The careers of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, and Cincinnati Bengals signal-caller Andy Dalton are inexorably linked. Following their second year in the NFL, how are the two shaping up?
Fans love head-to-head competition, especially at the QB position. While it doesn't mean much in the scheme of things, almost a decade later there are still water cooler arguments of 'Manning vs. Rivers vs. Roethlisberger' from the 2004 draft. Following their first year the argument centered on Cam Newton, the league's rookie of the year, and Andy Dalton, who may not have the statistics, but whose team comfortably leads in the win column.
Last season was all about Cam Newton and his 'sophomore slump'. The assured step back he would take in his second year became a weekly staple in the news, while Andy Dalton quietly skated by -- largely because the Bengals were winning. Those who watched Carolina knew that Rob Chudzinski was sinking the Panthers' franchise QB -- slowly drowning him with bad play calling, and an obsession in the read-option offense. It wasn't until the second-half of the season that Newton returned to his former glory, and for that early-season step back, he took two mammoth steps forward as he improved not only statistically, but as a leader.
The biggest difference between the two quarterbacks continues to be how Cam Newton pushes the ball down field. Throwing 43 less passes, Newton still managed to throw for 200 more yards because of his higher yards per attempt. The lower completion percentage is irrelevant. Cam takes more risks, and get more rewards.
One area that Dalton outpaced Newton was in touchdowns, largely because of his red zone offense. Fifteen of his touchdowns came on passes of 10 yards, or less (55.5%) -- whereas Newton had only five such passes (26.3%) . Throwing the a perfect fade, or trusting a receiver with a jump ball is an important skill -- but give me the player who can throw deep.
No contest. It's surprising to see hat Dalton had that many rushing attempts, but they weren't really an offensive threat. Meanwhile, Newton accounted for 49 first downs running the ball. A true dual-threat QB, there's no comparison.
Newton and Dalton will always be an argument of statistics vs. wins. It's often a misguided attempt to try and justify a QBs success through wins and losses, but people will continue to do it anyway. Poll 32 GMs right now and I think you'd be hard pressed to find five who would rather Dalton over Newton to build their team around. Here is a complete picture of their total yards, total touchdowns, and turnovers since arriving in the league. This combines passing and rushing, and essentially tells us how much each player could do with the ball in their hands -- regardless of play call.
That says it all. Cam Newton generates far more offense every time he touches the ball than Andy Dalton does, and (surprisingly) turns the ball over less. Despite fumbling the ball far more often (15 vs. 8), Cam retains possession more often -- losing five of these fumbles to Dalton's six.
Overall the argument will continue to be stats vs. wins -- which might as well be white noise. There's no doubt the Bengals are the more talented football team, but the Panthers have the more talented quarterback. This already growing difference between the two second-year players will soon be a chasm.