I don't know how to start this article without talking about Tim Tebow, but the fact of the matter is that Tebow is possibly one of the least-exciting examples of "all he does is win" in NFL history. He also just happens to be the only example known to the masses once ESPN realized that every time Skip Bayless said "Tebow" their ratings jumped to rerun-of-Two and a Half Men levels.
This is what has made Tebow the "all he does is win" quarterback, despite the fact that he has won eight career games, the same number as Geno Smith.
There are a number of reasons that Tebow earned the "all he does is win" moniker, including:
- Several unbelievable comebacks
- Being the quarterback of the Broncos as they went from 1-4 to 8-5, including six victories in a row
- Often being the focal of the offense on scoring plays, including scoring more rushing touchdowns (6) than running back Willis McGahee (4)
- And most importantly, in every other aspect of the game other than winning, Tebow sucks
When Bayless says, "All Tebow does is win" he means it. That is literally all he does as a quarterback. Yes, he possesses interesting and unique skills that allowed him to do more on the ground than even an above-average running QB, but as a passer it really looked like he had won a fan contest presented by Jack Link's Beef Jerky.
"Eat the most beef jerky in a calendar year, and YOU can be the quarterback of the Denver Broncos!"
When people say that "all you do is win," you should take that as an insult. Despite the fact that winning is the ultimate (and often only) goal in sports, the truth is that you'll never win consistently if you suck. Nobody ever says about Peyton Manning or Drew Brees or Tom Brady that "All they do is win" because they also complete more than 50% of their passes, they also throw touchdown passes, they also can lead an offense and make the players around them better.
Receiver Eric Decker subtly complained about Tebow for the entire 2011 season, even when they were winning. Decker caught eight touchdowns that season, but had only 612 yards. When the team replaced Tebow with Manning in the offseason (following a 35-point playoff loss to the Patriots), Decker had seasons of 1,064 and 1,288 yards and got paid. If he had to play with Tebow, that would've never happened. Thomas had 551 yards in that season with Tebow (and Kyle Orton, to be fair) and is now considered one of the top five receivers in the NFL.
All they did with Tebow was win (except when they lost, which was almost as often) and all they do with Manning is be a good football team.
Tebow was credited with seven wins in 2011, and not a single one of them came against a team that ended up posting a winning record. They did beat the 12-4 Steelers in the playoffs, but it was the Denver defense that did a great job of containing Pittsburgh until a final lapse that allowed Ben Roethlisberger to tie the game with less than four minutes to play. Tebow's 80-yard touchdown pass to Thomas came against perhaps one of the worst displays of defense that I've ever seen.
It was as if the Steelers opted not to play any because they knew they were facing Tebow, a quarterback who was 9-for-20 before that pass. Who the week before was 6-for-22 for 60 yards and an interception in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos third loss in a row.
So let's take that information on one player and use it to boil down the question of whether or not wins is the most important stat for quarterbacks:
Wellllllll. Yes and no, right?
A quarterback with great stats and not very many wins is always going to carry around with him that burden of not being credited as a "winner."
A quarterback with a lot of wins but not-so-great stats is almost seen in higher regard than the opposite. As noted earlier, Tim Tebow is a terrible example of an "all he does is win" quarterback. Why not take a look at some quarterbacks that really did win a lot, despite not being as statistically gifted as some of their QB brethren:
- Terry Bradshaw completed 51.9% of his career passes and threw 212 touchdowns against 210 interceptions. As a rookie, he threw six touchdowns and 24 interceptions. Though he improved on the back end of his career, Bradshaw was only a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro quarterback that rarely led the league in many categories.
Four Super Bowl wins later, playing with one of the greatest defenses of all-time, Bradshaw was a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, easily making it in during his first year of eligibility.
I'm not saying that Bradshaw isn't a Hall of Fame-worthy player. It's often noted that he called his own plays, he's one of the best leaders in NFL history, and that he showed up in big games. But if you switched him with Fran Tarkenton, a player with superior stats that didn't make the playoffs until he was 33 and never won a Super Bowl, how would history view them differently?
- Joe Namath completed 50.1% of his career passes and led the NFL in interceptions four times, including throwing 28 interceptions in a season twice and 27 interceptions in another. In 1976, Namath threw four touchdowns and 16 interceptions and had a passer rating of 39.9. He threw 220 career interceptions in only 140 games. And the truth is that Namath didn't even win that much. He was just 62-63-4 in his career.
But Namath won one Super Bowl, the Super Bowl that changed how we viewed the AFL, and that was enough to make him an all-time NFL icon and Hall of Fame QB.
On January 12, 1969, against the Baltimore Colts, all he did was win.
The player on the other side was Johnny Unitas. In his career he won several NFL championships, and the Super Bowl in 1970, but was also a great player. He may have also won the Super Bowl against Namath in 1968, but probably had no business in that game after missing the entire season with an injured arm. Yet either way, both sit in the Hall of Fame, and both are considered among the great quarterbacks of NFL history.
- Finally, Troy Aikman is 63rd all-time in touchdown passes. His career statistical accomplishments include leading the league in completion percentage in 1993 and throwing the longest completion of 1999. His career victory accomplishments include winning the Super Bowl three times.
It should also be noted that Aikman, Namath, and Bradshaw were all first overall picks. They were drafted by franchises that expected them to turn around their fortunes, and like "magic," that's what happened. These players had big games when it mattered (Eli Manning also fits this bill to a tee) and may have possessed intangibles that helped their teams win, but otherwise would leave you in wont if you only used Pro-Football-Reference to measure their accomplishments.
Players that suffered due to a lack of winning (championships) include:
- Dan Marino
- Warren Moon
- Jim Kelly
What does Drew Brees look like right now without a championship? What about Aaron Rodgers? On the flipside, players like Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer are almost mocked for winning a Super Bowl. You have to do more than just win, you have to be good. And you have to be more than just good, you have to win.
To say that a quarterback's win total doesn't matter wouldn't be fair. To say that he's responsible for the wins however, wouldn't necessarily be true.
When it comes to QB stats, wins are utterly important and yet entirely meaningless.
Tim Tebow: All he does is transition into a broadcasting career at age 26.