But what if Tebow was the first Newton?
Obviously, Newton is having an unbelieveable year at Auburn, but I hadn't really considered that he might be even better than Tebow until Gator Clause founder Joe Goodman made that claim in his Newton column last week. As we all know, Joe's a huge Auburn Homer/Gator Hater, so I'll stop short of saying that just yet.
But it's definitely worth discussing, which is a pretty big deal considering Tebow was being hailed as the greatest college football player of all time less than a year ago.
Let's break it down. Newton could very well be one-and-done, so comparing the scope of their careers is impossible. I'm using Tebow's numbers from 2007 against Newton's this year, since both are from their first years as D-1 starters and (probably) Heisman-winning caliber.
Keep in mind that Newton's stats are from 11 games (he has three left) while Tebow's are from 13.
Tebow: 234 of 350 (66.9 percent), 3,286 yds (9.4 yds per attempt), 32 TDs, 6 INT, 172.47 rating
Newton: 135 of 198 (68.2 percent), 2,038 yds (10.3 yds per attempt), 21 TDs, 6 INT, 183.58 rating
Edge: Tim. Newton is very efficient, but Tebow was much more effective through the air. Both of them benefitted from their running ability making it easier to throw, but Tebow could beat defenses with his arm alone, and that's something Newton hasn't shown yet. Percy Harvin, the best player I've ever seen, certainly made life easier for Tebow, but he was still good without Harvin and in the face of [insert your own adjective] play-calling last season.
Tebow: 210 carries, 895 yds (4.3 yds per), 23 TDs
Newton: 206 carries, 1,297 yds (6.3 yds per), 17 TDs
Edge: Cam. Newton runs more than Tebow did, and Tebow was used so much in short-yardage situations that it does hurt his average. But even with that caveat, Newton is a better runner. He's faster and more elusive. If the goal is to get two yards, I'd take Tebow. If it's to gash a defense, it's Newton all day, which is clear by this stat comparison because their number of carries are so close. With four fewer carries, Newton has 402 more yards.
Tebow: 9-4, loss to Michigan in Capital One Bowl
Newton: 11-0 and counting
Edge: Cam. Tebow lost four games and Newton is undefeated. All they can control is the offense, and that record in 2007 was the defense's fault. Tebow's Gators averaged 43.9 pts but gave up 24 and really faltered in the losses. But Newton's defense is allowing 24.9 and he hasn't lost, scoring an average of 42.8 pts. Bottom line is that Newton can't lose the winning category until he at least loses a game (then again, this Auburn team could very well wind up 0-14 by the time this Newton scandal stuff shakes out).
Based on this one-season comparison, Newton wins. But the career discussion is a different one. This is Newton's fourth year in college and second as a starter (junior college national title) whereas Tebow won the Heisman as a true sophomore in his first year at the helm. And he won a championship the next year and went undefeated through the regular season in 2009.
There isn't really a way to settle this debate, but the most important part to me is that it is a legitimate debate. Splitting hairs between the greatest athletes/bands/movies/whatever is a moot point. What matters is that you could make a case for either one.
And that should make watching Florida's offense this season hurt that much more.