Tim Tebow vs. Ryan Leaf: Who Is The Better Quarterback?

By Matt Schroeder
November 16, 2012 3:03 pm
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With the news coming out of New York this week regarding Tim Tebow and how his own teammates feel about him got me thinking about another quarterback that never amounted to anything.

Ryan Leaf was a quarterback drafted in 1998 that many believed would be the next great one.  He was drafted second overall behind Peyton Manning in that draft.  It was a long debate on which QB should go first, but many thought that both would end up with a glorious career.  However, as most people know, Leafs tenure in the NFL lasted only 4 seasons and his life outside of the NFL as only gotten worse.

As for Tim Tebow, he was the Golden boy in college.  He was able to take Florida to a national championship and win the Heisman.  But many scouts did not see him making a career in the NFL with style of play.  Everyone knew he had the drive for the NFL but not the talent.

So with all the criticism Tebow has gotten so far throughout his career, I decided to compare him to Ryan Leaf, who most people see as the biggest bust in NFL history, and see who is really the worse quarterback.

Lets start with Leaf.  Leaf in his rookie season of 1998 played in 10 games for the Chargers.  His stats that year were horrendous.  He completed a paltry 45.3 percent of his passes for 1,289 yards.  Possibly his worst stat that year was his touchdown to interception rate.  Leaf managed to only throw 2 touchdowns to a whopping 15 interceptions while compiling a 3-7 record.

Tebow, in his rookie season, played in 9 games for the Denver Broncos.  In those 9 games, Tebow completed an even 50% of his passes for 654 yards.  He also threw for 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.  Tebow also managed to run for 227 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Tebow only started the last 3 games in 2010 and managed to achieve a 1-2 record in those three games.

Leafs second season had to wait a full year as he missed the entire 1999 season due to a shoulder injury.  But in 2000, Leaf returned to the Chargers in hopes of bouncing back from his tumultuous rookie year.  Unfortunately for him and the Chargers, these hopes floundered. He did have statistically a better year but still not a good one.  He was able to only complete 50% of his passes for 1,883 yards while tossing 11 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.  Even though Leaf did slightly better statistically in 2000, the Chargers did not.  In the 11 games Leaf started, the Chargers managed a measly 1-10 record.

Tebow's second year was much better team wise than Leafs second year.  After earning the starting job after the third game from Kyle Orton, Tebow managed to spark life into the Broncos as he was able to lead them to 7-1 record over the next 8 games before losing 3 straight and backing into the playoffs with an 8-8 overall record.  During the 2011 season, Tebow managed to complete 46.5% of his passes for1,729 yards while throwing 12 touchdowns to 6 interceptions.  Tebow was also able to rush for 660 yards and 6 touchdowns. 

Tebows biggest feat of his career came in the playoffs against the heavily favored Steelers.  In that game, Tebow went 10-21 for 316 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He also rushed the ball 10 times for 50 yards and another touchdown.  The biggest play of the game came in overtime.  On the first play from scrimmage, Tebow was able to hit a streaking Demaryius Thomas for 80 yards and the winning score.  This has been the highlight of Tebow's career and also help to spark the craze of "Tebowing".

Now back to Leaf.  Leaf's third year saw him play in only 4 games for Dallas.  In those 4 games, Leaf managed to complete 51.1% of his passes for 494 yards with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions.  This was the last season Leaf ever played professional football in the NFL.  His career numbers were 48% completion rate for 3,666 yards and with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions, and 1 massive blowup that saw him yell at reporters and teammates in the locker room during his rookie season.  

Tebow is in the midst of his third season right now and first with the Jets. In nine games so far, Tebow has completed 5-6 passes for 40 yards and no touchdowns.  He has also added 27 rushes for 92 yards and no touchdowns.  He has mostly been used as a personal protector for the punter as well as some wildcat plays.  Tebow's career numbers look like this, 47.9% completion rate with 2,423 yards and 17 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions.  He has also added 979 yards rushing and 12 more touchdowns.  

So who would be the better choice.  Leaf or Tebow.  I personally would choose neither.  Both complete well under 50% of their passes.  The only edge Tebow gets in my mind is his legs and the plays he can make if under distress.  However, that is not enough.  The way the game is today, teams need passing Quarterbacks, not rushing Quarterbacks. 

I will say that Tebow has had the better career so far but not much better.   And that is not saying a lot.

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By Matt Schroeder
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13 months ago
The stat comparison isn't exactly fair. Completion percentage means nothing. How many more attempts did Leaf make than Tebow? How many deep passes did Leaf complete, compared to Tebow? If you complete 3 out of 4 passes, that's 75 percent. If you complete 20 out of 40, that is 50 percent. How many of Tebow's TD passes were short passes and long runs after the catch? How much better of a TEAM was the Broncos, than the Chargers?

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