Defining Tebow: Winner or Fluke?

No, this isn't about the Colts. And yes, you've probably heard enough about Tim Tebow to last a lifetime. But, the Colts had a bye week, and Tebow is an intriguing character. So, continue if you'd like, move along if you'd rather gouge your eyes out than hear any more on Tim Tebow.

Before I go any farther, I'd like to make something very clear.

Tim Tebow is not an NFL-caliber quarterback.

I apologize to any Denver, Florida, or simply Tim Tebow fans, but it seems clear that Tebow is unlikely to ever develop into a legitimate NFL quarterback, that least, in any conventional sense of the word.

Tebow has a career completion percentage of 46.9%, and has only completed more than 50% of his passes in one game, last year's 24-23 win over Houston (55.2%). In five starts this year, he's completed 13, 18, 10, 2, and 9 passes. He's generating an abysmal 5.7 Y/A, and has been sacked 15 times.

He's shaky in the pocket, has an incredibly long throwing motion, is inaccurate, and in short, lacks all of the attributes of an elite quarterback. He is not, and likely never will be, a very good quarterback.

But he's a heckuva football player. 

Despite all his flaws, against all conventional wisdom, the Tim Tebow-led Broncos are winning. After going 1-4 before the bye, the Broncos turned to the former Florida Gator with a cult-like following. Since then, they've gone 4-1, and sit a half game behind Oakland for the division lead, who they beat two weeks ago behind 118 rushing yards from Tebow, along with two passing touchdowns.

Of course, the Broncos' success doesn't just lie in Tebow. As much, if not more, of the credit belongs to the Denver defense, who've kept the games close and allowed the Broncos to win 3 of their 4 games with less than 20 points on offense. Von Miller in particular has been incredible, and now has 9.5 sacks on the season. With him and Elvis Dumervil teaming up (3.5 sacks in the last three games), opposing quarterbacks are on the run, which doesn't work so well for QBs not named Tebow or Vick.

But Tebow has been the catalyst to this run, and with another game winning performance against the Jets on Thursday nights, Tebow adds to his growing legacy.

Last week, Tebow hit Eric Decker on a beautifully thrown 56-yard touchdown pass for what turned out to be the winning points  with just under seven minutes left in the game (one of his two completed passes on the day). Thursday night, Denver's option offense sputtered for most of the night, with Tebow going 7-16 for 77 yards before the final drive. But down 13-10, he brought the magic, capping off a 95 yard drive with a 20 yard touchdown run with just a minute left in the game.

Yes, the Broncos defense has been very good, but do the Broncos win that game without Tebow in the game for that last drive? Darrelle Revis doesn't think so:

“He ended up driving on us. He did it. Tim Tebow did it. He shocked me; he probably shocked a lot of people, but he did it.”

The Broncos record despite Tebow's underwhelming numbers has inspired a variety of labels for Tebow, including: clutch, a winner, a gamer, competitive, and more. It inspires memories of a similar situation, Vince Young.

Young, like Tebow, was a running quarterback, limited by mediocre (bad) passing abilities (although he always had better stats than Tebow did). He came in as a rookie in 2006, starting 13 games after the team opened 0-3. The Titans went 8-5 for the rest of the season, and Young went to the Pro Bowl, despite only completing 51.5% of his passes, throwing 13 interceptions (compared to just 12 TDs), and averaging 6.2 Y/A. The season was highlighted by an improbable comeback win over the Giants, where Young led the game winning drive. He was 9-6 as a starter in 2007, and the Titans went to the playoffs. Eventually, the Titans grew tired of his inconsistent play, and he would share time with Kerry Collins for the rest of his time in Tennessee.

From a distance, Tebow's upside-down career looks eerily like Young's, but a closer look reveals some key differences.

First, Young was a turnover machine, throwing 43 interceptions (and 42 TDs) so far in his career. Tebow on the other hand, plays relatively mistake-free football (albeit unspectacular), throwing just one interception so far this year, compared to seven touchdowns.

Second, and probably most importantly, is character. Young turned out to be a toxic force in Tennessee's locker room, finding himself in headline after headline (and not for on-field success) by the end of his time in Tennessee had created a notable feud with longtime coach Jeff Fisher. Tebow has always had the respect of his teammates, is a hard worker, and has a leadership to him that Young seemed to lack. I can't claim an intimate knowledge of either situations, but from the sentiments that have come out of either locker room, I'd put money on  Tebow being the leader.

Obviously that doesn't necessarily translate into on-field success, and the fact that Tebow isn't a very good quarterback isn't off-set by his intangibles.

But, for now, Tebow is 4-1 for the season, and 5-3 on his career. If the Broncos continue to win, the talk will continue. If Tebow continues to do things like running for the game-winning 20-yard touchdown, his legend will continue to grow.

Right now, I don't know if he can have a successful career in this league. History doesn't bode well for him, but that doesn't mean it's out of the question. So far, him starting at quarterback has been effective for the Broncos, simply because even though he's a bad quarterback, he's a good leader, and a good football player.

Tim Tebow likely will never develop into a franchise quarterback. In fact, he may never even become an above average one. But maybe that's okay.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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