As a fan of analytics, I see truth in numbers. The ideological wave has swept all through sports (not just football). Looking solely at the numbers, the six year, $115 million deal Andy Dalton just signed isn’t preposterous. But looking solely at numbers without context is as silly as basing every rating of a player off “the eye test”. Despite his high number of passing TDs in his first few years (80), and his winning record in the regular season (30-18), he’s always seemed like an issue holding an otherwise insanely talented team back. Instead of being a feared enemy of opposing teams, he has instead donned the mantle of “game manager” (and not the good Russell Wilson kind, the bad “please don’t make any mistakes” kind).
This post isn’t a referendum on Andy Dalton’s shortcomings…at least not entirely. Whenever a quarterback (by far the most highly compensated position in football) signs a contract, it sends ripples through the League. Not only is each contract a time capsule of how things are changing financially for the NFL, but it also acts as a slotting mechanism for other signal callers. I’ve written before about how I felt about management and Cam’s contract, but let’s revisit it now that there is a more recent benchmark.
Dalton came into the league the same year as Cam. In that time, Dalton has more wins and playoff appearances; largely due to the supreme talent surrounding him. Cam has more total TDs (93 to 87), fewer turnovers, and more yards than Dalton. More than just the numbers, Newton has been the most dangerous offensive threat for the Panthers since joining the club. No one would ever think that Newton is a game manager, Carolina’s hopes rest squarely on Cam’s shoulder pads. Newton is a better quarterback than Dalton.
So what does this mean for Newton’s contract that is up at the end of the season? Surely he will want more money per year, and higher guarantees. More importantly, how will the Panthers respond? The franchise has historically been extremely frugal. Will Jerry Richardson open up the bank to keep one of the best young QBs in the League, or continue with his usual conservative wallet? Only time will tell.