NFL Position Battles: Mark Sanchez vs Tim Tebow

Ever since Tebow got to the Big Apple, some have been calling for him to win the QB battle. The Jets stand firmly behind Sanchez. But the numbers say the choice is clear.

Ever since Tebow Christ Superstar came to the Big Apple, some have been calling for him to take over the starting job. The Jets have slugged through 44-year journey into the desert, not even reaching the Super Bowl since Namath’s famous guarantee back in January 1969. The fresh waters of the Promised Land may be within the Jets’ grasp; they have the second best defense in the NFL according to numberFire’s rankings. And surely, Tebow is the deliverer, at least over that Sanchez guy most famous for maybe possibly once dating Kate Upton, right?

Passing Efficiency

numberFire’s main statistic when looking at an offensive skill player is net expected points (NEP). The idea is simple – you want to score in an NFL game, yes? From what I’ve heard, the team that scores more points usually wins the game. Well, how many more or less points does one of your plays score, on average, when compared to an average NFL team in that situation? That’s NEP.

Most people have viewed the QB fight in New York as a battle between apples and slightly-rotten, less accurate oranges. When taking a look at the numbers, though, Sanchez hasn’t been too far off what a normal NFL QB should be. In the 2011 season, Mark Sanchez threw 582 passes and had a total Pass NEP of -27.79, meaning that his team lost out on 27.79 points throughout the season due to him passing the ball. When averaged out, that’s -0.05 points per play. Not good by any means, but only slightly below average.

Tim Tebow throwing the ball, meanwhile, had the accuracy of Imperial Stormtroopers this past season. Tebow threw 308 passes for the Broncos and accounted for a whopping -57.65 NEP passing. That’s an incredible -0.19 NEP per play lost out every single time Tebow went back to throw. In the dozen years, there have been exactly 2 other starters who registered -0.19 NEP per play: 2004 A.J. Feeley for Miami and 2000 Cade McNown for Chicago. That’s some… umm… company he’s got there.

Rushing Efficiency

“But ZAAAAACH,” you may say, “Tebow so good because he’s a double-threat! 660 rushing yards last year, remember?” Oh yes, I remember all too well, I will respond. I remember that he rushed the ball 120 times last year, giving his team a value of 0.23 NEP per play. I also know that 54 of his 120 rushes can be considered “successes”, meaning that he increased his team’s chance of scoring 45% of the time he rushed the ball. Tebow runs the ball extremely well and is better than almost all backs at converting successes, even when defenses treated him an RB…

… which happened all too often. Since he doesn’t have a strong arm, defenses can easily stack the box. Against Mark Sanchez, teams never expected the run. As a result, he rushed a little over 25% as much as Tebow in 2011 (32 times), but his scrambles were actually more successful since he had all the space in the world, gaining a success 15 (or 46.9%) percent of the time. His total NEP from rushing the ball was 18.38, or 0.57 points gained for his team per time he took off. Not bad for a guy who has a reputation as a stiff. You don’t want Sanchez taking off every down like Tebow tended to do - his NEP would go down quickly if teams began to stack the box against him. But Tebow’s strong rushing does not offset his lack of passing, especially when Sanchez only received eight less NEP total on the season scrambling.


If the Jets are truly playing by the numbers, they won’t give in and let Moses finish the journey. This is Sanchez’s battle to lose, and numberFire backs up that decision. Sanchez takes the cake in almost every category imaginable on the field. All three of Sanchez’s seasons have had a better total NEP score (-27.21 in 2011) than Tebow’s -57.42 score quarterbacking the Broncos last season. This one is easy.

Advantage: Sanchez