The Russell Wilson vs Cam Newton Debate...Solved
Russell Wilson is noticeably starting to finally get the credit he deserves as one of the elite quarterbacks the NFL has to offer. Not only has he entered the discussion for the top tier of quarterbacks, but his statistics and accountability for the success of the Seattle Seahawks has driven the Wisconsin grad to a whole new level. In the 2017 season, Russell accounted for 33 of Seattle's 35 offensive touchdowns. This is absolutely incredible. On top of that, Russell also had the hardship and problems with his offensive line that has notoriously been known as one of the worst units in the game. We can only hope that situation will improve for him this offseason.
Initially, this may just sound like another Seahawks fan going on a rant about how great Russell Wilson is despite the circumstances, while critics may throw out the idea that he was unable to lead his team to the playoffs this year for the first time in his career. The fact of the matter is, Russell Wilson IS great. Any opinion one may have on the mobile, houdini-esque quarterback can be either backed up or refuted by an incredible set of accomplishments that Russell has been able to accumulate over the years. To name a couple, Russell has the record for the most wins by a quarterback within his first six seasons in the NFL, and he reached 150 passing touchdowns and 3,000 rushing yards faster than any quarterback ever. To go further, and to get to my argument for this article, Russell Wilson has proved to be a better quarterback than a rival quarterback of his in the NFL -- Cam Newton. Cam Newton certainly has had his own great deal of accomplishments, including a coveted MVP, but there is a serious gap between these two quarterbacks that sets Russell Wilson far above Cam Newton in ways that people should definitely be aware of. Time after time, I find myself in discussions and arguments that debate who the top five quarterbacks in the NFL are. And, much too often, people continue to list Cam Newton over Russell Wilson. But why?
I am going to start here by comparing the most notable stats between Russell Wilson and Cam Newton on a career scale. Since Cam was drafted a year before Russell Wilson was, this is mostly just going to lay out the groundwork between the comparisons I will make. Let's start with Cam. According to pro-football-reference.com, Cam Newton has thrown for 25,074 yards and 158 touchdowns with a 58.5% completion percentage. Cam has also thrown 94 interceptions with a minimum of 10 every single year, with a max at 17 his rookie season in 2011. Cam's best QBR comes from the year of 2013 in which he had a 67.6 score. His average yards per game (in the air) stands exactly at 230. In the playoffs, Cam has thrown 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Now, let's look at Russell Wilson's career stats. Russell has thrown for 22,176 yards and 161 touchdowns with a 64% completion percentage. Remember, Russell has played an entire year LESS than Cam. Russell has only thrown 56 interceptions in his career, with his career-low 7 interceptions in 2014. His career high in interceptions is 11, which he had both this past year and in 2016. Russell's best QBR came from the 2015 year, where he had an astounding 110.1 rating after he went on his tear in the second half of the season to get back to the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. Russell's average passing yards per game comes in at 231 exactly, one yard above his counterpart. In the playoffs, Russell has 20 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions. Russell Wilson’s postseason numbers are much better than Cam’s, and that fact speaks for itself.
Go ahead and look over those stats just one more time, remembering that Russell is an entire year behind Cam Newton. Already, one could conclude that Russell is the better of the two, but we must go further. Let's look at 2017 alone to get a more up-to-date and current comparison. Russell beat out Cam in just about all the most prominent statistics for a quarterback. Russell had a higher completion percentage: 61.3 to 59.1. Russell had more passing yards: 3983 to 3303. Russell had more touchdowns and less interceptions: 34 and 11 to Cam's 22 and 16. Russell even had a higher amount of yards per attempt: 7.2 to 6.7. Along with all of these superior stats Russell has over Cam, Russell also got sacked 7 more times than Cam over the course of the year. Are you surprised? Personally, I think the stats definitely proved the worthiness of putting Russell Wilson above Cam Newton on the NFL's top quarterback list. Stats are stats and we all know numbers do not lie. Of course, though, this won't satisfy all the critics. Above and beyond the stats, Russell has also had to endure some of the most tremendous problems in Seattle, as he simply seems to be doing it all up there in the Pacific Northwest. Accounting for 33 of Seattle's 35 touchdowns is already something to marvel over, but doing all that behind a line that did not seem to help him either is truly remarkable.
Here below is a chart showing the touchdown to interception numbers for both quarterbacks over the course of their careers:
*In reference to pro-football-focus.com statistics
It is certainly worth noting one of the main arguments Cam Newton advocates seem to lean on. Cam Newton has a plethora of rushing touchdowns. According to pro-football-reference.com, Cam Newton has 54 rushing touchdowns over the course of his career. This is a crazy statistic and Cam definitely deserves credit, considering he is already the king of rushing touchdowns in the Super Bowl era. Russell Wilson, on the other hand, only has 16 career rushing touchdowns. This realization here really is the only grounds on which someone can tell me Cam Newton is the better quarterback. But let's take these rushing statistics a step further. Per one rushing attempt, Russell Wilson actually leads Cam Newton with 5.7 yard per attempt to 5.2. Cam Newton has also ran the ball 828 times during his career, and Russell has only ran the ball 578 times. Of course, Russell Wilson has played an entire year less than Cam, but this difference is still far too significant to not take note that Russell simply is not resorting to running the ball as much as Cam. Cam Newton also has an incredibly large body compared to Russell Wilson, which inevitably gives him a better ability to pound the rock to get a much needed yard or two or even to punch the ball across the goal line. Russell is just 5-11 and weighs 203 pounds. Cam is 6-6 and weighs 260 pounds. Despite the major difference, Russell is still running the ball at a more efficient rate. But the size of the quarterbacks is why the rushing stats do not necessarily seem comparable when it comes to deciding who is the better quarterback. If Russell ran the ball as much as Cam does, maybe their rushing stats would be much closer. The fact of the matter is, Russell has far better passing stats, which is what one should look at when comparing quarterbacks at a truly comparable level.
It is hard for me to go back and reminisce in the past, or a nightmare like this, but if Seattle runs the ball at the one against New England in Super Bowl XLIX, Russell Wilson already has two rings. In reality, Russell still has the one and he obtained it in historic fashion, defeating the most efficient offense in NFL history that was led by Peyton Manning by a score of 43-8. Two years later, Cam Newton got pounded by Denver's bone-crushing defense in his only Super Bowl appearance. And, every time I think of Super Bowl 50, all I can picture is the sight of Cam Newton dodging the fumble that he seemed to be scared or at least too cautious to jump on that eventually may have cost him and the Carolina Panthers the game in the late stages of the spectacle. Russell Wilson and Cam Newton have also BOTH been surrounded by some damn good teams (something that people seem to only put on Russell), especially on the other side of the ball. Seattle and Carolina's defenses have consistently been dominate over the years and have been led by two of the top middle linebackers in the NFL: Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly. Russell has had Richard Sherman on his side, but remember Cam also had Josh Norman for a significant time. Russell has Pete Carroll on his sideline, but Cam also has a man by the name of Ron Rivera, who won coach of the year in 2015, on his own sideline. Above all, both of these players are absolutely incredible and they changed the game of football, together. Both have had their share of successes. But, by looking at the hard facts of the major statistical categories for passing of the football, Russell Wilson shines above Cam Newton for now in the sake of argument. The next time someone tries to claim that Cam is the better of the two, just tell them to go look at the numbers. In today's world normative claims simply are not enough to prove the trueness or falsity of a particular claim. Descriptive, honest facts are what we need to evaluate in the heart of arguments, which can lead to a lot more settled debates. And, in the Russell Wilson vs Cam Newton debate, the honest facts seem to put this debate to rest.