Super Bowl 50 featured two teams with defenses that were quite similar. They attacked opposing quarterbacks, smothered the ball carrier at — or behind — the line of scrimmage, regularly took the ball away, and held opponents under 20 points per game.
But the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers couldn’t have had two more different quarterbacks.
Peyton Manning is a star whose stock plummeted this season. Cam Newton is one whose stock shot through the roof.
Manning is approaching 40 years of age while Newton is in his mid-twenties.
CBS noted that Newton’s top-end speed surpasses 20 miles per hour. Meanwhile, Manning is spinning his tires in the mud.
Newton is a run-first quarterback, Manning obviously is pass-first.
In Manning’s prime, before injuries took effect, he was a precision passer with uncanny accuracy and touch (12 seasons with a completion percentage in the mid-to-upper 60’s) but not a strong arm. Newton has a much stronger arm but with less accuracy (59.8% completion percentage — ranked 28th in the league).
But the differences don’t just stop in their style of play and what takes place on the field. As we saw on Sunday, and throughout the season, their personalities and level of maturity are vastly different.
Newton likes to be an entertainer and dance on the field. … Manning historically lets his play entertain and I’m pretty sure he has two left feet on the dance floor.
Newton likes to be in the spotlight. Manning prefers to be a stagehand and let his teammates find the light.
Manning wants to change the narrative when the media tries to make it about him (like when a reporter asked him about his AFC Championship battle with Tom Brady, and Manning said “it’s between the Broncos and the Patriots”). Newton welcomes questions about himself and brashly said he got criticism for his entertaining because he’s “an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to.”
And how about their professionalism?
When Manning loses, he does it graciously, commending the winning team’s performance and fielding all reporters’ questions no matter how unpleasant they may be. When Newton loses, he throws his hood over his head, sulks, and begrudgingly answers questions with short, non-substantive responses.
Sure, Newton can have fun, dance, and be an entertainer when he’s winning. Anybody can do that. The Carolina Panthers hardly faced any adversity this season. They rolled through the regular season and lost only one game all year before Sunday’s Super Bowl.
But the real test of character is not just how you act when you win and things are going easy for you. It’s also how you act when you lose and you face adversity, and Newton failed that test with flying colors.
Newton frequently likes to compare himself to Superman. When he scores a touchdown — and when he’s not dabbing — he pretends to pull open his shirt to reveal the “S” on his chest.
To keep up with the comic book theme, I couldn’t think of a more fitting article headline than this one from Yahoo! Sports: