It’s the preseason. It’s important not to get too excited or too worried about anything that happens in the preseason. Starters rarely play into the 2nd half and game plans are as vanilla as they come on both sides of the ball. Countless players don’t play for precautionary reasons with injuries they would play through during the regular season. Aaron Rodgers is 20 of 41 (48.8%), while Curtis Painter has a higher quarterback rating than both Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
However, one thing to be concerned about is the Jets right now. The Jets have played 35 preseason possessions and have yet to score a touchdown, unless you count the pick six that Mark Sanchez threw to the Giants’ defenders in their 2nd preseason game. They’ve scored 21 total points in 3 games, all on field goals. Mark Sanchez is 24 of 35 (68.6%), but only for 203 yards (5.8 YPA), 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.
Tim Tebow has been worse as a passer, completing 13 of 36 (36.1%) for 151 yards (4.2 YPA), 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, but he’s made up the difference with 84 yards on 11 carries, while Sanchez has rushed 4 times for 17 yards. In Tebow’s 15 possessions, the Jets have scored 9 points. The same goes for Sanchez’s 14 possessions (3 points if you subtract the pick six). Tebow’s rushing abilities have also allowed him to pick up 10 1st downs to Sanchez’ 6.
Tebow might look worse as a passer now, but when the games have counted, their numbers are similar as passers. Tebow’s career quarterback rating is 75.1, while Sanchez’s is 73.2. Sanchez has completed a higher percentage of his passes (55.3% to 47.3%), while Tebow averages more per attempt (6.8 to 6.5) and has a better touchdown to interception rate (17/9 to 55/51).
A look at more advanced statistics from last season shows a similar story. Tebow’s adjusted QB rating (doesn’t count drops, throw aways, hit as throwns, spikes, batted passes, or yards after catch) was 79.41, while Sanchez’ was 76.18. Meanwhile, Sanchez was one of just 3 quarterbacks who graded out worse than Tebow as a passer on ProFootballFocus (Sanchez, Gabbert, Skelton). Obviously, Sanchez has the experience edge, but Tebow won the head-to-head battle last year in Denver, with an inferior supporting cast.
However, as a runner and as a leader, Tebow has the edge. There are obviously no stats for leadership, but Tebow commanded the respect of the Broncos’ locker room last year in a way that Sanchez never has with the Jets and the same goes dating back to their days at Florida and USC respectively. As a runner, Sanchez has 314 yards and 12 touchdowns on 103 rushing attempts in his NFL career, while Tebow has 887 yards and 12 touchdowns on 167 rushing attempts. Tebow also ranked 2nd among quarterbacks running the football on ProFootballFocus last year (behind Cam Newton).
Neither of these quarterbacks are good passers, especially behind this offensive line, throwing to this group of receivers, so why not go with the better runner and leader? The Jets made the playoffs in 2009 with a strong defense (1st with 14.8 points per game allowed) and an ultra conservative offense (607 rushing attempts to 393 passing attempts). That’s their best chance at making the playoffs this season, following that model.
They have the defense (their 20th ranked scoring defense last year was misleading as they ranked 2nd in defensive DVOA), but they don’t have the running back talent and depth to carry the ball that many times. They need a quarterback who can carry the ball effectively, open things up on the ground for the other backs, and minimize turnovers as a passer.
Who does that sound like? The quarterback with a career 3.0 YPC and 3.6% career interception rate or the with a career 5.3 YPC and 2.5% career interception rate who has commanded the locker room and won at every level and who essentially made the playoffs running the same style offense last year? In 11 starts last year, Tebow’s Broncos ran 428 times to 264 passes, which extrapolated 623 runs to 384 passes over 16 games. Do those numbers look vaguely familiar?
If you’re interested in doing a fantasy football league with me, here’s the link (no draft date set yet, currently standard, with the option to become PPR with group vote). http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/football/commissioner/Registration/Private.aspx?league=55086&password=FanSpot2