Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winning the "Tebow Way"...

If you're a Christian like me, seeing Tim Tebow win seven out of eight starts in the face of adversity and criticism from the media probably makes you smile. The critics like to say he has a "bad throwing motion," and a low pass completion percentage among other things. What the critics fail to realize is that this stuff is all but meaningless. What is actually meaningful is that the teams who win games are also the ones who typically don't turn the ball over. The quarterback is usually the one who is going to be the "difference maker" in this category. Before Tebow took over the reins in Denver, the Broncos were an abysmal 1-4. In the five games he started, Kyle Orton threw eight touchdown passes. However, Orton also threw seven interceptions, and lost two fumbles. Orton's TD-to-turnover ratio of 0.89 would rank as the 11th worst in the league if he had enough pass attempts to qualify.

In the eight weeks since Tebow became the starter in Denver, he has thrown 10 touchdown passes while being intercepted only twice. Additionally, he's rushed twice for scores, while losing three fumbles. That adds up to 12 touchdowns against only five turnovers for a tidy 2.40 TD-to-turnover ratio. Here's a look at the teams who have QBs that have won at least 70% of their starts in 2011 and their TD-to-turnover ratios (note: QB TD and TO numbers are season numbers):

Rodgers (GB): 13-0 W-L, 41 TD, 6 TO, ratio: 6.83
Tebow (Den): 7-1 W-L, 14 TD, 5 TO, ratio: 2.80
Brees (NO): 10-3 W-L, 33 TD, 11 TO, ratio: 3.00
Brady (NE): 10-3 W-L, 33 TD, 13 TO, ratio: 2.54
Smith (SF): 10-3 W-L, 16 TD, 7 TO, ratio: 2.29
Roeth.(Pit): 10-3 W-L, 21 TD, 15 TO, ratio: 1.40
Flacco (Bal): 10-3 W-L, 16 TD, 15 TO, ratio: 1.07
Schaub (Hou): 7-3 W-L, 17 TD, 7 TO, ratio: 2.43

A look at these numbers tells you two things. One, Aaron Rodgers is having an absolutely amazing season! His touchdown-to-turnover ratio is more than twice as good as his nearest pursuer, Drew Brees. Second, with the exception of the Steelers and Ravens, each of these teams has a QB that is producing TDs more than twice as often as he is turning the ball over. So how are the Steelers and Ravens winning if their QBs are not doing the best job of producing and protecting the ball? If you look at the defenses of these two teams, you see that they're ranked second and third respectively in the NFL in both points allowed and yards allowed per game. Incidentally, the 49ers give up the fewest points in the league at 14.0 per game (4th in yards per game allowed), while the Texans give up the fewest yards per game at 274.9 per game (4th in points per game allowed). The top four teams in this list (the Packers, Broncos, Saints, and Patriots) all have defenses ranked well below the league average. In terms of yards allowed per game, the Packers and Patriots are in fact the two bottom ranked teams in the league. In summary, if your QB is making mistakes, you need help from your defense to make up for their deficiencies, while an efficient offense that doesn't turn the ball over can make up for a bad defense.

Just how important is the TD-to-turnover ratio in terms of winning games? Take a look at the Top 10 QBs in the category this year to date (team W-L in QBs starts in parenthesis):

1. Rodgers (GB), 6.83 (13-0)
2. Brees (NO), 3.00 (10-3)
3. Tebow (Den), 2.80 (7-1)
4. Romo (Dal), 2.60 (7-6)*
5. Brady (NE), 2.54 (10-3)
6. Schaub (Hou), 2.43 (7-3)
7. Smith (SF), 2.29 (10-3)
8. Stafford (Det), 2.07 (8-5)
9. Ryan (Atl), 1.87 (9-5)
10. Manning (NYG), 1.63 (7-6)
* Romo's stats do not include Saturday night (12/17/11) game

Notice anything about these players and their teams? If the season were to end today, all but one of these teams would be in the playoffs. Seven of the eight division leaders are represented here. There's no doubt that Tony Romo has had a great season for the 7-6 Cowboys. As witnessed the past two weeks with their kicking game issues, sometimes one man's heroics though aren't always enough. You can say the same thing to a lesser extent about Eli Manning and the 7-6 Giants. The Texans will certainly miss Matt Schaub, but their highly ranked defense may just help carry them.

Conversely, let's look at the Bottom 10 QBs in TD-to-turnover ratio (team W-L in QBs starts in parenthesis):

1. Bradford (STL), 0.46 (1-9)
2. Painter (Ind), 0.50 (0-9)
3. Grossman (Was), 0.65 (4-6)
4. Palmer (Oak), 0.71 (3-4)
5. Freeman (TB), 0.75 (4-8)*
6. Gabbert (Jac), 0.79 (3-10)
T7. Vick (Phi), 0.80 (4-6)
T7. Jackson (Sea), 0.80 (6-6)
9. Kolb (Ari), 0.82 (3-6)
10. Ponder (Min), 0.85 (1-7)
* Freeman's stats do not include Saturday night (12/17/11) game

Do the 0-13 Colts miss Peyton Manning? You bet they do! None of these teams has a winning record under the direction of their current quarterback. What happened to that "superteam" in Philadelphia? Michael Vick certainly has not had the season most were expecting in 2011. Did any of us expect him to not have a single rushing TD this late into the season? Of these teams, only the 7-6 Raiders are a legitimate playoff contender.

Effectively, winning the "Tebow Way" has more to do with not making mistakes than anything else. If you don't turn the ball over, you put less pressure on your defense to perform and make stops. Those teams that protect the ball are the ones who year in and year out make the playoffs, while those who turn the ball over a lot rarely make a title run.

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