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NFL Analysis: Comparing Broncos Tim Tebow and Panthers Cam Newton

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In every generation there are polarizing figures in sports. In the NFL one just retired. Brett Favre may have been both one of the most hated and loved individuals that’s ever strapped on a helmet and pads.  His departure ushers in two individuals that know nothing except success. Their career paths have crossed and at times looked so similar yet so different; The golden boy, Tim Tebow and the icon, Cam Newton.

Fans loved Tebow even when he was a backup to Chris Leak on a championship team. Cam Newton at one point was Tebow’s backup. While Tebow was praised for his moral code, Newton was transferring schools for varying issues. The Tebow train kept rolling along to national championships and a Heisman.  Meanwhile, Newton’s train made stops in Blinn and then finally Auburn. In both stops he picked up more and more fans and some hardware to go with them. The hardware consists of national titles and yes, a Heisman Trophy just like Tebow.

As the players entered the NFL a year apart, both players heard the whispers and screams of how their mechanics will cause them to fail at the next level. Tebow had to fight his way off the bench last year towards the end of the season before he finally was able to start. With the change of coaches in Denver, the philosophy also changed. Part of that philosophy was going back to Kyle Orton. After early season struggles for the Broncos, Tebow was named the starter against the Dolphins. With Newton being the first overall selection, he was penciled in as starter and face of the franchise in week one.

Cam Newton has improved each week and has put up some amazing stats for a rookie quarterback from week one on. The Panthers offensive line has looked like one of the best in the NFL in pass protection, helping expedite his maturing process as an NFL quarterback. While Newton has awesome stats, he’s tallied just two wins in eight tries. Tebow dosen’t have the running game or the protection that is given to Netwon, yet he found a way to win in his first start of 2011 and only 4th of his short career. 

After a horrible game against Detroit, people wondered if Tebow would even start against the Raiders. He did and he is now 2-1 on the season. Newton clearly throws a better ball then Tebow and has the athletic running ability equal to or better than Tebow. Both players play for bad teams, and both have shown to elevate the play around them at every level. On paper it would seem as if Cam Newton should clearly end 2011 with more wins than Tim Tebow, but Tebow just finds ways to become victorious. He’s already surpassed the win total that the Broncos had after 5 games (1-4). Cam Newton seems to look more comfortable each week

With players that are this polarizing, I couldn’t just give my own opinion on the matter. That’s why I’ve called in my colleagues at RotoExperts, to give their own unique views:

Danny Hobrock: Danny is our college football editor and lives and breathes everything that Pigskin Saturday is all about. Danny is able to comment on the situation from a view much different than mine.  He watched both athletes mature and develop in college and has seen them take on new roles. Danny also works closely with me each year preparing for the NFL Draft. You can read Danny’s take on the college football landscape every Monday in, College Football Saturday in 500 Words or Less.

Dory LeBlanc: Dory covers both college football and the NFL for RotoExperts. She’s lived all over the country, but no matter where she has moved to or resides, she’s never been able to shake her SEC roots. As you can imagine she’s had her ear to the ground on both of these players long before America knew who either were. Dory has a unique knack of understanding players backgrounds off the field and how that translates to on the field performance. For better understanding you can check out her In Focus pieces.

Danny Hobrock

Cam Newton will win more games. Newton is 2-5 compared to Tim Tebow’s 2-1, but consider Tebow just beat Miami & Oakland. Meanwhile, four of the Panthers’ six losses this year have come to teams who made the playoffs a year ago, and he’s still managed to put up good numbers behind a solid line (although he has thrown nine interceptions). I’m not saying the Panthers are a good football team, but Newton has been impressive. Nobody expected him to turn things around in year one.

Tebow has received high praise based on one comeback performance against a bad team and the most current win over a mediocre Raiders’ team. Sure he was a winner in college and high school, but he hasn’t really had the chance to lose in the NFL so it’s tough to say how he’ll do at the professional level. I’m not saying he doesn’t have that special quality; just that it’s a little premature to expect him to do that week-in and week-out. And don’t forget Newton won a national championship at Blinn College, and then ran the table and won the Heisman Trophy and national championship at Auburn playing an SEC schedule. He’s a winner, too.

Both players can run the football, but Newton is the better passer and the better quarterback. He’s the better runner, too. I didn’t agree with selecting Newton first overall simply because I never saw him run an NFL-style offense the way we’ve seen Andrew Luck run an NFL-style offense for three years. But so far Newton has really earned that top pick.

Dory LeBlanc

As sports fans, we watch our favorite teams with passion and emotion. Sometimes, we can’t separate how we feel personally about players from how they perform on the field.  In most instances, fans’ emotions become extreme. I have never seen this more in my life than with Tim Tebow. Before he ever stepped onto Sports Authority Field, he was loved and adored by thousands for what he did at Florida Field. His freshman year, the Gators won the National Championship; the following season Tim won the Heisman and Maxwell Awards. In his junior year, Tebow was named the Maxwell recipient and added another BCS Title, and in his senior year, he was one win away from a shot at his third.

Off the field he was genuinely wholesome, but on the field he had a tenacious fight in him. Tim Tebow willed his team to victory and was his teammates’, whether on offense, special teams, or defense, biggest cheerleader. For four years Tim embodied everything you wanted in a leader. Then, it was time for him to enter the NFL draft and take that winning spirit and strong leadership to the next level. Immediately, most scouts discounted his intangibles for his poor mechanics. Tebow was tagged as an NFL failure before he was even drafted. His popularity prevailed in Denver, thanks in part to then-head coach Josh McDaniel’s fondness and faith in him. The results of his popularity in the NFL were glaring before the draft even took place as Davie-Brown Index, an independent marketing research tool, predicted that Tebow would be more appealing to advertisers than New England’s Tom Brady, Minnesota’s Brett Favre and Dallas’ Tony Romo.

A week after the draft, Tebow had broken Mark Sanchez’s record as the fastest selling jersey of all time. He started three games in 2010 and only saw victory in one, but brought an anemic Denver back to life. It’s clear Bronco fans wanted Tim to start the season in place of Orton as they chanted Tebow’s name and even bought billiards pleading with new head coach John Fox to make the switch. The fans got their wish as Tim replaced Orton against San Diego, and almost had a come from behind victory.

The extremity of the nation’s emotions were at an all time high as people seemed to either applaud his efforts, or point a finger at him that he hadn’t pulled off the win. Two weeks later in Miami Tebow got his first start of the season, and despite not playing exceptionally well for the majority of the game led the Broncos from behind to eventually win in overtime. Again, the nation was at opposite ends of the argument. Nay sayers talked about his unorthodox delivery, his incompletions and how he had almost half as many rush yards (59) as he did passing (161).

Unfortunately, after an awful performance against Detroit this past Sunday the Denver Post called Tebow the worst QB in the NFL, which led many to question his future once again. That’s what Tim thrives on: being told he can’t do something. When people said he couldn’t throw the football, he threw for 482 yards and three touchdowns. When people said he was undraftable, he worked as hard as he could after that game to prepare for the combine and pro days. When people said he couldn’t be an NFL quarterback, he won two out of five games he started. He may have a long way to go, but if the Broncos commit to working with Tim’s strengths and not forcing him to change his weaknesses, the journey will be shortened.

Cam Newton also started his college career at Florida, ironically as Tebow’s back up in 2007. He played in five games and threw for 40 yards in 5-of-10 passing and rushed for 103 yards on 16 attempts. In his sophomore season, Cam suffered an ankle injury in the opener against Hawaii and decided to take a medical red shirt for the 2008 season. In November of that year, Newton ran into some legal problems that involved allegedly stealing another student’s laptop, then throwing it out the window when the police arrived to dispose of the evidence. Newtown was suspended indefinitely and announced three days before the National championship game against Oklahoma that he was transferring.  

Most Gator fans were not thrilled with Newton after his run in with the law and were happy to see him go. After he transferred to Blinn College his team won a national junior college football championship and Newton was then recruited by head coach Gene Chizik of Auburn University and transferred once more. Controversy came again for Cam; first, when Foxsports reported Newton left Florida after three different instances of academic cheating, and again when allegations were made that Cam and his father, Cecil, were involved in a pay-for-play scandal with Mississippi State. Cam played on through the rumors and allegations, winning every game for Auburn in 2010, the Heisman trophy, and the BCS National Championship.  

Like Tim, Cam faced heavily scrutiny from NFL scouts that felt a spread option QB could not flourish in the NFL. Cam was selected #1 overall in the 2011 draft, but not to the fan fare that Tebow received being drafted a year earlier at #25. Most people were turned off by Cam’s confident attitude (claiming once before the draft he was an icon and entertainer) and the allegations about his off the field antics in college. He didn’t sell the amount of jerseys or have the level of fans support that Tebow did, but Newton had the support of the Carolina Panthers and his head coach, Ron Rivera. Newton has a wall of an offensive line, two capable running backs, and talented veteran receiving targets.

Despite the weapons around him, after eight games Newton has won the same amount as games as Tebow, two. Even though his mechanics are unorthodox, he broke records for most yards by a rookie in a debut (422), most yards by a rookie in a game (432), and is the sixth QB and first rookie to throw over 400 yards in back-to-back games.

Two players may have never been so different, yet so similar; only time will tell if either will truly be successful as a quarterback in the NFL and lead their team to a Super Bowl.

Jayson Braddock

I agree with both Danny and Dory in different aspects of the two players. As an NFL quarterback goes, Cam Newton looks like the new prototype. He takes advantage of his strengths and avoids his weaknesses for the most part. What makes the “who wins more in 2011″ so compelling is that both have equally bad teams. They had the 1st and 2nd overall picks collectively. Both players cause matchups problems in different ways. Newton makes you feel like he can win or lose any game that he plays in as a rookie. Tebow is a wild card and he takes advantage of undisciplined defenses. I heard someone say that Newton is only a rookie but he’s started more games than Tebow. I believe that Newton will have the better career but Tim Tebow wins more in 2011.

Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You can also catch Jayson on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew every Thursday at 10:30am ET. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock