Friday, November 18, 2011

Did You See That: The Tebow Effect

If I presented you this career stat line of: 97/207, 1,363 yards, 12 TD's, and 4 INT's, you may not think much of it. You may think this is the line of a pretty decent backup QB. He's also rushed for 615 yards on 99 attempts. Not bad. But would you pick him as your team's starting QB over who they have already? Many would say no. But, what if I told you the QB was Tim Tebow? Everything changes. Such is the Tebow phenomenon that has swept the NFL, where a QB with mediocre stats becomes one of the league's posterboys. And, his game winning drives have led to the notion that, "All he does is win." There are not many players to compare to Tebow, but I think I may have found one...

There was a famous QB who played for Boston College named Doug Flutie. Flutie of course, made his name for an amazing play in college, which ended up defining his campaign to win the Heisman Trophy. The so called "Flutie Effect" got more people to apply to Boston College because of their sudden football prowess.  His career in the NFL got off to a rocky start, and he eventually had success in the USFL and CFL before ever getting his true chance in the NFL. But, when came to Buffalo in 1998 along with Rob Johnson (a mistake in itself), the tide was turning. In his first NFL start in 9 seasons against Jacksonville in 1998, he perfected the art he became famous for... leading a team in the dying seconds to victory, often by scrambling. Sound familiar? The Bills were 2-3 when Flutie took over for an injured Rob Johnson, and Flutie led them to an 8-3 record from that point. Starting to really sound familiar? He almost pulled off the same magic in the AFC Wildcard Game against Dan Marino and Miami, but they fell short in OT. Flutie magic, as silly as it was, became an NFL staple for 5 years.

Tebow Magic strikes me as familiar. The first 55 minutes of a game are tough to watch, and aren't artistry at all, but once crunch time starts, Tebow works his "magic". "All he does is win", reminds me a lot of what Doug Flutie did for the Bills and Chargers. He was not scouted highly due to his height, 5'10", but yet he still found a way to win. Tebow has very little skill at throwing the football, but hell, all he does is win. After a QB change in the 6th game of their campaigns, they lead their teams to comeback victories that cement their status. Flutie's run led Buffalo to the postseason, as improbable as it was, despite the loss in the Wild Card game. Tebow's success is very similar.

This is not a perfect comparison, as Flutie arguably had better numbers, and a better throwing motion. But, Flutie wasn't the QB like Elway, or Marino. He more played like Rob Johnson at times. Tim Tebow isn't a QB who will play like Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, he'll sometimes play like... well... Kyle Orton. But, "Flutie Magic" or "Tebow Magic" wipes all of that out of the ether. Just winning is all that matters. Forget the fact that the teams they played weren't necessarily playing at their best, or sometimes, playing really bad games, or the fact that their numbers weren't amazing, they won. That's it, and that's all.

Broncos fans sure hope Tebow has more success than Flutie did. Flutie never won a playoff game, and since the controversial decision to start Rob Johnson over him in the 1999 Wild Card game, the Bills haven't been back to the playoffs. They both won Heismans. They both had major college success. They both had many doubters. Yet, they won. But, John Elway knows this is not the long term answer at QB in Tebow, and you can see it on his face every time they win with Tebow. Higher ups in the Bills organization knew that Flutie wasn't a long term answer at QB, which may explain why he was benched in 1999 AFC Wild Card Game in Nashville.  He may win now, but the success isn't sustainable.

Both of these QB's have done amazing things that boggle the mind sometimes, but winning is the key. All the Tebow supporters need to see and compare Doug Flutie's success to that of their hero, and see how similar they are. They don't want it to end the same way as Flutie, but it just may, the way this is going. To finish the Flutie story, he went to San Diego after Buffalo for 3 years, and didn't do very much with a struggling Drew Brees alongside him. Then he made dropkicks in New England, and won a Super Bowl sitting on the bench. Maybe Tebow from the bench can inspire his new team to win a Super Bowl...

It's not a perfect comparison, but it's one that must be considered. The NFL is a league of balancing short-term success and long term viability, and with Tebow and Flutie, a fine line has been walked. What side of the line Tebow ends up on is an open question, but will the short term gains outweigh the long term promises? That is something for John Elway and John Fox to decide. Tebow won't stop being Tebow, but will the Broncos themselves stop it?

No one knows, just ask Doug Flutie.

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