Home > College Football, Div-I FBS, Draft, NFL > Senior Bowl Won’t Tell You Anything about Tebow You Didn’t Know

Senior Bowl Won’t Tell You Anything about Tebow You Didn’t Know

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Tim Tebow is likely to be a very minor player in the 2010 NFL Draft, but should remain the biggest slam-dunk storyline of the entire process.  That process begins today in Mobile, AL, site of the Senior Bowl, where NFL coaching staffs have the honor of coaching rosters comprised of college seniors who will make their professional football debuts this fall.  Tebow accounts for roughly 50% of all media coverage of this event this year.

Despite this, we will not learn anything about Tebow this week.  ESPN’s Todd McShay has aleady begun the overanalysis of Tebow-minutae with this breakdown of his footwoork.  It’s Tebow-mania, and if you don’t catch it this week, you will eventually.

My advice: don’t rush into it.  Tebow is neither pre-destined to fail nor succeed in the NFL.  Because he is such a polarizing draft prospect, Tebow often doesn’t receive credit for being similar to all of the other quarterbacks in many ways, which he is.  Certain analyses I’ve read on Tebow often make this critical error of making observations about what Tebow does not do, and generalizing that he cannot do these things.  It’s true that a read progression is not part of Urban Meyer’s offense.  It’s true that Tebow drops the ball below his waist to throw.  It’s also true that a majority of his success at Florida was based in the option offense which does not (directly) translate to the NFL, and that he didn’t do much work from under center throughout his time as a Gator.

It’s also true that Tebow is an accurate passer with a pretty refined sense of the pocket for a college quarterback with mobility, a good arm, and has all the requisite college experience that can result in a player being undervalued in the draft process.  Tebow is actually very toolzy as a prospect, and could best be described as unrefined as a professional quarterback.  Many quarterbacks in that mold have failed, but the ones that have succeeded have done so with rare talent around them, with their superior motor skills being used to simply pull the trigger in a powerful offense.

If you want a strong comparable of a quarterback who can be successful in the Tebow mold, I wouldn’t look any further than former Central Florida quarterback Daunte Culpepper who came into a situation where he merely needed to distribute the ball to great receivers Randy Moss and Cris Carter for the Vikings.  Taking over in 2000, Culpepper was a major questi0n mark as to whether or not he could start as a second year player and offer the production that veterans Randall Cunningham and Jeff George had.

Culpepper was spectacular early on in his career.  The relevant portion of his career lasted for five years from 2000-2004, where Culpepper made three pro-bowls, throwing for 20 TDs (a rough measure of high offensive efficiency) in those three years.  Culpepper didn’t really get any better from 2000 to 2002 (surviving the “Randy ratio” in the process), then broke out in 2003, and had a record setting year in 2004.  His career effectively ended at that point.  After a 110.9 QB rating in 2004, Culpepper hasn’t made it to the realm of the average since then.  He was always bad about getting rid of the football, but whatever timing within the offense Culpepper had left him after his 2005 injury.  Anecdotally, I’ll say he played well in the Lane Kiffin west coast offense in 2007, but his stats don’t look any better that year than at any point from 2005-2009.  Culpepper has not been an NFL type quarterback at any point in the last five years, but is still in the league because of some great passing seasons from 2000 to 2004.

For Tebow, this would be a pretty easy model of “success” to follow in the NFL.  Culpepper sat for a year, then tore up the league as a sophomore before eating his lumps and developing into one of the league’s top QBs.  But when he lost his elite target on the outside, he was never again a valuable quarterback.  Culpepper’s style was hardly refined, and spoke to a college career where he was able to get by on immense talent and inferior competiton rather than by attention to detail and cognitive ability.  For Tebow’s college success to be written off as unsustainable in the NFL would ignore the fact that anyone who wants to try to put a Florida type offense in the NFL could easily sustain Tebow’s dominance.

Some quarterbacks will always look more comfortable in the shotgun than under the center.  This is true of both JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith, and both were FIRST OVERALL picks in the draft.  Tebow isn’t going first overall, but he’ll enter the NFL already more adept at passing than Russell, and pretty close to what Smith has matured into.  Taking a flyer on Tebow near the end of the first round or the second will require a team to committ to what he does well, and build up the offense around him rather than to rely on his leadership to squeeze blood from a stone.

Nothing at the senior bowl is going to project that Tebow will succeed or fail in the NFL.  That doesn’t mean the game is useless: for about 85% of the players there, working with NFL coaches is going to give invaluable experience to kick off the draft season.  It’s fine if a team takes a look at Tebow’s delivery of the football and decides that they don’t want to be the ones to take him to the next level.  No team has ever made a mistake by NOT drafting someone, rather, critical mistakes are made when teams draft the wrong player.  Some teams have been slower than others to embrace college spread principles in their offensive scheme, and I do believe that for Tebow to be successful, he’ll have to be in an offense that embraces a few spread principles, as well as it’s pro-offense staples.

He’ll impress some people, disappoint some others, but ultimately, the team that decides to take him on draft day decided a long time ago that they should try to take their offense in a new direction.  It is January 25th.  The teams in the NFL that are hell-bent on making the status quo work in the NFL should not be considering Tim Tebow to solve their problem with smoke and leadership.  Their presence at the Sr. Bowl is not Tebow-related, and the teams that are considering him aren’t going to make any noise this early.  In short, nothing Tebow can do this week can erase 4 years of draft concerns from the Florida days, and if the reports are to be believed, Tebow has little to prove to non-believers to begin with.

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