Quarterbacks Cam Newton and Andy Dalton are polar opposites.
Newton was controversially drafted first overall by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL Draft, while Dalton was sensibly taken in the second round by the Bengals. Newton is a gunslinger; Dalton is a manager.
However, both are now finding themselves at the front of the race for NFL Rookie of the Year.
So which one has the better chance of winning Rookie of the Year? Let's look at each player's argument.
The case for Cam Newton:
Cam Newton is very reminiscent of Brett Favre from the 1990s. Newton is a gunslinger. He takes risks, racks up lots of points, makes some extremely smart decisions and makes some boneheaded decisions.
His stats for the 2011 season: 2,885 passing yards, 12 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions, 60.0 completion percentage, 77 rush attempts, 411 yards, nine touchdowns.
Newton is one of the league's most potent dual-threat quarterbacks, already setting the record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season. He also set the all-time record for passing yards in a rookie debut.
Although Cam Newton's Panthers are 2-7, that is largely due to a feeble defense that is among the worst in the league. Newton has still shown himself to be capable of making big plays week after week while also having the potential to be an elite quarterback down the road.
Who should win NFL Rookie of the Year?
The case for Andy Dalton:
When I say that Andy Dalton is a manager, I don't mean he sits back and lets others do the work. He has proven himself quite capable of putting the Bengals on his back and winning games, and he has brought them to the thick of the AFC North title race.
However, Andy Dalton is a more cautious quarterback than Newton. He doesn't scramble very much and doesn't make as many rash decisions or risky throws. He assumes the role of a quarterback who puts in a solid performance consistently while helping his team win.
His 2011 stats: 2,239 passing yards, 15 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 59.3 completion percentage, 17 rush attempts, 58 yards, one rushing touchdown.
Statistics-wise, Newton has the obvious advantage. However, Andy Dalton's Bengals are 6-4 and could potentially get to the playoffs. While Dalton isn't the statistical anomaly Newton is, he is more efficient and consistent from week to week.
So what is more important? Accumulation of stats or team success? Should the human highlight reel or the game winner get the nod for Rookie of the Year? Cam Newton is exciting, explosive, and incredible to watch. Andy Dalton is consistent, efficient, and a game winner. But who has proven themselves more worthy to win Rookie of the Year? We can only wait and see.