As I try my hand at addressing the biggest lightning rod in NFL history, I ask only that you check your preconceived notions at the door and allow for the fair assessment of the evidence and analysis that I'll be bringing to the table today. In the interest of full disclosure: I am a Florida Gators fan and alum, as well as a fan of the Denver Broncos (before and after Tebow). Nevertheless, I pride myself on being an objective sports observer, and you will not find much - if any - subjectivity in this post. Without further ado, let's get to the matter at hand.
I believe that Tim Tebow has been underrated as an NFL player in nearly every regard. Now happens to be the perfect time to use his career stats to test that thesis. Tebow has only had roughly 16 games-worth of playing time and his attempts (both rushing and passing) fit right in with the leaders so far this season, allowing us to use his totals in comparison to both the 2011 season leaders and the stats amassed thus far this year as well. How does Tim fare by contrast?
Player A: 208 carries for 970 yards (4.66 per attempt) and 12 TD
Player B: 195 carries for 1128 yards (5.79 per attempt) and 7 TD
Player C: 192 carries for 979 yards (5.10 per attempt) and 12 TD
Player A is Adrian Petterson's 2011 season, unfortunately cut short by injury. Player B is also Petterson, only so far this year, when he's being heralded as an MVP candidate. Player C is Tim Tebow's career rushing stats. Now, I'm not saying that Tebow is as good a runner as Adrian, nor am I saying that Tim should be moved to running back: I am simply pointing out that TT has been about as effective a runner as AD over the last two years. This aspect of his game is often separated from his performance as a quarterback, but it cannot be. Tebow is that effective because he's playing quarterback. That's how he can perform like an All-Pro running back despite not having that ability or execution. But the real concern is - and has always been - how he fares as a passer.
In order to derive a comparable to Tebow's passing (the best way I can think of to strip away the biases for his numbers), you have to create a sort of Franken-quarterback. Using the 2011 stats, Tim's numbers are like Matt Moore's yardage and yards per attempt, Matt Hasselbeck's touchdowns and Joe Flacco's interceptions. I could have just as easily used Matt Schaub's yardage and Ryan Fitzpatrick's yards per attempt, Mike Vick's touchdowns and Tom Brady's interceptions as a more favorable list, but the point remains the same: Tim Tebow's passing production is not going to cripple a team. People get hung up on the completion percentage, but ignore the fact that what happens when he does complete passes largely makes up for it. Comparing his career stats to this season's leaders, his yards are like Aaron Rodgers', his touchdowns are like Tom Brady's, Andy Dalton's and Josh Freeman's, and his interceptions are like Matt Cassel's and Brandon Weeden's, mostly with similar numbers of attempts.
What it comes down to is this: would you take 50% completions and 9 interceptions if it meant 2,500 passing yards (6.8 per attempt) and 18 TD? What about 40 sacks for -250 yards and 10 fumbles lost if it also came with 200 carries for 1,000 rushing yards and 12 TD? What if I told you those are all approximates of Tim Tebow's career stats in roughly 16 full games of NFL playing time so far? That's an average passer and a top 10-15 runner rolled into one, all while being only reluctantly played in three different systems only minimally geared to his unique skill-set in what amounts to a prolonged rookie season. Imagine what he could do in a true spread option, with time to add layers to the game plan, refine the roster, and improve his skills! Just my two cents: feel free to have at it!