Monday, April 26, 2010

The NFL Future of Tim Tebow:
Rookie of the Year -- and More

The 2010 NFL Draft is behind us, and it is time to look ahead to the next stage of Tim Tebow's career.

As of this morning, I presented at least one scenario that carries forward last week's "Tebow exceptionalism" analysis:

I think there is a strong argument to be made that Tebow can be -- even will be -- the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010.

Before critics scoff, consider that award voters will be inclined to magnify everything Tebow does. That Josh McDaniels has a vested interest in Tebow's success -- even early success, when he is not yet a full-time starting QB.

And, most importantly, that McDaniels looks likely to implement the next evolution of the Wildcat, tailored specifically for Tebow. If Ronnie Brown was used by the Dophins 3-5 times per game, what is stopping McDaniels from using Tebow 8-10 times per game?

Remember: The single-wing is most effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations -- that means plenty of opportunities for Tebow to impact games, even if he is only getting a half-dozen snaps per game: Critical first downs... touchdowns.

That is precisely how Tebow was used in his freshman year at Florida -- as a result, he was arguably not just national freshman of the year, but I would argue he was Offensive MVP of Florida during their national championship run.

And it's not like the ROY barrier is overwhelmingly high: Percy Harvin -- another doubted player -- won the award last season on the back of a mere 6 offensive TDs and 2 return TDs.

I think that if McDaniels is confident about using Tebow at the goal-line, Tebow could account for even more TDs than Harvin.

(For the record, Tebow as a freshman had 5 TDs passing and 8 TDs rushing in a 14-game college season, but I'm willing to discount 2 of each from the Western Carolina laugher. That's still 9 TDs in a 14-game season, in which Urban Meyer probably used Tebow -- even in a part-time role -- way more conservatively than he would have wanted to ideally. Don't think Meyer won't impress that on his friend McDaniels.)

As with everything Tebow, to use past precedent as the guide is the ultimate error. It is like saying in the summer of 2008: "Ronnie Brown will NEVER take direct snaps en route to the Dolphins humiliating the Patriots." A year later, the Wildcat formation was a sensation.

Again, McDaniels has a couple of vested interests:

*In proving Tebow has value -- even immediate value.

*In proving how smart McDaniels is to have drafted him.

*In getting his most versatile (even valuable) offensive player on the field at critical times.

And this:

In the successful arbitrage that comes from unorthodox strategy -- like taking out your "starting" QB in short-yardage or goal-line situations in favor of a "specialist" QB who gives you a better chance of converting the play.

Some of the things McDaniels has said in the last 96 hours already foreshadows a willingness to (a) be innovative when it comes to Tebow, and (b) use Tebow early and often.

Let's go back to that great pre-draft meme, #timtebowcant. Are doubters really going to insist that "Tim Tebow can't be NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year?" Because when critics say that, they just make it that much more obvious that it can (and will) happen.

Let's throw a few more in there for good measure:

*"Tim Tebow can't lead the NFL in jersey sales as a rookie." Unsurprisingly, Tebow is already leading all NFL rookies in jersey sales after the first post-draft weekend. I have been saying for weeks that Tebow will lead ALL players' jersey sales by the time the season is over.

*"Tim Tebow can't solve the Jaguars' ticket problems." Not only are ticket sales for the Jags' season opener against the Broncos selling like crazy, but it is Tebow's presence that is driving them. The Jaguars will sell out that season-opener.

*"Tim Tebow can't start at QB as a rookie." I'm not sure he will, but then again, per the above argument, I'm not sure he has to. If Tebow takes 6-10 meaningful snaps per game, he will have every bit as much of an impact on winning games as any rookie QB out there.

*"Tim Tebow can't make the Pro Bowl as a rookie." If you think that he can be Offensive Rookie of the Year, then he absolutely could be a Pro Bowler in 2010. And if McDaniels' super-charged Wildcat is as potent as I think it will be, why couldn't Tebow make the Pro Bowl as a "Wildcat QB specialist," specifically for a Wildcat play or two during the game? And, oh by the way, the league has a vested interest in having one of its most popular players participate in its all-star game, which is as much a marketing event as a reward for a superlative season.

*"Tim Tebow can't be a fantasy football star as a rookie." Fantasy football GMs are an unsentimental bunch. If you score TDs, they love you; if you don't, you are useless. It doesn't matter who you are. So if Tebow does turn into some TD-creation sensation (say, 6-10 on the season), he will be beloved by a community that drives a ton of football coverage: Fantasy football owners.

The critical step will be that fantasy football providers like Yahoo, CBS Sports and ESPN list Tebow as eligible at both QB and RB, even if McDaniels insists that Tebow will only play QB. Tebow won't get enough snaps to justify starting him at QB, but if he is getting goal-line snaps, he would be very attractive at the "flex" position, which is usually limited to RBs or WRs.

Just watch that season opener at Jacksonville, where McDaniels will have every reason to let Tebow put on a show. After that, the bandwagon will be in full force. Want a barometer of Tebow's popularity, as filtered through fantasy football? Watch how many fantasy football GMs have Tebow on their roster after Week 1. Let's peg it two ways: Absolutely (40-50 percent of GMs) or relatively (higher than the percent of ownership for the next-most-owned rookie QB.)

I will add more to this list as needed.

6 comments:

  1. "That Josh McDaniels has a vested interest in Tebow's success -- even early success, when he is not yet a full-time starting QB."

    This is the thing that's driven me crazy w/the near-outrage by some over this pick. The 2 people in the NFL (Josh McDaniels & Denver's GM) who know far more about Tebow's ability & potential than any of the 'experts' who are appalled at Tim being drafted so highly are also the 2 people who are betting their very jobs on Tim being successful. And for McDaniels, it's even more than just a job. It's his credibility. If he's gotten rid of the team's star QB & WR, only to make the team worse or no better, he'll have to start his career over again by getting an OC or QC job, probably in college, instead of the NFL.

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  2. Oh, I forgot-great article, Dan. :)

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  3. Here's a great tweet from Skip Bayless.. he loves Tebow. I haven't seen these comments though. Where is he getting this info?

    RealSkipBayless -- Let's see: BChildress said he'd take Tebow at 30. Sources said Belichick trying to trade up for him. Holmgren said he'd take him top of 2nd.


    Also, Dan, maybe these are some things you could explore.. But I believe that the NFL is changing because of the athletic parity in the sport. This is why we are seeing things like the single wing from a hundred years ago.

    Just now on ESPN Mark Schlereth said "finally character trumps talent in the NFL" in regards to Tebow being drafted.

    I believe character can trump talent because of this same parity in the NFL today. All these QBs in the NFL are equals. They are much closer than in the past because of the sophistication of the training and scheming and athletic and talent parity among QBs. It's the intangibles and unique skills that are separating guys now and giving them the edge even on the field.

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  4. @ReedRichards: The day of the draft Skip was brilliant in explaining why he thought Bradford had a slim chance of succeeding in the NFL & then explaining why Tebow WOULD most likely be successful & said that he'd draft Tebow in the top 10! It's funny you should mention the other teams that had intended on drafting Tim, b/c in watching the re-air of Round 1 today, I just noticed for the first time that Buffalo had been trying to trade up to the 20's, so they could get Tebow & were bummed that Denver got him before they could. Although that 'character trumps talent' comment might not have been intended as an insult, it does sound like one to me.

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  5. I'm a Colorado native and a UF grad, so you can imagine my delight at Tebow coming to Broncos :) I've been trying to convince people here in Denver that Tebow can play an integral role his first year. No, he likely won't be starter, but he will be in the game in different situations.. just like his freshman year!

    There is a faction here in Denver that really despises McDaniels already, for having traded Cutler and Marshall. They think he is too arrogant and full of himself, and want him fired as soon as possible. Those people hate the Tebow pick, not necessarily because it's Tebow, but where he was taken and draft picks given up for him. They think it was too much to pay for a "project QB". If Tebow can come in and contribute similar to your scenarios, it would validate the pick that much more, and make it easier for me to forcefeed crow to some of the naysayers so much sooner than projected :)

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  6. Great info Brooke. I don't take that talent comment from Schlereth negatively, but I understand what you mean.

    Schlereth likes the Tebow pick and Tebow is not a conventional talent.

    But I sure do wonder why guys like Vick and Vince Young went so high and Tebow didn't Tebow is just as freakish athletically as these guys tho in his own way.

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