How Does Tebow Compare Statistically with Every 2013/2014 NFL (Playoff) Team? (TKS Mascot Army)

Five simple charts provide rare clarity on Tim Tebow’s place in the NFL.  Using 2013 NFL regular season game data, Tebow’s performance is ranked against every NFL team, with an emphasis on playoff berths.

 

Why is a physicist writing about Tebow?  Well, this physicist is a sports fan, and a HUGE Tebow fan.  I’ve seen every snap he’s taken since he began college, and my family and I spent time with him a few years ago in Tampa.  The current state of the Tebow debate has frustrated me to no end.  I was happy enough waiting for somebody else to make the following case, but it never happened.  So reluctantly, I compiled and crunched the numbers as a physicist does.  The results were so obvious, that I felt obligated to write this article sharing these data that conflict so strongly with conventional wisdom; people don’t know what they think they know.

Tim Tebow, with an abysmally low completion %, made the playoffs; it happened. Hand-waving explanations ranging from Denver’s defense to divine intervention have been discussed. Most of these are anecdotal, subjective, and easily dismissed by anybody with a differing opinion (e.g. everyone with a television). There has been one outstanding analysis done by Cold Hard Football Facts using their Real QBR metric (see here and also here), but it requires readers to be fairly comfortable with numbers in order to fully appreciate the case being made. Instead, this article features five straightforward charts comparing Tebow’s average game performance to every team during the 2013 NFL season for a few simply understood statistics.  The strength of the relationship between these statistics and making the playoffs will be obvious to all but the very slowest of learners; remember that for all five charts, green bars are playoff teams and better performance is to the left…then see where Tebow ranks (he’s the blue bar).

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The first chart (Figure 1) shows team completion % for 2013. This inevitably comes to the forefront in every Tebow discussion, and is also often the last word. You’ll see that playoff teams generally have a better completion % (with some notable exceptions), and Tebow is completely to the right, with a ridiculously low value. If Figure 1 told the whole story, Denver’s 2011 playoff berth was nothing short of a miracle. This chart illustrates the lion’s share of the reasoning behind so many of the ubiquitous absolutely certain public declarations that Tebow has no business playing QB in the NFL. Figures 2 through 5 illustrate why completion % is an incomplete, superficial, and misleading measure.  This is the point in this story where readers who already know everything might want to stop reading.

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Figure 2 shows the passing yards per pass attempt (NOT per completion). This statistic clearly correlates with playoff berths, and correlates better than completion %.  When a player has simultaneously high passing yards per attempt AND low completion %, it tells you that he was taking more (inherently lower percentage) shots down the field than most other teams. Anybody who watched Tebow in Denver knows this. There’s little doubt that Tebow’s completion % would have been higher had he attempted a more usual number of short passes. One might also wonder if it matters. Regardless of how uncomfortable some readers may now feel, Tebow making the playoffs is no surprise when considering where he falls on this chart.

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Figure 3 shows interceptions per attempt; here Tebow excels. Again, teams that made the playoffs in 2013 had far better values than non-playoff teams. This is a far more fair comparison than simply counting interceptions because it doesn’t penalize teams that throw more often (“per attempt” does not benefit Tebow, and he still shines). Tebow was careful with the ball, and although it may have cost him some completions, it protected him from throwing interceptions. It’s worth noting here that many highlights used to illustrate Tebow’s passing inaccuracy, were actually intentionally (and legally) grounded. He was taught to “beach it” if he saw the defense approaching his target (you can watch John Fox talking about this here).

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Interceptions per completion (Figure 4) is a combination of how careful a QB is with the ball, QB accuracy, and decision-making. As with the other charts, playoff teams are noticeably better here than non-playoff teams. As before, Tebow’s performance here is playoff caliber.  A merely inaccurate QB would err in throwing closer to a defender as often as away from him, giving him no advantage on this chart.

The statistics discussed above all strongly coincide with the likelihood of a team’s making the playoffs, and yet completion % virtually guarantees that Tebow would be the last quarterback to ever make the playoffs; this not only differs from the other (more strongly correlating) metrics mentioned, but also with NFL playoff history. The mismatch between Tebow’s playoff berth and the traditional view of completion % is understandably bewildering. However, with a little thought, it becomes less so. Anybody who has watched Tebow play understands that he often runs when traditional QBs might throw a check-down pass. By keeping the ball and running instead of throwing a check-down, Tebow accomplishes two things. First, he extends plays, creating opportunities for longer passing routes to develop while simultaneously forcing defenses to choose between covering a pass and a run. Second, he isn’t attempting the high percentage throws that tend to inflate a non-running QB’s completion %. What if Tebow’s rushes were reasonably considered as completed check-downs? How would that alternative completion % rank? This is similar to the thinking used by the Cold Hard Football Facts Real QBR analysis.

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Figure 5 shows Tebow’s alternative completion % fitting in perfectly with most playoff caliber teams (>60%). If readers are questioning whether or not this treatment is legitimate, they should consider the following. If it is legitimate, history and statistics live in perfect, predictable harmony, where playoff expectations are met; there is no magic or mystery interfering with the NFL postseason. On the other hand, if it is not legitimate, readers must accept historical playoff anomalies, and justify these bizarre aberrations with unmistakable statistical cherry-picking. There is only one intellectually consistent option…that Tebow played well enough to bring a team into the playoffs.

The figures considered above reveal that Tebow has proven himself to be not only an NFL caliber QB, but very likely a playoff caliber NFL QB. He did so in his first 16 NFL starts, after the NFL lockout, without having previously practiced with the first team, in a new and predictable offense cobbled together mid-season, with inexperienced WRs among the league leaders in drops, on the second worst team from the prior year, led by the guy who coached the worst team the year before, and under media scrutiny typically reserved for celebrity murderers. On the other hand, and to be fair, Tony Sparano couldn’t find a way to use him effectively…so there’s that.

Remarkably, this playoff caliber performance IS THE MOST INEXPERIENCED AND RAW THAT TEBOW WILL EVER BE AT QB! He’s just spent an entire season outside of the NFL, working solely on his mechanics and footwork with Tom House (a guy who works with Tom Brady and Drew Brees). Even once detractor Trent Dilfer has been impressed by and has endorsed the new and improved Tebow (a playoff caliber NFL QB is now new and improved!). And yet, Tebow’s sitting at home while the teams who proudly (and comically) turned their noses up at the thought of signing him miss the playoffs, fire their coaches and GMs, and consider taking the college QB flavor-of-the-month with their well-deserved choice draft picks instead of on a position with less bust potential. Tebow is undeniably worthy to start at QB in the NFL, and many teams would instantly improve by signing him.  The real question is if the four horsemen of obstinance (i.e. groupthink, risk-aversion, pride, and cognitive dissonance) will prove too great a foe to reason; I pray for reason’s triumph.

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9 Responses to “How Does Tebow Compare Statistically with Every 2013/2014 NFL (Playoff) Team? (TKS Mascot Army)”

  1. David Oliver says:

    WOW ! TRUTH – ALL TEBOW HATERS – WORST NIGHTMARE ! – GREAT JOB – !

    Also – another viewpoint..? Tim Tebow Rumors: Could Denver Broncos Have Won Super Bowl XLVIII Over Seattle Seahawks With Former QB Over Peyton Manning?

    http://www.sportsworldreport.com/articles/27053/20140202/tim-tebow-rumors-denver-broncos-won-super-bowl-xlviii-over.htm

  2. shaztah says:

    Brandy has been saying this all along. GREAT article!

    http://touch.orlandosentinel.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-79168103/

    • Brandi says:

      As usual, a really good article from Mike Bianchi. I’ve been saying for a couple years that Tim Tebow is bigger than the NFL. He’s bigger than the NFL in the US and he’s HUGELY bigger Internationally…where the NFL NEEDS him most, as the League has no viable Business Plan if they can’t create a Global Market. (They’ve already pushed their Business Plan back by 5 years, which translates into about $40 Billion in lost Revenues. Why NFL Owners haven’t slapped their worthless, easily replaced Front Office people around is absolutely mind-boggling. These clowns have already cost the Owners as much or more than the Total Asset Value of the entire League.)

      This is the part that should infuriate Fans most. He’s “Black Listed” BECAUSE he’s so Popular. No Pro Sports League in the Free World has EVER done anything like this before. (None has ever had the combination of Arrogance and Stupidity required to do anything this insane.)

  3. ck says:

    Thanks again, Mascot as this is G-R-E-A-T!!!:D On a lighter note, here is something I found online that is true/funny…”Papa John’s announces a new Payton Manning Pizza: The Payton Manning Arti-CHOKE Pizza” LOL!!!

  4. The Mascot Army says:

    Thanks! This site, and its posters are awesome.

  5. tawk2 says:

    Love the way you broke this down Mascot! Now if only the owners, Gm’s and coaches would take this to the bank and give Tebow a shot!

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