What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any amount of time, you know I’m a life-long Philadelphia Eagle fan. That means for about the last 24 hours, my various in-boxes have been blowing the fuck up over this whole Tim Tebow thing. The general theme of all those message: What the fuck are the Eagles doing?
First of all, just because I’m a fan, and I may own a few bits of Eagle paraphernalia, that doesn’t mean I have a “Bat-phone” straight to Chiip Kelly’s office. Nor does it mean that Chip calls me for approval on player personnel decisions. If I did, they would have been told to give Riley Cooper two sets of brass knuckles and a chance to fight his way our of a 50 Cent show.
Since neither of those are the case, I don’t know what this move is all about, nor do I understand it myself. I’ve got a couple of theories, but I just didn’t know enough to put together anything reasonable.
Then, I read this article on Fox Sports, and once I broke it down, it all started to make sense. Let me walk you through that break sown, and let’s see if it makes sense to you.
When I first saw colleague Jay Glazer’s report Sunday that Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles were about to sign Tim Tebow, I thought, This might break the Internet.
Hyperbole? Of course, but it didn’t take long for the old Florida Gators Heisman winner to be the top trending subject in the country. And you knew Tebow’s return to the NFL was going to be the big story on all the TV sports shows this week.
Point #1: Tebow is the perfect distraction for covering just about anything. Right now in Philadelphia, everybody’s talking about this guy, and not the fact the Eagles are married to a $50 million contract on a quarterback whose ACLs are as solid as over-cooked linguini.
As I looked around Twitter on Sunday night, there was a bunch of ridicule and outrage regarding Tebow. Mind you, this is the Eagles signing a 27-year-old quarterback who’s actually won an NFL playoff game, as their fourth QB to a one-year minimum contract.
This is a guy who does everything right off the field, and he’s an issue?
Tebow doesn’t warrant another chance, yet a bunch of guys who’ve been in all sorts of trouble do?
Again, fourth QB. One-year minimum contract.
Point #2: The Eagles have nothing to lose on this. Think about it. If Tebow proves he still can’t hack the NFL game, they’re going to know that long before it really costs them anything. But if it pays off, not only do the Eagles get a proven NFL winner as a third-string quarterback; let’s not forget, the Teb-ster took the helm of a 3-5 Bronco team and got them into the play-offs, and led them to a win over a pretty-damn-good Pittsburgh team in the post-season. Before you poo-poo that, take a look at the average resume of an NFL third-stringer. Almost none of them have any real on-field experience past the college days.
Not to mention…if you are down to your third-string quarterback, your season is already pretty well-fucked anyway. So, why not take a chance on a guy like Tebow? Are you going to sleep better at night knowing the third guy on your depth chart is Matt Barkley? Puh-leeze.
Tim Tebow is perhaps the most polarizing sports figure we’ve seen in years. For many, he resonated because of his clean-cut image and because he was devout. He spoke about his faith in public settings, visited prisons and even referenced Bible verses in the eye black he wore during college games. He was a bona fide phenomenon, but that came with a hefty undertow. Many recoiled at Tebow — or at least the idea of Tebow — as if he were some over-saturated pop-music act. He was like a one-man version of Duke basketball or Notre Dame football. People got sick of him, or hearing about him. But that’s actually more our fault in the media than it is his. Tebow’s return is one thing, and then you add in the fact that it’s to Chip Kelly’s team it becomes even more combustible subject.
Point #3: Tebow gets shit on all the time because he’s a white Christian. Face it, we live in a world where Christian are getting executed all over the Middle East, and they are treated like lepers in this country. That’s where half the bullshit about him comes form. This league is full of dog-meat quarterbacks; big, strong, athletic guys who can’t throw. When they are white Christians like Tebow, they get more shit dumped on them than an Iowa cornfield. When they’re black guys like Russel Wilson or Colin Kaepernick, we’ll go out of way to find other things to blame.
OK, so now let’s tackle that whole “can’t throw” thing…
Before I started working on my book “The QB,” I had no intention of writing anything about Tebow in there. However, one of the main characters in the book, Tom House, a former journeyman major league pitcher who has turned into the country’s leading sports biomechanics guru, had been working with Tebow for months. Every day for hours. This was after Tebow had been released by the Patriots two years ago and Tom Brady, who has become a protege of House’s, recommended the former Broncos QB see House at USC, where he has an office above the third base line.
House is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever written about. The word guru gets thrown around way too much in sports. I’m guilty of it, too, but he’s actually the closest thing to one I can think of. He was Nolan Ryan’s coach, and Randy Johnson’s, and then he started working with Drew Brees at the beginning of his NFL career. Brees swears by him. Said House changed his life. Brady has been a believer for a few years now. So have about a dozen other NFL QBs who make a pilgrimage in the off-season to see him. In “The QB,” I refer to him as “The Mad Scientist.” Watching him teach a dozen 20-something pro pitches was riveting.
House has a PhD in performance psychology, a Master’s degree in marketing, and an MBA and has written almost two dozen books.
OK, I remember Tom House as a major-league pitcher, and I saw “Million Dollar Arm.” I know he’s the guy who can fix anything throwing related. Not to mention, that’s an awfully high-powered resumé to completely dismiss the guy. So, I’m listening…
According to House, one of the big mistakes quarterback coaches make is getting too caught up in trying to make all their QBs throw exactly the same way. Bodies are different. Physiognomy. Conditioning-wise.
“They’re wired differently,” he said. “What you need to do is identify the critical variables. And do you have a fix for the variables that aren’t efficient? Then, if they’re efficient and effective and they’re repeatable, they play. And we do as well with quarterbacks who are just trying to get better to go to college as we do with Drew Brees and Tom Brady, who just want to get 1 or 2 percent better.”
So, you’ve got this all figured out. How much coaching do guys like Brees and Brady need? What about complete rebuild jobs like Tebow?
“Everybody’s afraid of Tim,” House told me back then. “There’s too much stuff that comes with Tim. When he showed up here, he was 10,000 reps behind any other NFL quarterback. He’d never been given a tool kit on how to fix [his mechanics]. With good intentions, he wasn’t getting any help. Everybody pulls for him, but good intentions with bad information is just as bad as no information at all.”
Like it or not that’s true. Every where this guy went in the NFL short of Denver, he never really got a chance; and the one team that did give him a shot ran him out of town for it. Now, this is the part where I have to admit for purposes of full-disclosure that I wrote about how somebody is eventually going to have to build an offense around a quarterback who can’t throw. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
For the first month of training sessions, Tebow asked House not to allow people into the stadium because the former college star didn’t want anyone to know he was there.
House didn’t bother to look at Tebow’s old film. “I don’t look at bad film,” he said. “We work with what our statistical model has validated, and then we work from there. It’s what we’re supposed to be dealing with right now. We know for a fact that he had premature rotation issues on the front side, and his back foot came off the ground too soon, but that shows up when he’s throwing. You don’t have to look at it on film.”
House also examined Tebow’s diet and determined that the QB was taking in too much protein and didn’t have enough balance. House wanted to make his body more “quarterback specific, so he doesn’t look so much like a linebacker anymore.”
In the Comments Section on the piece I just mentioned about building an offense around a Tebow-like guy, SportsChump caught on to the “body-type” thing. So, if a couple of bloggers can see this shit, why would anybody doubt a guy with more degrees on his wall than a fucking thermometer?
House dismissed a lot of reasons why people said Tebow struggled, from being too stiff in his neck and shoulders to a penchant for over-striding.
“There is no such thing as over-striding, but there is something about not having the right timing in the foot stride,” he said. “Guys like Brady and Carson Palmer have much bigger strides than Tebow, but they had better timing with those strides. When we start teaching, we look at timing first, then kinematic sequencing, and then the mechanics of the throw. So if you’re not timed right, no matter how good you are with the mechanics, it’s gonna look weird. It’s called the step-wise regression analysis.”
The “fixing” of Tim Tebow, the quarterback, would take some three months. House’s diagnosis of why Tebow was inaccurate all came back to timing issues with his body. Once they could get his body in sync, the mechanics were actually pretty easy to fix, the former major league pitcher said.
“He still does what he’s always done with his throwing arm. We just fixed the front side and gave him a better posture to do it and made him time it better.” Beyond that, House said Tebow learned why he would misfire whenever he did, which “The Professor” said was vital for anyone to be at their best.
“We allowed him to understand why the ball goes right or left, why the ball goes high or low and how to spin the ball and how to physically prepare from feet to fingertips and to take it out and make the dynamic movement work for you and not against you. Does the term muscle-head make sense? He muscled everything. He can muscle it when he needs it, but now he’s got kinematic sequencing. He’s muscled down for efficiency.”
Another underlying problem that tied into Tebow’s issues in the NFL that House ID’d: The former All-American quarterback had no confidence in his throwing ability.
“He didn’t think he could make that throw, so he went to what he was confident in, and that was his legs,” House said.
It’s no secret that confidence in athlete is as important as ability. One with out the other is pretty useless. But, let’s say for the sake of argument that the whole throwing/confidence thing has been “fixed.” If you recall, that wasn’t the only knock on Tebow.
After my time around Tebow and House last year, I went to the NFL Combine, where the reaction from coaches and personnel people to claims of a Tebow transformation was a collective shrug.
“The problem isn’t really his arm,” said one veteran NFL defensive coach about Tebow. “It’s that he’s not wired to process what he’s seeing once the ball is snapped, and if you don’t have that, you simply can’t be a quarterback in this league.”
How much, if at all, Tebow can remedy that aspect of his game remains to be seen. Chip Kelly, who knows more about mobile QBs than any coach in the NFL and may be the most creative guy in the sport, thinks it’s worth a shot to see what happens. It’ll be interesting to see what Kelly may do with him. As for the specter of any media distractions, Kelly apparently isn’t fazed.
Frankly, I don’t know what to make of Chip Kelly, but given what the Eagles had become toward the end of the Andy Reid era, I look at them like the Eagles are looking at Tim Tebow. What do we have to lose?