The following piece is an examination of the phenomenon in American sports where athletes are overvalued or undervalued because of perception. Russell Wilson is perceived as an overall great guy and Cam Newton is still remembered for the scandal of his college football days and I believe that these perceptions impact how America views each player.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Wilson receives a hefty amount of praise as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, whereas Newton of the Carolina Panthers is routinely overlooked. After back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, including one victory, Wilson definitely deserves a lot of credit, but perhaps we should put everything in perspective.
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Many people throw Wilson into the arbitrary top-5 quarterback conversation, but Newton is hardly even mentioned when the top-10 quarterbacks in the league are debated. After looking at these player’s career numbers and factoring the talent on each of these quarterback’s respective rosters I had to ask — is this fair?
Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Drew Brees is a pretty solid top-5 quarterback list. Most people place Wilson on the cusp of that elite list because of his incredible success in the first three years of his career.
After Wilson, names like Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Matthew Stafford are typically thrown out there. Sure, there are a few other players that people could name, but the point is that Newton is, at best, mentioned as the tenth to fifteenth best quarterback in the league for some reason.
It’s true that Newton hasn’t posted the numbers that Romo, Roethlisberger, or Stafford have in a single season, but either has Wilson.
Lets break it down by raw numbers before we go any further. Russell Wilson has scored 83 total touchdowns in his career. We’ll divide those 83 scores by his three seasons in the NFL, which equals 27.66 total touchdowns per season.
Cam Newton has accounted for 115 total touchdowns in his career. If we divide that total by his four seasons in the NFL that equals 28.75 total touchdowns per season.
So far, Newton has averaged more total touchdowns accounted for per-season than Wilson.
Hundreds of people are screaming, “But Wilson turns the ball over less” and that is very true. Over the last three seasons Wilson has impressively thrown only 26 interceptions and Newton has thrown 37. Although over the last three years Brees and Stafford have thrown 48 a piece, and Romo has thrown 38. Incredibly, Peyton Manning has thrown 36 interceptions, only one less than Newton, since the beginning of the 2012 season.
Now thousands of people are screaming, “But there is more to quarterback than just statistics” and you’re right again! In Newton’s career he’s led the Panthers to two playoff appearances over the last two seasons. That’s more playoff appearances in the last two years than Brees, Stafford, Romo, Roethlisberger and many other quality quarterbacks. And yes, I’m aware of the Panthers’ record in 2014, it doesn’t change a thing.
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Yes, it’s true that Wilson has led his team to not only the playoffs in the last two years, but to the Super Bowl, and he has a ring to show for it.
I can’t argue with that, but Wilson also has the far superior roster to rely on. In Newton’s four seasons in Carolina he’s yet to have a 1000-yard rusher in the backfield with him. In fact, no running back has even ran for 900 yards in a season since he’s been with the Panthers.
Wilson has had Marshawn Lynch to hand the ball to, a player that’s been to the Pro Bowl and has ran for at least 1,200 yards in each of Wilson’s pro seasons.
Opposing defenses have to worry about defending Lynch and the run when playing against Seattle and Wilson has benefitted handsomely from that. Newton has had no such support on offense and defenses are purely focused on trying to stop him.
Now lets look at each of their team’s defensive units. Seattle’s defense has finished fourth, first, and first in total defense in Wilson’s three years in the NFL. Carolina’s defense has finished 28th, 10th, 2nd, and 10th in Newton’s career.
Obviously Wilson has had a much better running game and defense than Newton in his career — that cannot be debated. Those factors undoubtedly have influenced the fact that Wilson has been to two Super Bowls and Newton has yet to see much playoff success (1-2 record).
So lets recap some of this information. Wilson averages less touchdowns per season than Newton, but Newton gets very little credit for being such a productive offensive player. On top of that, Newton has thrown just one more interception than the Broncos’ Manning over the last three years. Plus, Wilson has the much better roster on his side, yet no one seems to care about that.
It’s important to note that I am not saying that Newton is better than Wilson. I’m just saying that the two are much closer in talent and production than most people are willing to admit, despite the facts. I mean, Wilson has 10 career fourth quarter comebacks and Newton has nine such games.
I’m going to say it now… Cam Newton is, by far, the most underrated quarterback in the NFL heading into the 2015 season.
Yes Wilson has the Super Bowl ring and ample playoff success, but I’m not so sure that Seattle wouldn’t have had just as much success with Newton under center instead of Wilson. Newton has been incredibly productive and has led his team to two consecutive division titles with little to no respect from anyone outside of Carolina.
How is that Wilson gets mentioned as a potential top-5 quarterback, but Newton barely even gets mentioned as a possible top-10 quarterback? Is it because Wilson is perceived as a better person than Newton? It should be said that neither player has gotten into any trouble in the NFL and both appear to be great leaders on and off the field.
The numbers show that they’re obviously much closer than the dramatic discrepancy of one being a potential top-5 player and the other barely in the top-10 discussion. No, Wilson’s success cannot be taken away and it shouldn’t be, but he was handed the much more dominant roster. Give Newton that running game and defense and I think a Lombardi Trophy would be brought home to Carolina.
Perhaps 2015 will be the year that Newton finally starts to receive the credit that he’s due. Although I am not quite sure that he cares either way how people view him and that’s an admirable trait.
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