Quarter

Where: Oakland's 30-yard line

Down & Distance: 2nd and 8

The Dope:  The Broncos were still down 20-30 at this point in the game, but continued with their two-TE set.  To be honest, this call was brutal - the play only gave Tebow two receivers to choose from.  The idea was that Lloyd would run a "stop-and-go" route and get behind the defense.

Tebow Pass 14

What Tebow Saw:  When Tebow got to the line of scrimmage, his pre-snap read should have been screaming classic zone coverage on his primary receiver.  The cornerback was playing off the line of scrimmage at least 8 yards.  And he saw the free safety "high" over the top.  I'm confident he knew before he even snapped the ball this play was going nowhere.  If only Mike McCoy would have given Tebow the ability to audible to a better passing play, we might have known just how good Tebow's football IQ was on this play.  

The Happening:  Tebow gave an average ball fake to Lance Ball, then zeroed in on Lloyd.  The Raiders simply dropped into their zone coverages.  Lloyd had no chance and was essentially double covered.  Tebow briefly glanced at Gaffney, but he was doubled as well by the free safety and the linebacker.  So Tebow simply threw the ball over Lloyd's head and out of bounds.

The Bottom Line:  This was a bad call against zone coverage.  There was no chance for this play to work.  Tebow did the right thing in throwing the ball away.

Grade: B (Tebow had nothing to work with here)

Pass 15

When: 3:31 of the 4th Quarter

Where: Denver's 31-yard line

Down & Distance: 1st and 10

The Dope:  At this point, the Broncos were down 23-39.  They finally decided to return to their 113 personnel package, although they did go max protection out of the gun.    Lloyd was the primary receiver on a middle-level "out" pattern.

Tebow 15

What Tebow Saw:  The Raiders were playing deep-zone coverage, so going deep wasn't an option here.  The right cornerback, however, was playing tight man coverage on Eric Decker (87).  Tebow had good reason to believe this pass would be successful because the Raiders were giving up the short pass out of this zone coverage.

The Happening:  Tebow zeroed in on Lloyd, pump-faked once to him, lowered the ball, and then threw a pass to Lloyd for about six yards.  It appeared as though he didn't get all he wanted on the ball and threw too much with his arm on the play.  It seemed like a slightly dangerous throw after locking onto Lloyd during the entirety of the play.  However, the ball was placed very accurately.

The Bottom Line:  Tebow regressed on this play.  He locked onto Lloyd with his eyes and didn't seem comfortable.  He didn't get as much as he wanted on the ball.  Still, his accuracy was impeccable.

Grade: D

Pass 16

When: 3:10 of the 4th Quarter

Where: Denver's 36-yard line

Down & Distance: 2nd and 5

The Dope:  At this point, the Broncos were in hurry-up mode.  Tebow seemed somewhat in a daze.  I'm sure his head was spinning.  The Broncos left their 113 personnel out on the field and went max protection yet again.  

Either Lloyd or Decker was probably the primary receiver on this play, although from the tape I could not see their exact routes (here I show them as "go" routes).  At this point, the Broncos were just trying to get anything they could get.

Tebow Pass 16

What Tebow Saw:  The Raiders were in full prevent mode and showed nothing but deep-zone coverage.  Tebow would have had no trouble with this pre-snap read.

The Happening:  Tebow looked down the field to his primary receivers.  They were covered.  He checked down to Daniel Graham (89) out of the backfield.  The ball was slightly overthrown, but catchable.  The result was an incomplete pass.

The Bottom Line:  Tebow took what the defense gave him, although one could argue he should have taken a shot down the field in this situation.  However, he went through his reads and checked down as I'm sure the coaches wanted him to.  He loses points for the overthrow.

Grade: C

The Afterglow

I've been asked by a few of you what I learned by breaking down all of these throws.  Although I think it's a little premature to draw any definitive conclusions about Tebow based on such a discreet sample size and unimaginative game plan, I'll try to dip my toe into the water and give you some general impressions:

1) Tebow's arm mechanics are adequate.  Tebow still dips the ball more than one would like.  But the idea that his delivery is so slow and so long as to prevent him from getting the ball off in a timely manner is silly.  Yes, there will be a play or two in which we'll wish Tebow had Dan Marino's legendary quick release.  However, there will be plays he'll make with his feet that will more than make up for the others. 

2) Tebow's arm is stronger than I thought.  After watching all of this tape, I went back to the combine and took a look at the hand sizes of all the quarterbacks who entered the 2010 Draft.  And you know what?  Tebow's hand's are huge - far bigger than any of the other quarterbacks drafted last year:

  • Tim Tebow: 10 1/8 inches
  • John Skelton: 9 3/4 inches
  • Sam Bradford: 9 1/2 inches
  • Colt McCoy: 9 3/8 inches
  • Jimmy Clausen: 9 inches

Laugh if you want, but this is a bigger deal than you might think; it helps Tebow's throws.  From what I saw on tape, Tebow has no problem with the deep-out pattern or throwing the ball 50 yards with a simple flick of the wrist.  Those who thought Tebow floated the ball on his first-quarter touchdown pass to Lloyd are mistaken.  He was dropping the ball into the basket.  As Nnamdi Asomugha said after the game, "He was on the money."  

3) Tebow has learned to play under center.  Tebow wasn't perfect, but I saw nothing on tape that leads me to believe Tebow will have trouble transitioning to playing under center.  It appeared as if he had one bad center exchange, but other than that, things went smoothly.  Moreover, despite what you've probably read in the national media, he took several 5- and 7-step drops.  I don't know where people have gotten the idea that he was taking only 3-step drops all game.  It's simply not true.

4) Tebow does look off the safety and does progress through reads.  This is probably the most premature statement I'm making today,  but we did see evidence of Tebow going through his progressions.  This is way more than I expected to see out of him in his first game.  Waaaay waaaay more.  

5) Tebow is not Mike Vick, but he's no Kyle Orton.  Tebow learned on Sunday that he won't be outrunning cornerbacks to the edge in the NFL with 4.7 speed.  However, once he develops into a pocket passer, he's going to make 12- or 15-yard gains as the defense is chasing receivers down the field and he's breaking the pocket.

6) The game plan was probably what Tebow needed.  Much has been made about the conservative playcalling on Sunday, and  I agree that it was conservative.  But I'm not necessarily upset about it.  The Broncos' coaching staff eased Tebow into the offense on Sunday and he handled it well.  We'll see how he handles a bigger workload on Sunday against Houston.  For perspective's sake, Philip Rivers only attempted 11 passes in his first NFL start, which didn't come until his third season.  Aaron Rodgers only threw 22 passes in his first start, and that occurred in his fourth year in the league.  Those two QBs seem to be the standard bearers for not starting right away.  If so, the Broncos' coaching staff followed an appropriate model.

The national story is that Tebow was like a good bowl of porridge--neither too hot nor too cold.  But I disagree.  After watching these throws a dozen or more times, I believe Tebow played very well in his first rookie start.  Yes, I know he didn't have a lot of 4-receiver sets, and it remains to be seen how well he'll do when they "unleash" him with a full playbook.  But Tebow has made amazing strides since the preseason; I think he'll handle it as he has everything else.

Unless we just witnessed his ceiling (which we surely did not), I believe the Broncos have their future quarterback right now.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I just read they are showing a double feature of Showgirls and G.I. Jane on Christmas Eve.

As always, feel free to provide your own thoughts on Tebow.  Am I crazy?  Or crazy like a Dude?

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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