Charles Gray | Tebow’s conservative approach


The Gray Area | The unconventionality of Tim Tebow’s offense allows the Denver Broncos to win


charlesgray

Charles Gray
The Gray Area

Photo by Charles Gray


I’ve always believed that one of the key reasons to follow sports is for the lessons they provide in our own lives.

Last Thursday, I was reminded of this when the Denver Broncos, led by quarterback Tim Tebow, beat the heavily favored New York Jets, 17-13.

Much has been written about Tebow’s personality. He is the son of Baptist missionaries who is not afraid to vocalize his Christian faith. In college, he would write Biblical verses on his eye paint. At post-game press conferences, he routinely discusses the importance of the Lord in his life. He refers to reporters as “sir.” No matter if he wins or loses, he is polite and humble.

It is easy for pro athletes to let their fame make them bigheaded. But Tebow is a gentleman who understands what is really important in life and is not afraid to express it.

Even more has been written about Tebow’s game. Since he began college, the media has criticized his abilities. He has neither the throwing mechanics nor the arm of a standard NFL quarterback.

But he does have a strong work ethic, which he has used to temporarily silence his critics. At the University of Florida, he led the Gators to two National Championships and won a Heisman trophy.

Despite this success, the same media criticism occurred when he reached the pro game in Denver.

This is because football has changed since its inception. It was originally about running the ball; now, the NFL is built on the deep pass. Modern teams typically carry out a risky, fast-paced, pass-focused game. It’s a progressive approach.

Tebow is not able to run this kind of offense. So, to suit his skills, the Broncos changed their game plan. In their win over the Kansas City Chiefs this season, they only had two pass completions and ran the ball 55 times. The Broncos have gone back to the game’s roots, when running the ball was king.

When you think about it, this offense is the definition of what it means to be conservative. Businessman August Hecksher once stated that “true conservatism…denies the liberal assumptions of inevitable progress.” Tebow’s approach is about going back to the foundation of football and taking a less risky, steady approach to the game. It has turned into a bold attempt to see whether the run-based game can again succeed in the NFL.

So what allows the Broncos to win when they adopt an approach that is considered archaic and old?

The reason it is successful is that it is unconventional. Modern-day defenses are built mostly to counter the pass. Instead, the Broncos run a spread-style offense where it is ambiguous whether they will run or pass. While they run the ball a majority of the time, Tebow still remains a threat with the long ball.

This confusion creates openings for the offense that can be exploited as the game goes on. The team’s longer, run-based drives tire the opposing defense and keep the opposing offense from gaining a rhythm. And at the end of the game, Tebow has the opportunity to come through for clutch game-winning plays.

While analysts still don’t quite understand why this offense is successful, it is that very lack of understanding that spreads throughout the league and helps the Broncos win.

A lot of people say that this conservative approach is boring to watch. But, for me, it’s much more exciting than the pass-and-dash that has become so routine in the NFL today.

Thursday’s game was a typical Tebow performance. He kept the team in the game, and the Broncos — behind by three with four minutes to go — got the ball back. With 58 seconds remaining, the offense was at the 20-yard line on a third down. The Jets became confused with what the Broncos were going to do, and Tebow was able to run the ball in for a touchdown.

All the announcers could do at that point was laugh. And then, most of them went back to saying that Tebow’s style of play will eventually stop working.

For me, at that moment, it really became about more than who was going to win a football game. It became about using an unconventional, conservative, traditionalistic approach built on a strong work ethic and faith in the team spirit to prove all of the doubters wrong.

What more of a lesson do you need for a Thursday night?

Charles Gray is a College and Wharton senior from Casper, Wyo. His email address is chagr@wharton.upenn.edu. The Gray Area appears every Tuesday.

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