‘Playbook’ Mailbag: Tim Tebow Day

We felt a little like “Dear Abby” this week. There were a lot of really nicely worded, in-depth e-mails from some very knowledgeable, yet slightly distressed, fans this week.

Hard to choose one to focus on, but like everyone else in the football world right now, we turn to the quarterback generating a lot of attention – and we are willing to be the dog fascinated by the squirrel for just this instance.

If Miami’s Sun Life Stadium is willing to memorialize Tim Tebow with a day in his honor – OK, it was Florida Gator Day – why can’t we answer one question about him ourselves, right?

After Tebow’s first start of the season Sunday, one of our best questions came from a Patriots fan, named Tom.

Hello,

Lots of talk about Tim Tebow, with everyone making up their mind already. I am waiting to see more before I make up my mind. That being said, this is what I see.

(Please keep in mind, I only see the TV view, not the coaches’ tape)

  • His progression looks like it is first receiver, then look to run.
  • When he runs, he doesn’t always pick good lanes; he runs into traffic.
  • He doesn’t seem to know where the rush is coming from, or what his protection is doing for him.
  • I don’t think he reads defenses well.

My question is two parts:

  • First – is this an accurate appraisal?
  • Second – if it is, can it be fixed?

Love the show; have a fine Patriots day,

Tom

Great analysis, Tom. We might just have to find you a job on our research staff.

We hate dogging players early in their careers, too, especially quarterbacks, who often take years to reach their full potential. But we aren’t going to make you wait that long for our analysis.

Here’s what we have seen on tape, dating back to his rookie season in 2010.

1)      First receiver covered = Tebow runs

Every play has a first read built in, which the coverage usually dictates. If the coverage isn’t vanilla, it seems on tape like Tebow really has a hard time recognizing what it is and where to go with the football. His initial receiver can sometimes be the wrong one, according to the coverage. Whether the receiver is open or not, he has a tendency to abandon his read altogether – not always knowing what he is looking at.

From the snap to the top of his drop, he struggles to declare coverage because he doesn’t see the field well, and that explains the ball constantly being late coming out. He still isn’t comfortable going through full progressions, so he relies on one of his greatest strengths – his athleticism and ability to run.

2)     When Tebow runs, he doesn’t pick good lanes

In the NFL, running lanes aren’t always going to be there, for a runner or a quarterback. And for a quarterback like Tebow, when his focus leaves down the field, it is tough at times for him to navigate through the chaos of a collapsing pocket.

It’s a lack of pocket awareness that can bring him into the muck. He’s a better runner when things are designed for him to do so.

3)     He doesn’t seem to know where the rush is coming from

From what we see on tape – him ducking and weaving and spinning around the pocket – he doesn’t seem to know where the rush is coming from. And that might just be a manifestation of his lack of comfort reading defenses, in general. He doesn’t feel pressure, whether it’s from a four-man rush or a blitz. More experienced quarterbacks are able to just feel it and subtly maneuver to make a throw in rhythm.

Can this all be fixed? While we can’t look into Mr. Tebow’s soul and see if he has what it takes – even though everyone is trying to act like they can – we see no reason why he can’t learn and work on his deficiencies as a passer (much has been made of his throwing motion, for example). Whether he will become an efficient NFL starter is another thing entirely. Some traits, when you get to this level, are set in stone. But he’s a kid, so let’s at least set next year as his make-or-break season. Young quarterbacks usually get three years before they are truly able to be evaluated.

Think we said it all – not that you won’t hear a ton more about Tebow, whether he continues to starts or not.

“Playbook” -— the ultimate football Xs and Os show -— airs Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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