Yesterday, Johnny Manziel made a guest appearance on ESPN’s First Take with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. Manziel did pretty well — he talked about the NBA Finals, his experiences at Texas A&M, and how life has changed since he won the Heisman. However, he did have a major slip-up near the end of the segment, when he brazenly said, “Yeah, I mean, I hope I’m a better passer than Tim Tebow.”
Well Johnny, I’ve got a newsflash for you:
You aren’t. Not right now at least.
First of all, for the sake of argument, let’s say that the level of talent on the defenses both players competed against is a wash. I’d argue that Tebow faced better defenses during his time, but I don’t have the numbers to necessarily and definitively back that up. To be fair, I also think that Tebow’s offensive weapons (an emerging Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez) make up for any difference. The basic fact is that both players played against SEC defenses and performed well.
With the other factors basically even, let’s take a look at the stats:
According to Sports-Reference.com, Johnny Manziel completed an impressive 68% of his passes last season, while throwing for 3,706 yards and scoring 26 touchdowns through the air. He also threw nine interceptions. It’s impossible to dispute that these are great numbers.
But what about Tim Tebow? How did the southpaw Gator legend do given his lengthy release and mediocre footwork during his first year as the starter?
Well, he completed 66.9% of his passes and threw for only 3,286 yards. So Manziel has him beat in both of those categories.
But Tebow threw for 32 touchdowns and only had six interceptions. Personally, I’d trade six more touchdowns and three less interceptions for 500 more yards and one extra completion percentage point every day of the week.
In Tebow’s four years as a starter, he never threw more than six interceptions in a season. One of Tebow’s strengths has always been limiting turnovers and finding the endzone. Unfortunately, the jury is still out for Manziel in that regard — the man who doesn’t even want to be in the same conversation as Tebow.
Nine interceptions is obviously not an atrocious number, but it’s still only a starting point for Manziel. He could just as easily improve or perform worse in 2013. We’ll have to see how his career progresses to make a fair judgement.
In addition to the turnovers, Tebow’s lowest passer rating in his career (164.2 his senior season) was also nearly 10 points higher than Johnny Football’s during his redshirt freshman campaign (155.3). And in his best years at Florida (sophomore and junior seasons), Tebow’s rating was almost 20 points better than Manziel’s last year.
Am I saying that Manziel isn’t a superb player? Absolutely not. Manziel might be the most prolific quarterback in the college game right now.
Am I saying that he doesn’t deserve all the credit he gets? Again, no. Manziel was the best player in college football last year and completely deserved the Heisman Trophy.
I’m just arguing that he hasn’t done enough yet to say he’s even a better passer than Tim Tebow. The key numbers back up my argument.
People forget far too often that Tebow was actually a very good passer in his career at Florida. The idea that he’s a terrible passer may be true for his NFL career (so far), but the same cannot be said for his college career. He’s widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in college football history for a reason, and it’s not just his scrambling ability.
With time, Johnny Manziel may very well develop his skills and become a better passer than Tim Tebow, but he’s not there yet.