The two most polarizing drafted quarterbacks of the past two seasons without doubt are Cam Newton and Tim Tebow.
Both are considerable talents. Both are national champions. Both are Heisman winners. They seem to have everything that a team would want in a quarterback but were they products of the teams around them or do they both have what it takes to excel at the next level?
Most agree that neither Tebow nor Newton possess "prototypical" quarterback qualities, meaning they don't take a five-step drop. Both came out of versions of the spread offense.
With all these similarities it would seem that both would go on to great careers and yet there are skeptics at every turn over these two. Newton is too self absorbed. Tebow did that weird commercial with his mom. Both have a weird hitch in their throw. Both don't know how to read progressions and take to their feet too often.
With two similar styles one should end up being better than the other be it pure athleticism, force of will, teammates or coaching staff. So which one will it be?
Tim Tebow's rise to national fame began early as a freshmen at the University of Florida. Tebow helped the Gators win a championship as a backup quarterback. It is rare for a backup to play an integral role in a championship team but Tebow did being the second leading rusher on the 2006 Gators.
In Tebow's first full season as a starter in 2007, Tebow really broke out, throwing for 3,200 yards, rushing for 895 more and scoring 55 touchdowns. He managed to rush and throw for a touchdown in every single game he played. Tebow led the Gators in rushing, as well.
Tebow showed the ability to affect games through the air and by ground at various times. He threw for a season-high four touchdowns against Kentucky and rushed for a season high five touchdown against South Carolina. He broke his right hand, his non-throwing hand, against Florida State but continued to play the rest of the game and season.
Take a look at those last two paragraphs. There is a quarterback who will literally do anything to make his team better, plays through pain and has enough athletic ability to lead his team in rushing and passing as a sophomore. This versatility, courage and hard work is what led Tebow to eventually win a Heisman trophy.
The rest of Tebow's college career played out like this: Set the Gator's career rushing touchdown record as a junior. He won a National title. He placed third in Heisman voting. He won his second Maxwell Trophy. He broke the SEC career rushing touchdown record and then set an BCS record with 533 passing yards in a BCS Bowl game.
This was all done by a guy in the SEC conference, which is basically the NFL's minor league, with what are described as "poor mechanics."
Despite being someone who has the right to be very impressed with himself, Tebow take his criticism to heart and after his final college game, immediately went to work on his throwing mechanics.
Tebow was drafted by the Broncos and was basically told to wait his turn. Tebow got his chance against the Kansas City Chiefs and threw for a touchdown on his first pass attempt and then rushed for one more. Despite limited time Tebow threw for 654 yards, had a passer rating of 82.1, threw for five touchdowns and rushed for six more.
Tebow is expected to compete for the starting spot this season despite Peter King's report that the Broncos may look to trade Tebow, all indications seem to show that Tebow may be a starter this year.
Tebow has great leadership qualities and wants to win above all else. The fame that has come along with that has certainly been an added bonus but Tebow is a guy who does his job well and wants to get better. He should likely have similar success in the NFL if the Broncos utilize his talents properly.
Newton's career is more convoluted than Tebow's but he is just as successful.
Newton started his career as Tebow's backup at Florida. He won the backup job over John Brantley, the same quarterback who would replace Tebow. Newton did not see much time as 2007 was the season of Tim Tebow but when Newton saw the field he made the most of it rushing for three touchdowns and posting a quarterback rating of 83.6.
Newton ended up transferring out of Florida though due to allegations of stealing a laptop and possible expulsion due to three instances of academic cheating.
Newton took his lumps and like others who have fallen from major programs, Newton looked to rebuild his career at a junior college. When Newton transferred to Blinn College some probably thought that would be the last we saw of Cam Newton but Newton led his team to the NJCCA National Championship.
Newton was named a Juco All-American Honarable mention but what really made Newton prominent again was his rating as a 5-star recruit by Rivals.Com.
Newton chose Auburn University and was named starter from game one. Newton was overshadowed in the early part of the season by the exploits of Denard Robinson, who was putting up big rushing numbers as a quarterback but Newton was far more consistent throughout the year.
Newton threw for 30 touchdowns and rushed for 20 more making him the second SEC quarterback to do so, following in Tebow's footsteps. Newton's most impressive game may have been against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC Championship. Newton threw for 335 yards, four touchdown and rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns.
Newton went on to win every major award a college quarterback can win including the Heisman Trophy which he won in a trouncing over Andrew Luck and LaMichael James.
Newton had his fair share of controversial moments though. Including his laptop scandal, he was also involved in an alleged "pay for play" scheme in which his father may or may not have tried to get Mississippi State to pay between $10,000 and $18,000 to get him to transfer there. Newton as never charge with anything but the whole episode put a dark cloud over his Heisman campaign.
Despite the controversy, Newton was impressive enough to get the Carolina Panthers to select him with the No. 1 pick despite spending a second round draft pick on Jimmy Clausen the prior year. Newton may or may not start depending on how quickly the Pantehrs can acclimate him to their system.
Newton has shown the ability to win at any level and to win in the face of controversy. He has shown a cool head despite enormous pressure and has done so in a way that was comparable to Tebow in the sense of how he got things done on the field.
Newton wants to be a leader and through his talents has shown he can be that person. Newton has already started working his charms on Steve Smith trying to convince the Carolina receiver to give it a shot with him this year. Newton might be charming enough to get his teammates on his side.
Tebow has shown an ability to work hard no matter how many people discounted his talent. This is not to say that Newton does not work hard but Newton is more athletically gifted than Tebow and hasn't had to work as hard thus far.
Tebow is in a much better situation as well. He is surrounded by talent in the front office and coaching staff. John Fox likes to limit his quarterback so Tebow will be given time to adjust to full time duty in the NFL and he can turn to John Elway and ask advice whenever he needs.
Newton on the other hand is looking at a team without identity and who's biggest star currently wants out in Steve Smith. Newton may have all the talent in the world but he may not be able to overcome his circumstances.
Both play a similar style of football relying on instincts to win games. Both have the ability to use their legs as well as their arms to win games. This might be exciting now but down the line may lead to shortened careers.
Neither quarterback will be a bust. Both have too much talent for that. Unfortunately, talent only goes so far in the NFL. Circumstances play a lot into someones success. Tebow just landed in a better situation and has better resources to make him a starter for years to come. Newton will start but his supporting cast just isn't strong enough to get him to the top.