Friday, December 2, 2011

Disrupting Tebow

Listening to the Vic and Gary Show on Wednesday, a Denver based sports radio show, former Bronco Nate Jackson joined them and  called into question conventional football wisdom.  For those who don't know Nate Jackson, he recently wrote for Slate that Tim Tebow is the NFL's worst nightmare.  Then on Thursday morning, Shannon Sharpe joined Vic and Gary for the Shannon Sharpe Show, and was confronted with Jackson's unorthodox ideas:

We had Nate Jackson, former Bronco, in studio yesterday. He made the case, Shannon, that we are seeing possibly a revolution, because the Broncos are leading the charge...and a change in the way the game is played.  And that the reason so many people like you, so many analysts out there, don't like it, it's  because you are conditioned to play the game a certain way and when change comes aboard you don't know how to deal with it, your egos get involved. Change is happening, accept it.  That's how he sells it.

Sharpe was uncharacteristically speechless. (Audio here. Part 1, 9:20 mark)

Interestingly, Jackson also mentioned that he played college ball at Menlo College, a noted business school, which made us think of business theory involving disruptive technologies and disruptive innovations.  And what are they?

A disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology there. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market...
With that in mind, does this not sound like what the Broncos are doing by supplementing their offense with the option and relying on their defense instead of having a strong passing attack?
What they have shown is that good [teams] are usually aware of the innovations, but their business environment does not allow them to pursue them when they first arise, because they are not profitable enough at first and because their development can take scarce resources away from that of sustaining innovations (which are needed to compete against current competition). In Christensen's terms, a [franchise's] existing [football philosophy] places insufficient value on the disruptive innovation to allow its pursuit by [their team to change their game plan]. Meanwhile, upstart [teams] develop different [game plans], at least until the day that their disruptive innovation is able to invade the [the conventional way of doing things]. At that time, the established [football franchise/philosophy] in that [league] can at best only fend off the...attack with a me-too entry, for which survival (not thriving) is the only reward.[3]
What critics don't realize is that the option doesn't have to work long term.  It only has to work in the short term. And it need not be the only offense, it only needs to be a disruptive addition to the offensive arsenal.

For the Broncos, it is buying time to allow Tim Tebow to develop his passing game, yes, his passing game.  But because he has a stronger than average running game for a QB, he doesn't have to solely rely on his passing to be a successful QB.

And if  you don't like the Tebow example, how about Cam Newton?  Don't forget we saw Newton play and practice while at UF.  Instead of reducing Newton to a pure pocket passer, why not unleash him, and allow him to be a dual threat?  Critics of Tebow all like to point out that Newton is not only a stronger rusher, but that he has a bigger arm too.  Does it make sense to reduce Newton in to a limited player like Tom Brady, or Peyton Manning, who have limited mobility and can only pass?

And if you think that Tebow and Newton as running QBs are an anomaly, then we have three letters for you, R-G-3. A well rounded QB may be the QB of the future.

Sorry pro-football "purists" but the game is changing, and it is returning to an earlier incarnation where the QB was a football player first and not simply a specialist passer and game manager, who let's someone else do the dirty work of grinding out yards with his legs. 

Like most revolutions, they begin more out of desperation than by choice, a by product of misery (losing) and a "what do we have to lose" mentality.  The Broncos had no other choice but to adapt, and to disrupt, and because they are winning, the rest will be forced to adapt as well.

Tim Tebow may not be the QB of the future, but he may be the catalyst and foundation for what is to come, because nearly every week we've watched him make history.