Thursday, August 05, 2010

A Prediction (Football)

All NFL teams have done since Kyle Orton entered the league five years ago is try to get rid of him.

First, the Chicago Bears traded him to Denver as part of a package for Jay Cutler. Then Denver drafted Tim Tebow in the first round to eventually replace him.

It can be very hard to separate Tim Tebow the football player from Tim Tebow the brand, because Tebow is certainly a brand.

However, let me say this: Kyle Orton has played five years and has thrown nearly 1,500 passes in the NFL. He's thrown 51 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions, his quarterback rating is 76.9, and his career record is 29-19.

Tim Tebow will never be as good in the NFL.

Tebow's career stats will never exceed what Kyle Orton has done in the first five years. It's not that he won't get chances--hell, he'll get every conceivable chance. But he'll never have more than sporadic success, at best.

Here's why, and it's not about his mechanics, although certainly, he has serious issues with his throwing motion. There's a well-developed economic phenomenon in the NFL where teams overpay for players who played in the Super Bowl the previous season, particularly if the player was on the winning team. These players will, in most cases, be overpaid as free agents.

The NFL also overvalues players coming from college championship teams, or teams that play for championships. And particularly in college, playing for a championship as a player means absolutely nothing in terms of his ability to play in the NFL.

Here's why it's misleading. Any team that plays for a national championship--like Florida--has top recruiting classes year after year. Tebow played with an incredible array of talent. In most games during the season, a top team like Florida (or Ohio St., or Texas) could roll out their backup quarterback and still win. It's like that when a team has high-school All Americans at almost every position.

In the NFL, that's never going to happen. Ever. There's a small bottom tier of teams, a small top tier, and then 20+ teams who are all within a field goal of each other.

Playing on a great college team is terrible preparation for the NFL. Terrible. Far better to play on an above-average team that has to struggle to win every week, that can be elevated by the quarterback playing exceptionally well. That's a much better simulation of the NFL experience.

Peyton Manning never even won an SEC championship. Michigan shared the Big Ten title once in the two years that Tom Brady started. Ben Roethlisberger played in the MAC for Miami of Ohio. Philip Rivers played for North Carolina St.

I could list hundreds of NFL quarterbacks like this over the last decade, but the point is, the more adversity a player faces in college, the better. The NFL is all about adversity, and going into almost every game in a college career as the favorite is not adversity.

Vince Young? One of the greatest athletes I've ever seen, and a nice quarterback, at times, but he never faced any true adversity at Texas, and the first time was booed in Tennessee, he tried to quit. Matt Leinart? Seemingly, a truly polished player in college, he failed as a starter in his rookie season and only now, in his fifth season, is he getting another chance.

If you go back ten years, or twenty, the quarterback graveyard is full of bones from guys who played for national championships or played for a national powerhouse.

What does that mean for Sam Bradford? Well, his throwing motion is about a hundred times better than Tebow's, so I think he has a better chance. But I would never, ever use a high draft choice to pick a quarterback from a national-championship caliber team.

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