ster·e·o·type (st r – -t p , stîr -). n. 1. A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image.
Ubiquitous comparisons of quarterbacks Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III are grounded in procrastinations of thought. Time-wasting. Lazy. Apathetic. Primitive. This is a conversation that should have gone down decades ago as multidimensional athletes began to shun the receiver position and want to throw the ball.
Imagine a sideline where a quarterback is warming up with a star pass catcher. When retrieving the ball, the incumbent QB flinches and says to himself "damn, this cat can throw it." Head coach picks up the brain wave, pivots like Patrick Ewing, drops jaw. Whistles fall and the football lifer floundering in mediocrity files the scene to memory. Runs a couple of plays in practice with his newfound weapon. Wants to win now, despite how the game was played then. He spies the ball tossed so pretty it appears to fall from the clouds…soft in streaking hands, easily past the D and to the house. Athlete inserted into the starting lineup. Game on. Insecure defenders. A blurring style down the sideline after the play breaks down. Six on the board. "What play did he just run?" an assistant coach asks. "Quarterbacks aren't supposed to do that," a ref silently exclaims. Sport changed.
Fast forward to now. Complex football chemicals developed in the lab are now ready for public consumption. Super Cam and RG3 are as if Randall Cunningham had football children, Warren Moon was the Godfather and John Elway a not too distant cousin. Please include Steve Young as Randall's best friend. Both are 100-yard phenoms coming out the womb slick…rockin' gridiron glasses. Playbook ready. Bodies formed. Minds fresh, but…brothers not of the same game. Both Black. Different skill sets. Both are football generals wholly capable of maximizing their cognitive and physical abilities in the pursuit of gridiron excellence. Since both picked up the rock, their games became the future, developing in the now. Doug Williams smiles. So does Marlin Briscoe, Major Harris, Tobin Rote, Fran Tarkenton and…Michael Vick. However, many differences exist between the two young stars…
Cam Newton, at 6'5" and 245 lbs., is the prototype. If the football gods created a mold of what a quarterback should resemble, Cam would fall from the heavens in full garb and ready to go out the box. With his size, Cam is able to look over any defense, make progressions and find the open man. Too big. Too strong. Too good. His combination of athleticism and size is ahead of the game.
Robert Griffin III at 6'2" and 217 pounds is just under the height of most NFL quarterbacks. He may not be able to see over the 6'5'' behemoths protecting his neck, but his mind shifts his body in the pocket just as a target appears. The second it turns red, the ball is on waiting fingertips.
RG3 was born in Okinawa, Japan to Army sergeants. Moved to Fort Lewis in Washington State, New Orleans and finally Copperas Cove High School in Texas. Baylor educated. Heisman Trophy winner. His game is a reflection of discipline his parents showed him in and away from the home. He had to learn on the fly. Quickly.
Cam did it differently. Born in Georgia. Football family. Dad had two NFL cups of tea. Brother a Baltimore Ravens center. Groomed to be the one. Westlake High School in Atlanta. The controversy at Florida is well known. National Champion at Blinn Jr. College. National Champion at Auburn. Wrecked the SEC. Is first QB to win a national championship, the Heisman trophy, be drafted No. 1 and win Rookie of the Year.
RG3 is mentally surgical and focused exclusively on the result. Thinking ahead of the league because his mind was ready for the league and life…in his teens. He comes across as the cat with the greatest of personalities. Sharp. Graduated early. Broadcast future…if he's not a lawyer. Tore ACL in 2009. Gave him a new determination because he knows everything is not promised.
Cam doesn't understand what the issue is. He just wants to play football. He is a 23 year old living the dream and cherishing every moment. Some may see it as arrogance, but Newton's view is the Super Bowl throne he knows he will ascend to. He doesn't understand why some think he won't get there. His challenge is dealing with the immature distractions he must see past.
RG3 is playing for a coach who saw the Elway in him. Shanahan knows he has a champion for the next decade that will keep him employed. Griffin III has the swag you don't mess with. His throwing motion is as accurate as we've ever seen. AR-15 rounds come out of his shoulder. His speed is world class. He will run around you and out of the stadium. He will give up his body in the middle of the field to get a first down. His intelligence and versatility allow the Shanahans to tinker with typical NFL formations and create havoc.
Cam Newton runs over people. Steve McNair strength. Almost looks bigger in the NFL. Will get the edge if defenders mistrust his speed. Golden Boy. His arm is 50 caliber. Even off of his back foot, there is no throw he cannot make. The confidence he possesses his biggest strength and biggest weakness. Making the assumption that you can achieve greatness is vital to NFL glory, but so is patience. As he maneuvers through both subsets, the timing in which he allows one to ascend over the other will go a long way in determining his legacy.