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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some Golf Advice for the Broncos (repost)

(I had some problems with my auto-Tweeting, so I'm re-posting this in hopes that it will finally show up on Twitter and Facebook. I also added a couple of thoughts I meant to include in the first version but forgot.)

I've heard that the most dramatic breakthroughs in any field happen when an outsider enters that field. That's because the new guy (or gal) brings a new way of thinking with them. The folks who have been there for a long time get stuck in a "this is how it's done" mindset.

With that in mind, I started thinking about how a golf mindset might help the Denver Broncos right now. For those of you who don't keep up with football, there's a firestorm brewing around rookie quarterback Tim Tebow. The current management of the team (and a huge number of commentators) say Tebow doesn't have the necessary skills to be the team's quarterback. But they were forced (by poor play) to put Tebow in... and the team has won 3 of the 4 games Tebow has started.

This has caused, shall we say, a little debate around the NFL.

Tebow plays a little golf, you know. He and Jack Nicklaus teed it up together earlier this year at the Honda Classic pro-am:

Tebow and Nicklaus at the Honda Classic pro-am

So I think Tim would appreciate my thoughts here. And even if you don't follow the NFL, I suspect this post might help your golf as well.

The big problem centers around Tebow's passing skills... or lack thereof, depending on who you ask. Denver has been forced to focus on a running game since Tim doesn't complete a lot of passes. In Sunday's game (which they won, btw) he passed a total of 10 times and completed only 2. (It should be noted that one of those was a touchdown. Tebow also runs the ball quite well and ran for yet another touchdown. And despite his poor completion percentage, he doesn't turn the ball over very often. Better teams are in trouble this season because they lacked that skill.)

The Broncos have improved their play during this time as well. Several skeptics have pooh-poohed the idea that Tebow makes the team better because they say his skills aren't good enough. But I believe he does make them better... and his lack of skills are part of the reason. It's no secret that the team believes in him and rallies around him. I believe that they see him struggling with his passing but still finding a way to win, and they say to themselves, "If Tim can do it, why can't I? If I can make just one more tackle, or one more block, or get a couple more yards on a run..." And they put that little extra bit of effort out and voila! They win when it's not expected.

You golfers should appreciate a player who simply takes what he has and finds a way to make it work. That's something you need to do as well -- focus on your strengths when you're on the course and use them to post a score. Tebow has said repeatedly that he doesn't care if it's pretty or not; he just wants to find a way for his team to win.

Critics say that the college-style offense the Broncos are running is limited. It seems to be confusing the other teams for now -- after all, they don't see it very often -- but they'll figure out soon enough. I'll grant you that... but that's true of any strategy.

Here's what my golf-based approach thinks: Don't worry about it this season. Run the plays that work right now. You have to play with what you have; any golfer worth his stuff can tell you that. Post the scores the best way you can for now and work on the problems back on the practice field.

And that's where I think a golf mind helps most here. See, the complaint is that Tebow's throwing mechanics are flawed. Critics say he'll never become a solid passer. I disagree. That kind of thinking would have kept Bobby Jones, Jim Furyk, and Lee Trevino (among others) out of golf. None of them have the kind of mechanics you'd teach someone taking up the game, but they're all among the best the game has seen.

And as if that weren't enough, Tiger has won majors with 3 different swings built on 3 different mechanical theories... and may be on the verge of adding a 4th successful style to his record. Determination and self-belief both play a part here. Mechanics can definitely be over-emphasized in any sport!

Here's what I see with Tebow: His motion is unorthodox, but he's proven he CAN be very accurate, and that's an important distinction. Things would be different if his motion was incapable of delivering long passes on target. But that's not his problem, so forcing him to learn a completely different passing technique would simply be a waste of time and resources.

Rather, Tim's problem is consistency, a problem most golfers will relate to! In fact, I believe his unorthodox motion is part of the reason he doesn't turn the ball over much. Let me give you a quick golf lesson that you've probably heard before but didn't appreciate. Haven't you ever wondered why some of the best players are also the most unorthodox?

The pros always say they want to eliminate one side of the course, correct? Then they try to learn an orthodox motion, which puts the swing right in the middle of their range of motion. This gives them the most flexibility but also makes it easier to make small mistakes that send the ball left or send it right without ever knowing why. The tours are full of players with orthodox swings that result in army golf (left, right, left, right...)

But many of the best players in history have built their swings on extremes. Here's a way to understand it: If you stand in the middle of a room, you can move your arm in any direction with equal ease, can't you? Now walk over and put that shoulder against a wall. The wall eliminates half of your arm's motion! This is basically what many unorthodox swings do -- they minimize a player's ability to miss the shot to one side by limiting their range of motion.

Trevino's entire motion was built on getting his body in extreme positions. Nicklaus developed a swing that was more upright than anybody else. Hogan developed a swing that was flatter than anybody else. For example, Hogan kept his arms so close to his body that any error he made caused him to swing out to the right, and his weak grip kept him from flipping the club to the left. As a result, he eliminated the left side of the course.

I think Tebow's "flat" throwing motion allows him to do basically the same thing and always throw the ball so he makes the same miss time after time. He can make sure his missed passes don't end up intercepted.

What the Broncos need to do is simple. Rather than trying to change Tim's motion, they should bring in someone to analyze it and figure out what he does differently when he throws accurately. Once they know that, they can develop drills to help him ingrain that proper movement. The problem could be as simple as lifting his elbow a little too high when he throws a bad pass... but if they don't know what he's doing, of course he can't fix it. And given Tebow's work ethic, if he had that knowledge he'd probably improve very quickly and soon be able to complete passes more often. Then the NFL (and Tebow's critics) just might be surprised what Tim Tebow and the Broncos could do.

At least, that's what a smart golfer would do. I wonder if football players are smart enough to do the same?

The photo came from this GolfWeek page

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