Vince Young vs. Cam Newton: Similar Style, Different Paths?
Cam Newton was the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, but he is very similar to other notable quarterbacks drafted in the first round. Some have compared him to Michael Vick or Ben Roethlisberger. The quarterback he is most similar to is none other than the 2006 third overall pick, Vince Young.
Vince Young is very mobile, has great size, and won the National Championship and the Heisman Trophy in college. Unfortunately, Young’s career has fallen off a cliff. As soon as the owners and the players agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, Young will be heading to a new team.
Compared side by side, is Newton the better quarterback? Will he end up on a straighter path to glory, or will the pressure of the NFL overwhelm him?
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You can expect two 6’5” guys to be able to sling the ball anywhere on the field without a problem. In the final year of each player’s college careers, both had similar passing numbers, with Newton doing slightly better. Young passed for 3,036 yards and 212 completions, while Newton compiled 2,854 yards on 185 completions.
The difference comes down to release and throwing motion. Young has a side-arm throw that is good for velocity and making difficult throws, but it's more likely to be batted down due to the angle and it lacks touch.
Newton has a more fluid, over-the-top throwing motion. It allows for more touch, there's a lower chance of it getting batted down at the line, and comes with a quick release.
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Cam Newton is fairly accurate. He had a 66.1 completion percentage last season. He also had some good games against SEC opponents where he had completion percentages of 76.2, 71.4, 75 and 80 against South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia respectively. In the bigger games against Alabama, South Carolina in the SEC Championship game, and against Oregon his best game came against Alabama where he went 13 for 20. Newton only threw more than 25 times in a game twice.
Vince Young threw for a 65.2 completion percentage in college. He had seven games where he threw more than 25 times. He also excelled in big games against Colorado and USC, where he had completion percentages of 82.4 and 75, respectively.
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Many will question if either has any football IQ at all because of Newton’s college system and Young’s famous wonderlic score. The best ways to determine who is better in this category is to look at decision making and pocket presence.
Both were similar in their final college seasons. Young threw 10 interceptions while Newton threw 7. The pocket presence is a different story.
Newton often looked to run or was told to run. Young also had designed runs, but I believe he ran most of the time because it was the best option on the play. He stayed in the pocket until pressure came and then scrambled, but he still looked for his receivers.
Vince Young used to be a leader, but then he went on to the NFL. In his time with the Titans, his conduct on the field and towards his coaches has not been representative of a leader. He may have led his team to a National Championship, but that was six years ago, and he still acts more like a child than a team leader in a professional sport.
Newton has never played in an NFL game, so his leadership is still in question. What I do know is that despite his actions off the field, his actions on the field show that he's a leader.
In a very tight game against Georgia, Newton kept his team in it with his arm and legs, with his legs helping obtain the winning score. Against Alabama, Auburn was down double digits at the half. They could have thrown in the towel, thinking a team like Alabama couldn’t possibly lose with that kind of lead, but he kept his team upbeat and led a great comeback sealing their place in the SEC championship.
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Vince Young was an explosive quarterback back in college and that led him to a Heisman, but his passing numbers were only decent. Young rushed for over 100 yards just three times, though one of those performances came against USC, where he rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns.
Since he hit the NFL, Young’s explosiveness has vastly declined. He has not thrown for more than 10 touchdowns since his rookie year and his ability to run seems stifled by the bigger, faster NFL defenses.
Newton may not have played in the NFL yet, but his college numbers show he could be more of a threat than Young ever was. Newton had five games where he rushed for over 100 yards and was close to 200 yards in four of those games. He also had seven games where he had four touchdowns or more. Lastly, Newton compiled 50 touchdowns compared to Young’s 38.
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Young’s path has become very rocky and uncertain with serious change needed. Newton has just started out on his path, and so far things are good. Newton has more potential to be great, but the similarities between these two athletic freaks are frightening. It will be up to Ron Rivera and Cam Newton to make sure Newton stays on the path to success and doesn't get out of control.
Newton has not played in the NFL yet, so his advantages could diminish, but Vince Young could be a cautionary tale. If he can keep his mouth shut when the coach talks to him and listen, he could have the same success on the field Young had and more.
Newton could be great, or he could be an unwanted free agent in four years. It’s up to him.