Cam Newton is off to a record-setting start as a rookie. After only three games, Newton has already thrown for more than 1,000 yards, and if he continues at that rate, he will finish the season with 5,397 yards and 21 touchdowns.
It seems unlikely Newton will finish with that many yards. This is both due to the fact that he is a rookie and that NFL teams will soon develop effective game plans to stop him. However, the 21 touchdowns certainly seem attainable, and even probable, given the playmakers at his disposal.
And furthermore, 21 touchdowns is a feat that many rookie quarterbacks have achieved.
Yet, as unworldly of a season that Newton is having so far, many other quarterbacks have had similar success to Newton in their rookie seasons.
After all, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Dan Marino have all had phenomenal rookie seasons that were testament to their potential to develop into the great quarterbacks they were/are today.
Using these four quarterbacks as scales, let’s evaluate Newton’s season thus far.
Yardage: 3,739 yards
Completion Percentage: 56.7
Passer Rating: 71.2
Peyton Manning’s rookie season was a magical one, as he was one of the lone bright spots on the Indianapolis Colts roster that season, throwing an incredible 26 touchdowns and 3,739 yards. However, Manning failed to lead his team to the postseason with the Colts only winning three games all season.
While much of this was the result of poor play from his teammates, Manning also did not help the situation with his inconsistent play. This is evidenced by his 28 interceptions and completing only 56.7 percent of his passes. All this culminated in a very mediocre 71.2 passer rating.
Still, for a rookie it is very admirable, and few rookie quarterbacks have the success that Manning had. Anyone who saw Manning even that early in his career knew he was a star in the making.
Along the Manning scale, therefore, Cam Newton scores very high. Manning’s rookie campaign was all about big plays and a great deal of scoring, and Newton has done that so far with his incredibly high yardage and his six touchdowns thus far (four passing, two rushing).
And Newton is so far doing better than Manning in that he is posting an 85.1 passer rating, compared to Manning’s 71.2.
Not bad for a rookie.
Completion Percentage: 66.4
Passer Rating: 98.1
Record: 13-0 (reached AFC Championship)
Ben Roethlisberger is very similar to Cam Newton in many ways. Both are big-bodied athletes, each standing at 6’5” and around 240 pounds, and share similar playing styles featuring excellent arm strength and athleticism.
And now they are similar in that just as Newton is having a magical rookie year now, Big Ben had one back in 2004 that showcased his talent and potential.
Roethlisberger performed poorly in the postseason, but his rookie season can be summed up with one word: consistency.
As the stats and the record shows, that is precisely what Roethlisberger's coming-of-age was all about.
Big Ben led his team to victory every single game that he played in and completed an astounding 66.4 percent of his passes. His 98.1 percent passer rating is an NFL record for rookies.
And just as Newton is shocking the league by putting up 400 yards weekly, Roethlisberger shocked the league by leading his Steelers to victories with his strong play over the New England Patriots (which ended their NFL-record 21-game winning streak) and the Philadelphia Eagles, both of whom appeared in the Super Bowl that season.
In the areas of consistency and pulling off big wins, Newton comes up a bit short on the Roethlisberger scale. Newton has overall been inconsistent, completing less than 60 percent of his passes and having thrown four interceptions thus far.
While he has surprised many by putting up over 400 yards on a tough Green Bay Packers defense, Newton failed to win the game and committed three turnovers.
Completion Percentage: 61.1
Passer rating: 87.7
Record: 11-5 (reached postseason, lost in NFC wild card game)
Matt Ryan has had a very impressive rookie season that convinced fans and analysts everywhere that he was a future Hall of Famer. Whether or not Ryan lives up to that hype has yet to be seen, as he is still young and developing.
Ryan’s rookie season was outstanding for a rookie quarterback, but what made his rookie season so special was his clutch play that won games for Atlanta and gave it new hope after losing its former superstar Michael Vick.
Among Ryan’s memorable plays was a clutch 26-yard pass to Michael Jenkins to set up a game-winning field goal against the Chicago Bears with one second remaining in Week 6. This clutch play in the end may have been the difference between the playoff hopes of the Atlanta Falcons that season.
Newton has been phenomenal, but he has not matched Ryan’s clutch nature as a rookie so far this season. However, the season is still young.
Completion Percentage: 58.4
Passer rating: 96.0
Record: 9-2 (reached postseason, lost in AFC divisional game)
Like the first player in this slideshow, Dan Marino is a legendary quarterback and his rookie season was evident of that.
Named the starter in Week 6 of the 1983 season, Dan Marino showed he was a future star by leading the Miami Dolphins to nine victories and a postseason appearance. He threw an incredible 20 touchdown passes to an even more incredible only six interceptions.
While he clearly had big-play capability as a rookie just as Manning did, what differentiates his scale is his incredibly low turnover rate. Rookies are expected to be baptized by fire in the NFL and to make many mistakes, but by throwing only six interceptions, Marino showed he had a sixth sense for the game. It was what he was born to do.
Limiting turnovers is a very important element of a player’s game and is often overlooked. It is a big part of what makes Tom Brady a legend as well.
So far, Newton has struggled so far to limit turnovers. He has thrown four interceptions in only three games. It is expected of him because he lacks NFL experience, but protecting the football is a key skill and one who shows it early on truly has great potential.
It is clear that Newton is not alone in phenomenal rookie performance. While there are very clear flaws in Newton's game at the moment, his season has just begun. Newton has plenty of time to improve and to polish before the season is over.
For his first three games, Newton is playing at an extraordinary level.
With this much potential shown already, only time will tell how great Newton will become—1,012 yards in three games is a tough fluke to occur. Newton's the real deal.
Now he has the rest of his career to prove it.