Steve Young, John Fox both miss point on Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow is so different from the prototypical NFL quarterback that it has become impossible to judge him for what he is instead of what he represents. This truism apparently applies to Tebow’s head coach as well. John Fox called his own offense a “gimmick”. And I think that’s a shame.
TV Analyst Steve Young interprets Fox’s comments as an indictment of Tebow and a cry for help to his front office. Young alleges that Fox is insinuating that he is being forced to play Tebow and that the current offense can’t hold up long term. Young cites the proliferation and failure of the wildcat as evidence that the Broncos are in fact running the ball only on a gimmick.
This is significant because if Young is correct in his assessment of Fox’s comments, then John Fox doesn’t understand why he has managed to turn around the fortunes of the Broncos this year. If down the stretch this year the Broncos fail to win games, Fox is likely to credit a defensive adjustment to the “gimmick” offense he has been running with Tebow as the reason for the losing. But that wouldn’t be accurate. The Broncos are winning games on the strength of a revitalized rushing attack. Here are individual advanced numbers from the Broncos runners this year:
- Tim Tebow – 43 runs, 327 yards, 77 DYAR
- Willis McGahee – 127 runs, 624 yards, 99 DYAR
- Knowshon Moreno – 37 runs, 179 yards, -1 DYAR
- Lance Ball – 55 runs, 227 yards, 45 DYAR
- Eric Decker – 64 passes, 462 yards, 74 DYAR
- Eddie Royal – 34 passes, 135 yards, -54 DYAR
- Matthew Willis – 19 passes, 142 yards, 26 DYAR
- Demaryius Thomas – 15 passes, 66 yards, -30 DYAR
- Daniel Fells – 25 passes, 201 yards, 29 DYAR
- Spencer Larsen – 8 passes, 69 yards, 28 DYAR
- Dante Rosario – 6 passes, 30 yards, -4 DYAR
- Julius Thomas – 7 passes, 5 yards, -29 DYAR
When you look at all the “pacesetting” receivers who are struggling, the Broncos need to be running the football in order to have an offense. There’s nothing gimmicky about running the ball. The Broncos have one NFL caliber receiver right now in Decker, to go with their stable of tight ends. But even with Knowshon Moreno’s torn ACL (probably ending his Broncos career), the Broncos still have three of their best offensive players who play in the backfield.
The zone option is not a difficult or gimmicky play, and any team in the NFL could run it. The problem is that teams don’t want their quarterback to pull the ball and go, even if it’s the correct read. With Tebow though, no one is so interested in protecting him from injury that they are not willing to let him do what he does best. And that alone makes Tebow’s option ability tougher to defend than all but roughly 15 quarterbacks in the NFL.
Both did one thing very well early in their careers: they turned the ball over very infrequently via the interception. The Broncos can win with Tebow long term if they can cut strip sack fumbles out of the equation entirely. That’s what has killed Tebow’s value this year: not his low completion percentage, but his four fumbles from the pocket. In Josh McDaniel’s offense, he had one in three games.
The offense the Broncos are running right now isn’t some sort of gimmick, it is using personnel in the best way possible. While the Broncos’ passing route tree itself remains ancient and confusing — even Kyle Orton couldn’t figure out how to make it work — but the Broncos can run the football better than any team in the game. They don’t have the personnel to pull Tebow out and go in a different direction. This is Tebow’s team. The sooner the Broncos can accept that and not feel dirty after “ugly” wins, the sooner they can compete in the NFL.
Fox’s comments suggest that the Broncos aren’t building anything here, which is a shame. Young’s comments suggest an intolerance of left handed running quarterbacks winning despite obvious flaws, which is merely ironic by comparison.