National Football League
Most valuable? Gotta be Tebow right now
National Football League

Most valuable? Gotta be Tebow right now

Published Dec. 4, 2011 12:00 a.m. ET

We have moved on in Tebowmania from the disbelief stage to the explanation stage. Some people need hard and tangible proof to explain the inexplicable. I love it when numbers geeks get involved.

It’s always fun to see where Tim Tebow is on ESPN’s new Total QBR system, designed with years of statistical knowledge to give a real picture of how good a quarterback is. Last week, Tebow was No. 31 in the NFL. He was behind Kyle Orton, who the Denver Broncos dumped to make room for Tebow. He was behind Donovan McNabb, who no one claimed on waivers. Behind Philip Rivers, who stinks, and Tarvaris Jackson. Well, you get the idea.

And here’s the thing: Tebow is the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.

Not officially, of course. It’s just an opinion. No matter what his passer rating is or QBR, or even his technically inept throwing motion -- not the way any youth coach would teach -- he’s more valuable to his team than any other player in the league. Aaron Rodgers is his closest competition.


When Tebow took over, the Broncos were 1-4. Now, after Tebow had yet another miracle comeback Sunday to win at Minnesota, they are 7-5.

Tebow is in first place. A couple weeks ago, ESPN reportedly did some extra deep secret research to find an explanation for Tebow. It came up with the idea that he is helping the team slightly more than he is hurting it.

It’s kind of sad when you can’t just have a fun argument in sports without someone coming up with some bogus statistic. Right now, stats guys are showing absolute proof on both sides of the argument.

Is Tebow more valuable to the Broncos than Rodgers is to the Packers? There is no right answer, no proof. The Packers wouldn’t be perfect without him. But they would win their division.

The Broncos are losers without Tebow. Now, everyone on the team believes all the way to the finish line.

Rodgers is the best player. Tom Brady is next. Tebow is most valuable, if the Broncos go on to win the division.

A group of students at Harvard calling itself the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, wrote an article entitled “A Statistical Analysis of the Miracles of Tim Tebow.’’

That’s fun, using stats to determine miracles. The study used a lot of numbers and acronyms -- DVOA and EPA -- and talked about how the Broncos' poor record under Orton was not surprising based on a Pythagorean expectation.

Broncos fans had been thinking exactly the same thing, which is why they responded to Orton with “boo.’’

Basically, the study says that numbers and expectations for the offense have fallen since Tebow took over, and the defense has improved only slightly. So why the highly improved record? Apparently, that’s the miracle.

After Sunday’s game, Vikings’ defensive end Jared Allen was surely pondering Tebow and Pythagoras when he said, “I mean, the dude lit us up. ... I would have bet my paycheck that he would not have beat us passing the ball.’’

Tebow completed 10 of 15 passes for 202 yards in the 35-32 win. Late in the third quarter, he threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Demaryius Thomas. In the final minutes of the game, he threw another 40-yard pass to Thomas to set up a game-tying field goal.

So much of the debate over Tebow has to do with the belief that there is only one right way to be a quarterback. The truth is, in youth sports, they teach style over substance, so kids come out with a perfect throwing motion -- or running or serving or shooting motion -- and it doesn’t get them past the high school team.

As a father who has watched coaches try to teach his tall son the perfect long-range jumpshot when he just wants to bang around under the basket, get rebounds, putbacks and play like Dennis Rodman, well, it’s nice to see someone win with a style that doesn’t come from a cookie-cutter.

The problem is that John Elway and John Fox believed in the cookie-cutter, too. Fox, the Broncos coach, was pressured by Tebowmania into playing a quarterback he didn’t want to have anything to do with. For a few weeks, it looked like he was trying to sabotage Tebow, putting him in the wrong formations and situations just to cut down on the mania and justify getting rid of Tebow. Now, it seems that Fox is starting to realize he can ride this thing to a division title.

Elway, a Broncos suit now, is hard to explain, and handling it all wrong. He recently was asked on the radio if he felt any closer to having the quarterback of the future.

“No,’’ he said. And he explained something about failure on third downs.

It has been bad form from Elway. Soon, he’s going to find himself in a spot, deciding whether to draft a quarterback or to build around Tebow. Even the Harvard guys say it’s unlikely Tebow will keep this up.

But while Elway is figuring it out, he should keep his doubts to himself. It looks bad when a beloved ex-quarterback downplays the newest beloved QB in town. Imagine if Michael Jordan were saying bad things about Derrick Rose. In this case, Elway and Tebow are on the same team. Elway can’t possibly be jealous of Tebow’s attention, can he?

He is feeling some heat, and even had to publicly say that he was surprised his comments about Tebow were taken as negative.


So the Broncos’ defense has been playing great. And Tebow is getting more accurate. He doesn’t throw interceptions. He didn’t rely on running on Sunday.

But there is no evidence that this will work against a great team. New England is coming to town soon. And Tebow’s motion is still all wrong.

Will he still be behind McNabb in the ratings? Keep trying to explain Tebow if you like. But whatever numbers and acronyms you come up with, make sure this is among them: MVP.


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