The Speed of Tebow’s Release

April 17, 2009

One of the major complaints about Tim Tebow by those who say he won’t make it in the NFL is that he has a slow release. This critique is related to the charge that he has poor mechanics.

I am not a trained coach, but I believe I can show you at least what armchair NFL GMs see in him that causes the real scouts to fret. I will compare him to Sam Bradford, a guy who was said to be a surefire top-five pick in the draft if he had come out.

All times that I quote here came from studying the national title game frame-by-frame in Avidemux. It’s not as precise as professional video gear, but it’s close enough for these purposes and any error will be consistent throughout.

Here is a sequence showing Bradford’s throwing motion. Pay close attention to the second frame, as that is where the biggest difference between the two guys comes from.

bradford1bradford2bradford3bradford4

Bradford has a compact throwing motion, which is what NFL scouts are looking for.

In the first frame, he is holding the ball in the classic quarterback stance. Frame two shows the farthest out his arm goes in his windup. You can see that the ball is close to his body and his arm is about at a right angle.

The final two frames finish out his motion. This throw, which is representative of his standard throws, takes about 467 milliseconds to complete.

Here is a sequence of Tebow’s motion.

tebow1tebow2tebow3tebow4

In the first frame, Tebow is in the same starting position as Bradford was in. The second frame shows a very different story however. The ball is far away from his body, and his arm is almost fully extended.

The final two frames finish out his motion. This was the most extreme example of Tebow’s long windup I could find, and it took 734 milliseconds to complete. That time is 267 milliseconds longer than Bradford’s throw.

Not every one of Tebow’s throws take this long, but it illustrates the perils of having a longer motion. Even moreso in the NFL than in college, a fraction of a second can be the difference between a catch and a tipped ball, and a tipped ball and an interception. The throw above was Tebow’s first interception of the national title game, a pass that was picked off by a safety reading his eyes and jumping in front of a receiver.

As I said though, this was the longest delivery I could find for him. I chose it because it makes for the clearest pictures. To find out a rough approximation of how much longer Tebow’s motion is than Bradford’s is, I took a sample of ten normal passes apiece and timed their motions. I did not include passes where the players were being hit, throwing on the run, or shovel passes.

I found that Tebow’s average time across the ten passes was 557 milliseconds, with all but one pass taking a half second or more. Bradford’s average release was 487 milliseconds, with the most common time being 467 milliseconds. The difference in average was not great at just 70 milliseconds.

As I said though, my ability to time their motions is not exact, and certainly Bradford’s motion looks a lot quicker than Tebow’s does. Tebow has a habit of bringing the ball down near his waist during his windup, while Bradford generally brings the ball straight back from his neutral stance.

Simple physics says it takes more time to move an object along a longer path, so Tebow’s release is labeled “slow.” It is not a huge difference, but just think back to Michael Crabtree’s catch that beat Texas. If the ball came a tenth of a second later, the defensive back coming to help may have gotten a finger on it.

Florida’s new quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler has been working with Tebow this spring to shorten up the motion. He is also working on getting Tebow to have a “10 o’clock release point,” as opposed to the sidearm-like delivery you can kind of see in his fourth frame. Bradford’s fourth frame shows what I would assume to be a 2 o’clock release point (since he’s right handed and Tebow’s a southpaw).

Tim Tebow is one of the most driven people I’ve ever seen though, so the effort will be there. He has almost a full year from today to prove to the Mel Kipers of the world that he can be something other than an H-back in the pros. Shortening up his delivery and fixing his release point will go a long way to that end.

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Bad News for Heisman Haters

January 15, 2009

The Heisman Trophy is a big deal in college football. If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be site after site on the internet dedicated to it and teams wouldn’t put signs up in their stadiums commemorating past winners.

A strain of fan does exist however that despises the award. It doesn’t exist very strongly in the Florida fan base thanks to Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow bringing it home in recent memory. Those fans that do hate it cite factors like that fact it’s a popularity contest, it is historically biased against positions other than quarterback and running back, and it generally is unfavorable to players who aren’t from glamor programs and conferences. There is a lot of truth in those criticisms.

Well for the first time in history, the top three Heisman vote getters are returning to school. We knew about Colt McCoy coming back for months, and Tebow announced his intentions over the weekend. Yesterday, Sam Bradford too said he will be back at school in 2009.

After a chaotic race in 2007 and one of the quietest races I can remember in 2008, we’re not going to be able to go 20 minutes without hearing the word “Heisman” next season. Every play from every week with these three will be dissected, and we’ll see people breathlessly fawn over “Heisman moments.” In other words, we’re going back to 2005 with Bush,Leinart, and Young duking it out only worse.

If you hate the Heisman, have your mute button handy all throughout 2009.