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In the end, all it took was a quick slant over the middle and a strong throw. Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas in stride for an 80-yard touchdown and an unlikely 29-23 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first play of overtime on Sunday.
When stocks act like this, we call them Rule Breakers because they defy all forms of conventional wisdom on their way to winning big on behalf of shareholders. By the end of this article, I'll name a stock that I believe possesses Breakerish qualities reminiscent of Tebow.
Say nay to the naysayers
First, as far as the game was concerned, I think it's fair to say few predicted this outcome. Vegas oddsmakers favored Pittsburgh by a touchdown before kickoff and most experts went with the so-called smart money, arguing that Tebow had gotten by beating bad teams and the Steelers were anything but.
"Denver Broncos cult of personality Tim Tebow is a bad NFL quarterback, and next weekend, when the Mile High Messiah lines up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the results should be nothing short of mortifying," wrote blogger Pete Wilmoth. ESPN mostly concurred. All 10 of the network's NFL analysts, including former Broncos offensive lineman Mark Schlereth, picked Pittsburgh to win.
Denver had lost three straight games during which Tebow played with tenseness rather than intensity. He looked scared. He lacked confidence in interviews. Tebow Time was over for all but the most fervent of true believers. Or was it? While most scoffed at the thought of the Broncos penetrating Pittsburgh's steel curtain defense, others saw an upset in the making.
How Tim Tebow breaks rules
Denver is 9-6 in games Tebow has started, and that's saying something considering how he plays the quarterback position when compared to peers. Let's review three ways he breaks the rules:
- He isn't a great passer. The first and most obvious, right? Tebow misfires often, completing only 47% of his passes. At least once a game he'll throw one in the dirt. Google "Tebow" and "ugly" and you'll get 4.3 million results.
- He holds the ball too long. Most NFL experts will tell you that successful quarterbacks get rid of the ball quickly. Hall of Famer Dan Marino was legendary for this. So is Tom Brady, who leads the New England Patriots -- next week's opponent and a team that has already beaten the Broncos once this year. Tebow, by contrast, will sometimes hold the ball for six seconds or longer before throwing.
- He's played most of his career in a system not suited to NFL play. Tebow rose to prominence while leading the University of Florida to national college football championships in 2007 and 2009. While the system suited Tebow's ability to run a read-option offense, it didn't resemble the pro set used by virtually every NFL team at the time he was drafted by the Broncos.
And yet Tebow makes big plays. Why? I think he possesses all six signs of a Rule Breaker for his industry:
- He's a first mover. Broncos coach John Fox has tweaked (but not rewritten) the Broncos offense to take better advantage of Tebow's style. It's a unique look that, in games past, has given even tough defenses trouble.
- Sustainable advantage gained through visionary leadership. The Broncos won six straight when Tebow first replaced Kyle Orton this season. All signs point to this being a much better and more inspired team with Tebow at quarterback.
- Strong past price appreciation. Fans are in seats, the media is tuned in, and the Broncos are in the playoffs. How's that for price appreciation?
- Good management and smart backing. Though it's hard to quantify this when it comes to an individual player, Tebow carries himself exceptionally and Fox has done a tremendous job maximizing returns on Tebow's playing time.
- Strong consumer appeal. Already there's a verb associated with watching Tebow -- his regular habit of kneeling to pray after scoring is called "Tebowing."
- There is documented proof he's overvalued, according to professional media. Turn on ESPN. Listen to anyone other than Skip Bayless. Rinse. Repeat.
The ultimate Tim Tebow stock
Among all the picks I've made for our Rule Breakers service, there's one that, like Tebow, also displays the six signs of a Breaker -- yet frustrates professional analysts because it operates all wrong. I'm talking, of course, about salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM ) . Let's start with the problems:
- It's too expensive. Salesforce trades for more than 6900 times trailing earnings and 63 times forward earnings. No one buys stocks valued this richly -- even if history says it might be a good idea to do exactly that.
- It has too much competition. At its core, Salesforce sells software for managing customer relationships but delivers it differently. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) is in the same business and has an online-only option called Dynamics. SAP (Nasdaq: SAP ) , another big seller of business software, has acquired Salesforce peer SuccessFactors (Nasdaq: SFSF ) in order to better compete in the space.
- It gives away too much for the sake of revenue growth. CEO Marc Benioff is spending big on a new headquarters office, hiring like crazy, and erasing tens of millions in profit via generous options grants to employees.
So why is Salesforce a multibagger winner for our Rule Breakers scorecard? Like Tebow, Benioff's company possesses all six signs of a Rule Breaker. Revenue is up 36% annually over the past five years, the result of crushing bigger, better-capitalized rivals.
"Salesforce.com pioneered the idea of cloud computing in 1999 when it debuted to a marketing campaign called 'the end of software.' The message continues to resonate today, as evidenced by Salesforce.com's growth," I wrote in evaluating the risk of owning the stock for our Rule Breakers members.
Tebow has similar upside. Does that mean the Broncos will upset the Patriots this weekend? Not at all, but dismissing Tebow and his team's chances before the game begins -- as many are already doing -- is just as stupid today as it was before the Steelers went home losers.
Enjoy the game. And if you're in the mood for more Tebow-like stocks, this special report profiles an up-and-coming company that's changing how we receive health care. Get instant access to the profile and accompanying research by clicking here – it's free.