Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tim Tebow vs. Vince Young: NFL Potential

On Dan Patrick's show yesterday, Rick Neuheisel compared Tim Tebow to Vince Young.

I agree with the Vince Young comparisons, although consider that no one seemed to think VY should be an H-back or TE in the NFL, like the "experts" do with TT. Vince Young was a Top 3 pick, even with the questions about his ability to translate his game to the NFL.

Why does the comp work? Because VY was a winner and because VY had all the physical tools to be a success in the NFL. The profile is remarkably similar to Tebow's.

It is not VY's fault that he was drafted onto a team where the coach had a very specific (and successful) system that he wanted VY to fit into. But imagine VY on a team where the coaching staff was innovative enough to use him in new ways.

That is the core of the Tebow-NFL question: Will he end up on a team that is innovative enough to use him the right way? That is why -- despite my loathing of the Patriots (although I do like Bill Belichick a lot) -- I would love to see him playing for Belichick.

There are a lot of assumptions about Tebow's NFL future. Neuheisel hit on one: That Tebow has to take snaps from under center.

Really? Like 6 I-formation snaps in live college game situations -- where he more often than not will hand the ball off to a RB -- will reveal anything about his QB potential in the NFL?

As I have said before: Tebow will get plenty of reps under center when the season is over and he devotes himself full time to NFL and NFL Draft preparation. (And, oh by the way, snaps under center didn't seem to be an issue for Tom Brady in 2007, when he ran the majority of his plays from a spread formation and the Pats offense annihilated the record books.)

The other assumption is that QBs who run can't take the punishment, certainly not over the long term -- and certainly if they want to be "franchise" QBs. I'm not sure that Young would have had the problem -- and I'm certainly not concerned about Tebow's ability to take NFL hits.

In the end, Tebow's short-term NFL future should be much like VY's hasn't been (but should be): 10-12 snaps a game from the single-wing ("Wildcat-ish") formation in short-yardage, red-zone and statistically efficient moments.

It didn't happen with VY -- maybe there's still time. It could happen with Tim Tebow -- maybe the innovation isn't that Tim Tebow runs the spread-option in the NFL full-time; maybe the innovation is that one QB for "traditional" downs and one for "statistically efficient" scenarios is a winning combination.

The NFL has been built on the myth of the "franchise" QB -- I think the Dolphins (using Chad Pennington -- hardly a "Franchise" QB -- and Ronnie Brown) helped to debunk that myth, if only slightly.

The evolution of the single-wing in the NFL this season -- and next season, with Tebow (if he's drafted by a team that will smartly use him that way) -- is Tebow's future.

It should have been Vince Young's present. There is still time, but it shows how important "fit" is in a player's ultimate success in the NFL -- especially a QB.

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