SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Prescient Words from Tom Jackson on Tim Tebow

Whether or not Broncos' coach Josh McDaniels has found a new messiah in Tim Tebow might be a hot debate in Denver right now. But what ESPN analyst Tom Jackson said on draft day is (almost) uncontrovertible: Tebow cannot be a team leader if he's not the starting quarterback. And, unless McDaniels annoints everyone's all-American with the starting job, both Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn will have something to say about it.

I'm not sure that I agree that McDaniels has bet his coaching tenure with the selection of Tebow. What we do know is that a) many teams flop with more obvious first-round selections and b) drafting quarterbacks is an art, not a science. Otherwise, the most obvious selections always will be stars, and all you have to do is mention the names Ryan Leaf and Akili Smith (as well as Alex Smith and JaMarcus Russell, both of whom were atop the draft boards of the experts who get paid to evaluate draft classes) to know that this isn't the case. So, it could be that Tebow is a latter-day Joe Montana, with the exception that McDaniels was wise enough to see that Tebow shouldn't have been a third-round pick (like Montana) but a first-round pick (because of the potential value that he could bring). That said, you do wonder about McDaniels' drafting savvy, because it also appears that the Broncos could have gotten more value out of the draft by continuing to trade down and selecting Tebow with an even lower draft pick.

It's also interesting that there haven't been in-depth studies as to why some quarterbacks succeed and others fail. Sure, they have different physical gifts, and, yes, different Wonderlic scores, but what are the other variables that might affect them. Among them could be the following: the type of offense, the way a coach handles quarterbacks and the way the quarterback needs to be managed, how many quarterback coaches and offenses the quarterback has seen during his career, how decisive and aggressive the quarterback is (that is, if he has to make a bunch of reads in the NFL, has college prepared him for that), and how good of a playmaker the quarterback is. Did Jimmy Clausen really fall because no team other than the Rams wanted to select a quarterback that early, or because the other teams saw something negative about his game/talents/leadership that Mel Kiper (who had him rated as the fourth-best player in the entire draft) did not? Finally, there's the pressure of being a first-round pick. Sometimes, given how popular the NFL is and how starved some cities can be for winners, that status becomes a stigma that is hard to overcome. Remember, those drafted, despite the big money thrown at them, are only kids.

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