ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - There isn’t an aspect of Tim Tebow that hasn’t been under the microscope this season. His throwing motion, however, has been endlessly dissected ever since the predraft process and is still being picked over now that he’s become the Broncos’ starting quarterback and led them to a second-round matchup with the Patriots tonight.
Experts predicted that his mechanics always would keep him from being a competent quarterback in the NFL.
His motion regularly was ruled “poor’’ by talent evaluators. He had a windup and he carried the ball low, only further slowing that release.
The summer after the Broncos took Tebow with the 25th pick in the 2010 draft, John Elway, the franchise’s legend and now its executive vice president of football operations, told the Denver Post, “The thing about Tebow is they’re focusing too much on his release. As long as he can get it in a timely manner, I think he has plenty of arm there. He’s not going to change his release. He may get better. Obviously, by throwing you get more accurate and more accurate and you may shorten it up as time goes on, but if it’s long and quick, that’s OK.’’
Tebow has worked with several experts to refine his mechanics, including Sam Wyche, the former Bengals head coach and father of the no-huddle offense who taught the likes of Joe Montana and Boomer Esiason.
“This is not a talent-poor kid,’’ Wyche said. “This is a talent-rich kid with charisma and whatever that intangible is that draws the best out of those around him.’’
Quarterbacks guru Steve Clarkson, who got a chance to work with Tebow in 2005 at the Cali-Florida Bowl, which Clarkson puts together every year, said, “People beat him to death about his throwing motion, and I do see some flaws in his mechanics, as does everyone else, that he can certainly work on, but those are correctable.’’
Moreover, everyone around Tebow from outside experts to teammates agree that mechanics don’t matter as much as comfort level with the offensive system and his receivers.
“I think he’s improving every week,’’ said receiver Eddie Royal. “The more time you get to spend with your quarterback, the better it is for you. Just working on timing, working on a lot of the little things out on the practice field, I think with each week we get better at it.’’
Wyche’s experience with Tebow was a brief two days. Tebow had just finished his career at Florida and was about to be combed over by NFL scouts and evaluators going into the NFL draft. Tebow’s father Bob asked close friend Tony Dungy if Dungy could recommend anyone to work with his son on his throwing motion.
Dungy recommended Wyche, and Wyche flew up to Tennessee, where he and Tebow worked at an indoor facility just outside Nashville. There was just enough space to run out patterns, quick posts, slants, and hooks, but Wyche was able to get enough of a look at Tebow to break down his throwing motion from the time the ball was snapped to the time Tebow released it.
What happened immediately after the snap was actually the first thing Wyche noticed.
“Since Tim had worked almost exclusively as a shotgun quarterback at Florida, he would take a snap and take the ball back with one hand, his left hand,’’ Wyche said. “His right hand would come away from the football. The result was he was starting from a high position one time and a sidearm position another time, sometimes he’d even have it down low if he was in the pocket. So his motion never started from the same place.’’
So many things factor into the throwing motion - hand, eyes, head, elbow, chest - but Wyche was adamant about Tebow doing the same thing every time.
“My first observation with him was ‘Tim, you need to take the ball back with both hands so that your right arm, right hand, and right forearm and elbow and biceps kind of become a frame underneath your chin basically as you hold the ball and pull it back into the cocked position and the ball is always starting in the same position. It will increase your accuracy and also increase your release time.’ ’’
He told Tebow, “If I were to freeze-frame you, just before you begin your motion, the ball is almost straight up and down. In other words, the tip of the ball and the tip of the ball at the bottom, if you drew a line it would be perpendicular to the ground.
It explained the long windup that Tebow has been criticized for so often, Wyche said. It was like throwing a discus vs. throwing a dart.
“When you do that, it forces you to start downward and you have a rounded motion. Kind of like Randall Cunningham; when he came out he had a very exaggerated full windup release.’’
Wyche told Tebow to take the bottom tip of the ball and turn it straight out toward his target. The top of Tebow’s wrist, he said, should bend back at him. It forms that frame that Wyche had mentioned and sets the ball in the same spot each throw. Since the ball already is coming from a high point rather than from down and all the way around, Tebow’s release time would quicken.
“The rest of his motion I didn’t find anything wrong with it,’’ Wyche said. “He has a nice follow-through. He leads with his foot right to the point of reception. He had no accuracy problems. He had all the shots. He could throw the ball on-line deep down the field. He could lay the ball out there for a touch, over-the-shoulder throw. He could take something off it to lay the ball short.’’
What Clarkson saw when he watched Tebow was someone who didn’t necessarily line up his body to give him the most efficient throwing motion.
“His body movements don’t work as one,’’ Clarkson said. “Meaning, what you do with your left arm affects your right leg, so on and so forth. He doesn’t necessarily have a great understanding of how that balance works, the core, if you will.
“His stuff is very, very correctable. It’s not that difficult. He’s very close, to be honest with you. Like if you watch his throwing motion, his front foot, his toe is open when he plants and that makes him sort of wheel horizontally across his body. That doesn’t necessarily give him the most torque or the most pop when his ball is released.
“If you watch Tim Tebow’s off arm, you open your off arm, which in his case is his right hand. His hand should line up with his front foot and as he pulls his hand through at 90 degrees, almost like pulling a slot machine, what he does with his right arm and hand affect his left arm and hand. So they should go simultaneously.
“At the point of his release, his front foot should also be ‘blocked off.’ That means not pointing straight at the target but slightly closed on the target so when his back hip, in this case his left hip, rotates to the front, it catches simultaneously with his right arm so that creates a natural pop.’’
Hitting his stride
Every throw that came Demaryius Thomas’s way felt good, he said. Not just the 80-yard touchdown pass that Tebow threw Sunday to beat the Steelers on the first play of overtime.
On all four of Thomas’s catches, he said the ball felt like it came in on time and in rhythm.
“I feel like every ball I caught in that game was on point and in my stride,’’ Thomas said.
He said it didn’t have anything to do with arm motion.
“I feel like he’s getting more comfortable and not worrying about who’s in what spot and where are people supposed to be,’’ Thomas said.
The biggest thing for his throwing motion is the knowledge of where to go with the football.
Royal said he and Tebow work on timing every day and Tebow has a more complete grasp of the offense than he did at the start of the season.
“I think it’s night and day, just being comfortable with each other, knowing what to expect from one another not only out there on the practice field but in game situations,’’ he said. “We’ve got a good feel for each other right now.’’
Wyche and Clarkson both agreed that when Tebow is comfortable his motion isn’t an issue.
“When things go on time for him, I see him carry the ball back with two hands, the bottom nose of the ball is moving upfield and he’s got as good a release as anybody,’’ Wyche said. “His accuracy’s good and his arm’s strong enough and all of that.’’
Clarkson added, “If you are able to react and just go back and as John Elway said, ‘Let it rip,’ your throwing motion just kind of gets inherently better. Any time that he’s been in trouble he’s had to second-guess himself and that’s when the ball gets to dropping down and you get the elongated motion.
“The thing that makes a quarterback is his ability to lead the pack. I think if you go back to college when he made the famous speech after losing to Ole Miss, those are the things that you don’t teach. Those are the things that come out in games like this.
“This guy’s gotten bashed left and right and I don’t know how he’s performed, but he’s got this special trait that you can’t teach. That’s what makes him who he is.
“Those other things - if they invest the time and I’m sure they will - you won’t be having these conversations about his throwing motion because it’s not going to be an issue.’’
Tom Brady is a classic dropback quarterback. Tim Tebow is a work in progress. Gurus Sam Wyche and Steve Clarkson break down Tebow’s motion
Wyche: Just before Tebow begins his motion, ‘‘the ball is almost straight up and down. In other words, the tip of the ball and the tip of the ball at the bottom, if you drew a line it would be perpendicular to the ground.’’ It explained the long windup that Tebow has been criticized for so often.
Clarkson: ‘‘If you watch Tim Tebow’s off [right] arm . . . His hand should line up with his front foot and as he pulls his hand through at 90 degrees, almost like pulling a slot machine.”
Clarkson: ‘‘If you watch his throwing motion, his front foot, his toe is open when he plants and that makes him sort of wheel horizontally across his body.”
Clarkson: ‘‘At the point of his release, his front foot should also be ‘blocked off.’ That means not pointing straight at the target but slightly closed on the target.”