Commentary

The case for Tim Tebow

Why does Tebow need to be a great passer now to be a good NFL quarterback?

Originally Published: August 17, 2011
By Chris Sprow | ESPN Insider
Tim TebowRic Tapia/Icon SMITim Tebow is still raw as a passer, but he adds enough value with his legs to overcome that.

This is what you expected, right?

Here you have a young quarterback perpetually impatient with the play, ready to trust his legs as much as a good throwing lane and unafraid of a hit in a way that terrifies his coaches, and he could get pushed into the starting role -- at least partially, you could argue -- because of his name. He's had a few starts, so there's little to project off of. "At first, he wanted to run every time he got back there," says his coach, who insists there is not a single play in the playbook designed for his quarterback to run. "I think he could be a running back in this league," a teammate says. "I've seen [him] run over linebackers and then bounce back to the huddle."

And to go with the running problem, the lefty with the big college stats doesn't have a big arm. But he knows the angles, and how to explain away flaws. "As far as arm strength goes, there are people who have been successful with less. Joe Montana, to name one," the quarterback says. "John Elway was 'confused' before he 'arrived.'"

It all makes Tim Tebow so hard to evaluate. Thing is, these quotes aren't about Tebow -- they're about Steve Young.

Those coaching frustrations, the teammate views, the player himself -- it's all from a Chicago Tribune story that was written eight months before Tebow was born (he's 24 now), about a 25-year-old Young, who was being handed the keys to the Tampa Bay offense in November 1986. It's a reminder that the NFL has always had issues with this type of quarterback -- the kid who can pass, but a lot of his instincts don't fit the traditional NFL model.

Ultimately, Young struggled and was traded away from Tampa in frustration; he was viewed as a bust. He didn't become a starter, then a star, for years. Perhaps Tebow also will be traded at some point, a wasted pick, a project for another coach. But there's also good reason to think that Tebow can be a very good NFL quarterback because, in the same way Tampa once miscalculated on Young, there's reason to think we haven't done a good job of accurately deciphering what a quarterback like Tebow can do.


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