Keidel: Tebow Breaks Newton’s Laws

By Jason Keidel
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Like most men, I spend most of my day debating sports with other men, while infinitely more important topics – like war, unemployment, and America’s bankruptcy – fill the minds of more sensible folks.

But, occasionally, we stumble onto something intelligent. Don’t worry; we don’t solve anything significant. My boy merely asked me: who’s having a better season, Tim Tebow or Cam Newton?

I imagine 90 percent of you will instantly assert that Newton, by dint of dominant stats (over 4,000 total yards, 28 total touchdowns), long and strong dimensions, the glean of a Heisman and NCAA title still shining from his wide, white smile, is the better player.

And I agree. But I don’t think he’s having a better year.

Tebow and the NFL make for a carousel of contradictions. A peaceful man who plays a barbaric game; a man who doesn’t swear in a profane fraternity; a man who runs the ball in a passer’s league; and a mechanical mess in a league where every contour is measured with a jeweler’s eye.

Tebow has (occasionally) passed and (often) run, knelt, and prayed his way to a pretty good year, with his Broncos caught in a collective religious experience, going 7-1 with Friar Tim on top. The haters – or just doubters – declare that Tebow is the beneficiary of a dominant defense, a weak schedule, and boneheaded plays from Marion Barber. Some see Tebow as largely a one-trick pony whose new-car smell will waft away as soon as there’s enough film to figure him out.

But at what point does it go from happenstance to a happening? My math says 7-1 in the NFL = 2 months of football, far longer than a fluke.

Fantasy football devotees laugh at the question, as anyone who plucked Newton from their man caves sees the stratospheric numbers he’s posting while short-circuiting cell phones and laptops. Tebow sports a malnourished 11.5 points per fantasy week, while Newton, at a robust 22.5, is seen as a “must-start for anyone who doesn’t own Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Tom Brady,” according to ESPN.

What if you want to win football games? Rodgers, Brees, and Brady are 33-6; Newton has more losses than all three combined. And if Tebow has one edge on Newton (which leads to more wins), it’s turnovers, where the former Florida Gator has thrown 2 interceptions to Newton’s 16.

You’ve seen the stats showing Tebow’s anorexic numbers in quarters 1 through 3, when the entire offense seems to hibernate. Then comes the endgame: Tebow’s fourth-quarter fingerprint is running through indignant defensive backs who are used to some No. 12 who trembles while preparing to safely slide like Derek Jeter three yards before the linebacker arrives, with a suspicious ref ready to pluck a flag from his back pocket in case you sneeze on the QB.

To most offended defenders, gelded by an offense-frenzied era, Tebow is an anomaly, stampeding defenses with a pigskin under his arm and the Gospel under his tongue. Some see Tebow’s vibrant, spiritually vocal off-field mien – basically a boy scout with deep pockets who walks old ladies across the street while building children’s hospitals in the Philippines – in direct contrast with the violence he perpetrates on the gridiron. But history has shown us that while faith and football made an odd couple, the marriage is solid.

Cam Newton, by contrast, is carved from central casting. He just looks like he’s better than everyone else. And it seems he pretty much is. By all accounts, he gets is, and punched his timecard the moment he was drafted, the first to arrive at work and the last to leave. And you needn’t be a fantasy football freak to understand Newton’s new laws of nature: 3,573 passing yards, 15 passing touchdowns, and 554 yards rushing. (With three games left.)

But I have a hard time crowning Greatness the Man sans Greatness the Team. It’s like A-Rod hitting 57 homers for the last-place Rangers. Other than the novelty that Newton is doing it as a rookie, there’s no overarching lesson. Are you really kicking ass if your team is 4-9?

That’s not to say Newton won’t remold the moribund Panthers into a contender. Indeed, few of us would be shocked to see Cam Newton in Canton in 20 years if this year isn’t an aberration. He’s got all the physical and metaphysical bona fides of a born leader.

But it says here that Tebow’s team revival is more impressive because no one expected it. (No one even expected Tebow to play this year.) Newton, the first pick in the NFL draft, is supposed to be surreal. That’s not to trivialize Cam’s accomplishments. We’ve seen what the sheen of being the No. 1 pick has done to Newton’s predecessors, most notably JaMarcus Russell.

Tebow, whose throwing motion reminds you of Garo Yepremian, was considered a glorified wishbone quarterback who caters to the crucifix to fix the craters in his game. And not even the most divine intervention could fix the fissures in Tebow’s Pop Warner style of play, which defied the more dignified orthodoxy of the pocket passer, and would surely land him in the hospital before Honolulu. Here we are, however, with whispers of Hawaii for a long shot quite familiar with playing under palm trees.

Yet with all his rugged, rugby moves, Tebow can’t even run as well as Newton, who leads the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns. Think about that. Newton will throw for

4,000 yards and run for more scores than Adrian Peterson. And it’s hard not to be awestruck by Newton wrapped in an NFL uniform. His endless, gleaming silver silhouette is perfect for a player who looks like RoboCop on the field.

And most people would reasonably pick Newton long before Tebow if building a squad from scratch. Yet Tebow as an impossible intangible – he makes his defense better, too. Just read the sermons from Tebow’s teammates in this week’s Sports Illustrated.

If you’re old enough to remember Dan Marino’s entire career, you’ll recall he landed in Miami like a meteor, and had the otherwise anemic Dolphins – the immortal Woody Bennett was their leading rusher, with 606 yards – to the Super Bowl his sophomore season. Newton might be the most impressive freshman QB since Marino, but the profile is incomplete until Newton wins more games.

It’s a gripping contrast: pundits continue to talk about Newton’s unlimited ceiling while Tebow keeps crashing through the ones already clamped on him before he got the chance to play. These things are always subjective. But the subject of the month, if not the year, is Tim Tebow, football’s Rocky from the Rocky Mountains.

Feel free to email me:

  • mikey

    he’s gonna need an act of god to beat the Pats!

  • SCWilliford

    All of you are overlooking one thing: Newton did not beat Tebow out at Florida. No, it wasn’t the pros and yes, it was the spread offense. Still, it is telling that with all of his athletic ability, Newton couldn’t pass Tebow on the depth chart. Newton may go on to have a long and storied career in the NFL. I’ll take Tebow, particularly on issues like integrity and leadership.

    • jc

      tim tebow was already the starter at Florida before cam newton even got there so what your saying is irrelevant. cam newton started the season opener for Florida against hawaii but got injured. if he would have stayed at florida i guarantee you he would have started. newtons just as much a leader as tebow. If you remember Cam Newton led Auburn to a championship.

  • Person

    Tebow is a great fantasy QB, his rushing stats are amazing. It’s real-life that’s the problem… sure he’s winning games, but if you actually WATCHED these games, you’d surely have recognized that Tebow played like garbage for at least three quarters in most of them. Newton is great in both fantasy and real life. Is it his fault that he can’t “inspire” his defense to not allow 30+ points per game? And then you’re going to bring up the A-Rod “meaningless home runs” bullcrap I got tired of hearing about in 2005? With 9% of America unemployed, the it’s amazing that the writer of the article was able to land a gig spewing out nonsense like this.

  • Robert Wallace

    Come on man. If Tebow through the ball more if would have just as much interception. Denver stays in the game because they have a defense. Carolina doesn’t. You are comparing apples to oranges. Of course your going to say wins matters. You weren’t saying that when Vince Young doug Tennessee out of a hole. This is nothing new. Running QB’s have been doing this for years now. Mcnabb, Vick , Cunningham, Young, Donte Colpepper. Cam Newton at the QB position is having a better season than Tim Tebow. As a team he isn’t. Denver isn’t going to make it to the Superbowl so does wins really count when you compare the two. It all looks good now but if you make it to the post season and lose then what you are sitting at right where Cam Newton is at except his stats blows yours out the water. Quit hating Cam.

    • Chex Mex

      there are so many problems with your response I don’t even know where to begin. First of all… what kind of sports fan would ever say Wins don’t matter? Ultimately the goal is the Super Bowl yes, but if you don’t even make it to the playoffs then you can’t say your great and you certainly can’t expect to make it all the way the next year. Denver D is alright but certainly not amazing. And if you look at Tebow’s interception rate (that means his average interception based on completed passes) it is one of the lowest if not the lowest in the league. That means even if he had thrown as many passes as Newton he still wouldn’t have 16 interceptions. Not to mention Newton has already played 5 more games than Tebow this year. But at the end of the day if all you care about are stats… then you aren’t much of an athlete anyway. You can’t possibly tell me that Cam wouldn’t trade all of his stats to have Tebows Wins.

      • Person

        Nobody is saying wins aren’t important. Wins are why the Broncos are a better TEAM than the Panthers. And that, ultimately, is what matters in the NFL or any sport. However, Newton is a better PLAYER than Tebow. Using your logic, any random Packers player is better than all other players on all other teams because you only use wins to measure the value of players. If Tom Brady or Peyton Manning were placed on a team with a bunch of 12-year-olds, they probably wouldn’t win any games. They aren’t crappy players, but the TEAMS would be crappy. Football is a TEAM sport, and it’s amazing how many people simply refuse to understand that concept.

  • Kurt Spitzner

    As you alluded to,how many people cared about a-rod before he was yankee?Everybody knew of him and figured him to have a brilliant future,but who really cared before he hit the bronx?If you ain’t winning you ain’t jack!

    • JK

      Agreed, Kurt. What do you think about the Ryan Braun mess, dude?

      • Kurt Spitzner

        I find it to be very sad,but await hearing what B.S. has to say to spin this one!

  • Robert Richardson

    I love the Yepremian and Marino references. Winning is what counts even winning ugly, you can look pretty losing but it’s still losing.

    • JK

      Garo made the most hilarious pass ever thrown against the Redskins in that Super Bowl. I think the final was 14-7, with Washington’s only score coming on that ball squirting our of Garo’s hand after the botched kick. Was that Miami’s undefeated team?

      • Robert Richardson

        Yes it was the 1972 Fins. Another point I would like to add is that after Marino’s sophomore appearance at the dance, he would go another 15 seasons without even smelling a ring! YES!

        I just saw on the 6 o’clock news about two kids at Riverhead High suspended for “Tebowing”

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