The facts show that Tim Tebow is off to a better start as an NFL quarterback than many of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Through his first 16 starts, Tebow won more games (9) than Peyton Manning (3), Troy Aikman (3), Steve Young (3), Aaron Rodgers (5), Matthew Stafford (6), Sam Bradford (7), Eli Manning (7), John Elway (8), and Drew Brees (8). Tebow accomplished that with a team that was 1-4 before he took over, and had won only 7 of its last 24 games.
In his first 16 starts, Tebow led his team to a playoff victory. None of these other greats did that. In fact, it took Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, five full NFL seasons to lead his team to a playoff victory.
In his first playoff game, Tebow threw for 316 yards in a winning effort — against the best defense in the league.
It is so difficult for an NFL quarterback to throw for 316 yards or more in a playoff victory that Ben Roethlisberger has never done it. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers have each done it once. Tom Brady, John Elway and Joe Montana each did it twice. Eli Manning did not throw for that many yards in a playoff game until this season. And those other quarterbacks had some of the best receivers in the NFL. Tebow is also near the top in another important measure of an NFL passer, which is the number of touchdown passes per pass attempt. In his first 16 games, Tebow averaged an impressive one touchdown pass for every 23 pass attempts (1-23). The same as Peyton Manning. Better than Steve Young (1-46), John Elway (1-36), Drew Brees (1-34) and Tom Brady (1-36). And just slightly behind Aaron Rodgers (1-21), Matthew Stafford (1-21), and Eli Manning (1-21).
Even more important is the fact that Tebow threw very few interceptions per pass attempt. Just one pick for every 43 pass attempts (1-43). That’s twice as good as Peyton Manning (1-21). Much better than Elway (1-19), Stafford (1-26) and Eli Manning (1-29). Better than Brees (1-34), Brady (1-36), Rodgers (1-39) and Bradford (1-40). This fact is particularly important, because ESPN contends that the chance of a team winning an NFL game goes down 20 percent with each interception a quarterback throws.
Through 16 starts, Tebow has a far better touchdown pass-to-interception ratio (17 touchdowns-9 interceptions) than Peyton Manning (26-28), Brees (15-15), Stafford (28-23), Bradford (18-15), Elway (10-19), Aikman (12-25) and Young (9-16). Tebow’s rate is also better than Eli Manning’s (21-14), and the same as Aaron Rodgers’ (23-12).
According to these key factual measures of an NFL passer (wins, touchdown passes, interceptions, playoff performance) Tebow is off to a better start as an NFL passer than many of the great passing quarterbacks in NFL history.
Tebow’s critics do not speak of these facts. Instead, they harp on the style of his passes and his completion percentage (46 percent). That is illogical. Results are more important than style. And completion percentage is far less important than wins, touchdowns, interceptions and playoff success. That is proved by the fact that Tebow has far more wins, and a much better touchdown and interception ratio, than many quarterbacks who have a higher completion percentage.
Peyton Manning is a certain Hall of Fame quarterback and a man of great character and integrity.
But the facts also show, at this point, Manning is not a more effective quarterback than Tebow. Last season, Tebow started 13 games. When you compare those 13 starts to Manning’s last 13 starts, the results are almost the same.
Over their last 13 starts, Tebow and Manning have the same winning record — 8-5. Each threw one touchdown pass for every 23 pass attempts. Tebow threw only one interception for every 51 passes. Unfortunately, Manning threw one interception for every 33 pass attempts. Tebow won one playoff game and lost the next. Manning lost his only playoff game, 17-16, to the Jets. Since Manning played these last 13 games, he has reportedly undergone three neck procedures and has not played for 14 months.
Tebow also brings the critical advantage of mobility to the field, which Manning does not. Over their last 13 starts, Tebow ran for 681 yards and 6 touchdowns. Manning ran for 23 yards and 0 touchdowns. Manning’s lack of mobility may explain some of the difficulty he has encountered in the playoffs during his storied career.
While it is undisputed that Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, he has only won one first-round playoff game since 2006. He has lost in the first round of the playoffs seven out of the 11 times his team has made it that far. He is 1-3 against New England in the playoffs, averaging 9 points a game in those losses.
None of these facts are intended as a criticism of Manning. They are simply proof of the undeniable fact that injuries and age take their toll on even the greatest quarterbacks. And no quarterback who has won a Super Bowl with one team has ever won a Super Bowl with his next team.
So the assumption that the Broncos would automatically be a better team right now under Manning is not supported by the facts. The facts show that Tebow is, by comparison, a great young quarterback with most of his career in front of him. Manning is a Hall of Fame quarterback with most of his career behind him. And over the course of their last 13 games, Tebow and Manning performed at approximately the same level.
It would be highly illogical for the Broncos to replace Tim Tebow with Peyton Manning. Such a decision, no matter how well-intentioned, would likely undermine the franchise for years to come.
Dan Caplis is a Denver attorney, journalist and co-host of the “Caplis and Silverman” show on AM 630 KHOW.