Everyone’s so caught up in whether or not Tim Tebow was drafted at the right spot that they forget how bad we are at actually predicting young quarterbacks. Why should I trust these supposed analysts and “experts” telling me Tim Tebow won’t make it in the NFL? It’s the same misplaced trust that caused us to jump onboard the Tim Couch and Ryan Leaf bandwagons and off of Joe Montana’s and Tom Brady’s.
The simple fact is that the system makes the player to a much larger degree than vice versa. And no Glenn Beck, this does not make me a socialist (completely anyway), but I’m convinced that in a modern league, individuals can no longer manipulate their own outcomes’ over the course of an entire season.
The obvious counterargument for this is the classic: “what if you took Peyton Manning off the Colts?” And predictably, I’ll concede that point. Without someone making excellent and accurate decisions within Tom Moore’s system, Indianapolis would finish 3-13.
Yet without the tight-knit play of the rest of the personnel within their system (especially the blocking), Peyton Manning is worthless. In fact, you could argue that without the rule changes regarding defensive contact in 2006, Peyton Manning would not have been able to overwhelm the defensive systems that were consistently baffling him in the playoffs (particularly the 3-4 defenses of the Chargers, Patriots and Steelers).
Not surprisingly, the Super Bowl this past January exonerated this apparently radical principal. The superior system (New Orleans) trumped the best individual (Peyton). Defensively, the Saints mustered three different game plans. Such a complicated strategy was too much even for the cerebral Manning. The clinching play of the game was when Saints cornerback Tracy Porter read Peyton and picked off a would-be slant, taking it 74 yards to score (the icing on the cake).
It’s not that NFL draft analysts are bad at what they do, it’s that they’re mentality is flawed. They’re constantly looking for players who fit last year’s league. Since football’s evolution is impossible to predict, there’s no way they can forecast what kind of player will be the most effective down the road.
In the case of Joe Montana, he was not surprisingly valued very little by every team except the 49ers. His college stats weren’t overwhelming (he threw more interceptions at Notre Dame than touchdowns). His build and appearance weren’t impressive (he was listed just under 200 lbs but was so skinny that 49er teammates nicknamed him “bird legs.”) Thus, if Mel Kiper Jr. (or as I like to call him, Buddy Garrity) was around in 1979, he would have been mortal lock to scold 49er Coach Bill Walsh for taking Montana even in the third round.
Yet (and this is where the experts opinions become distorted) they could not see what was about to happen. The right coach had come along in the right situation (when new defensive contact rules were just being exploited) and was able to instill a revolutionary offense. The traditional rules about what made a “good quarterback” didn’t matter to Bill Walsh and his West Coast Offense. Quickness, not strength, was what counted and Montana was plenty quick.
Four Super Bowl wins and a Hall of Fame induction later and Joe Montana looks like a no-brainer as to what a good quarterback should be.
Back to Tebow…
I would like to distinguish at this point that it’s not my intention to compare Joe Montana and Tim Tebow. Merely, I’d like to point out that at different points in NFL history; an unnecessary value was placed on certain attributes (arm strength in Montana’s case, throwing mechanics in Tebow’s).
With the evolution of the Wild Cat Offense, I’ll then ask this: aren’t Tebow’s strengths perfect for the NFL? Doesn’t the trend seem to be towards rapidly changing the point of attack on offense through the use of motion of many versatile players? And isn’t Tebow’s main strength his versatility?
Think about the Wild Cat as a system for a second. It works only when the defense has to stay honest in their passing coverage (which then creates a man advantage for the offense.) Yet if they know that the players on the field cannot pass the ball, they simply narrow down the running lanes, confident in their knowledge that they won’t get beat deep.
Throw in Tebow (a physical runner who can also pass) and you have a solid Wild Cat weapon. Certainly I realize Tebow’s passing skills (especially downfield) aren’t what they should be. Yet when running the kind of misdirection offense that he ran at Florida (that’s becoming more prevalent in the NFL), Tebow’s perfectly capable. He might fail completely in the NFL, but it won’t be because he doesn’t have the talent for that specific system. Most likely he will fail if Broncos Coach Josh McDaniels tries to make him into a traditional pocket passer (which I personally don’t think he’ll do).
And think about Josh McDaniels as a coach: his best season was running the 2007 Patriots offense. They were the best in NFL history because of they’re versatility. People forget this but they were a team that ran all sorts of personnel sets. In the opening game of that year against the Jets, Randy Moss’s first touchdown catch occurred because Jets safety Kerry Rhodes expected a run (since New England was lined up in a three tight end set.) McDaniels loves to have versatile personnel, having been mentored by the king of versatility (Bill Belichick.) Shit, the name of his offense is “the amoeba.” That doesn’t sound anything like something that's traditional or straight forward.
Call it socialist football, but just know that it literally is recognition for what football is: a winning approach that’s best derived from using versatile players plugged into a system that forces the defense to be strong in every area. So make no mistake, Tim Tebow is certainly versatile enough to make it in the NFL, it’ll just take him landing in the right system to justify his draft status. In the end though, don’t expect to hear this side of things from the gregarious Buddy Garrity and the NFL draftniks, since the concept of innovation has nothing to do with arbitrary 40 yard dash times or cone drills.