Who Was Better In 2013? Cam Newton or Andrew Luck

Derek Leazer

Today, we will explore who had the better 2013 season, Cam Newton or Andrew Luck.

As fans of the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton, we are used to playing second fiddle to some of the larger media market darlings, which is fine by me. But what about Andrew Luck? He plays in a television market that is almost identically the same in size(Charlotte is actually slightly larger)as Newton's. So what is so special about the Indianapolis Colt's franchise quarterback? In case you haven't noticed, the media decided a long time ago that he deserved to be anointed the chosen one before he actually proved anything. Ever since Luck entered the league in 2012, Newton has played the part of a peasant who should be thankful for any crumbs that might accidentally fall from the king's table.

Honestly, the best way to handle the media bias is to just ignore it. Most of them have seemingly made up their minds already that Luck is one conference final appearance away from being a Hall of Fame lock, while Newton is a single missed throw away from being proclaimed a bust. Is this perspective a bit exaggerated? Perhaps. But these networks and their minions need a gigantic dose of reality.

Am I saying that Luck doesn't belong in the discussion of today's best young quarterbacks? Of course not. But he isn't elite either, and neither is Newton. In reality, both are headed in the right direction and they deserve plenty of credit for thriving under the pressure that comes with leading an NFL franchise.

Today, instead of letting the talking heads tell us what to believe, we'll allow the numbers to speak for themselves as we explore which of these two young quarterbacks had the better 2013 season.

If you need any help understanding any of the ten categories in the chart just below, then please refer to the Category Explanation at the bottom of the page.

Take a look at this data from 2013 and I'll do my best to interpret these numbers on the other side.

Category Cam Newton Andrew Luck
1.Football Outsiders True Sack Percentage 7.76% 4.96%
2.True Completion Percentage 66.17% 64.6%
3.Touchdown Percentage 5.07% 4.04%
4.Interception Percentage 2.75% 1.58%
5.Pro Football Focus Pressure Rate 36.94% 30.23%
6.Yards Per Attempt 7.14 6.71
7.FO DVOA Opponent Defensive Ranking Average 13.21 16.28
8.FO DVOA Opponent Defensive Percentage Average 4.13% 0.80%
9.Yards Per Attempt, Minus Yards After Catch 3.55 3.62
10.Yards After Catch Percentage 50.2% 46.0%

Interpreting The Numbers

1. Football Outsiders True Sack Percentage

According to Football Outsiders, Newton's true sack rate(includes intentional grounding penalties) was 36% higher than Luck's. This was largely due to a combination of superior overall protection, less long developing plays and better decision making both inside and outside the pocket.

2. True Completion Percentage

So much for Luck being the more polished quarterback. Newton finished with a higher completion percentage including dropped passes in the equation and also when excluding them. The same can be said of the 2012 season.

3. Touchdown Percentage

Newton finished more than a full percentage point better than Luck, which is noteworthy when you consider how much the Colts front office has bent over backwards to surround him with as many offensive weapons and protection as possible. I wish the same could be said of the Panthers' front office.

4. Interception Percentage

Luck returns the favor in this category with an interception percentage that is over a full percentage point less than Newton's.

5. Pro Football Focus Pressure Rate

When adding hits and hurries to the sack totals, the pressure rate comparison is cut in half from 36% to 18%. But the fact still remains that Luck is generally afforded more time to operate in a clean pocket when dropping back to pass.

6. Yards Per Attempt

Newton's yards per attempt were superior to Luck's during his rookie season in 2012 and that continued in 2013 as well.

7. FO DVOA Opponent Defensive Ranking Average

So far, the numbers are implying that Newton's 2013 stats are moderately better than Luck's as a whole. Could it be that the Indianapolis Colts' franchise quarterback battled against the tougher defenses? According to these football outsiders' rankings, the answer is a resounding no. In fact, Newton encountered defenses that were rated more than three positions higher than what Luck faced.

8. FO DVOA Opponent Defensive Percentage Average

This percentage is even more damning to anyone who assumes Luck is the better quarterback based on what they hear in the media alone. These numbers don't lie. Luck faced defenses that were barely above the median average(.8%) of all the defenses in the NFL, while Newton was confronted by defenses that were more than four percentage points higher than the average NFL defense.

9. Yards Per Attempt, Minus Yards After Catch

Although Newton's overall yards per attempt were higher during the 2013 season, Luck actually ended up with more yards past the line of scrimmage when factoring yards gained after the catch.

10. Yards After Catch Percentage

This stat compliments the 9th category, therefore it makes complete sense that Newton was the beneficiary of more total yards gained after the catch. As I've stated previously, this particular metric is the byproduct of a number of things like down field blocking, ball placement(leading the receiver) and the receiver's own extraordinary or ordinary ability to get positive yards in traffic or in space on any given play. Because of this, it is very difficult to declare either quarterback the winner on such data because of the many variables involved.

Now, we'll compare and contrast their dome/inside games against their outside/road games.

Dome/Inside Games vs Outside/Road Games Comparison

Andrew Luck

Category Dome/Home Outside/Road Differential
Pass Yards/Game 240.5 236.2 -4.3
Yards/Attempt 6.68 6.75 +.07
Completion % 58.1% 63.8% +5.7%
Touchdown % 4.44% 3.33% -1.11%
Interception % 1.94% 0.95% +.99

Cam Newton

Category Dome/Home Outside/Road Differential
Pass Yards/Game 207.1 220.2 +13.1
Yards/Attempt 7.75 6.14 -1.61
Completion % 65.3 55.8% -9.5%
Touchdown % 5.44% 4.46% -0.98%
Interception % 2.38% 3.35% -0.97%

This chart below shows us that Luck clearly faced weaker defenses on the road/outside.

Outside/Road Defensive Comparison

FO DVOA Average Def Ranking FO DVOA Def % Average
Andrew Luck 17.58 +1.28%
Cam Newton 11.00 -5.88%

Interpreting The Dome/Inside vs Road/Outside Numbers

1. Pass Yards/Game

As you can see, Newton's total pass yards per game went up when playing outside on the road, while Luck's went slightly down.

2. Yards/Attempt

Luck wins this category not only because his yards per attempt were better than Newton's on the road, but also in light of the fact that his yards per attempt were greater on the road. The same cannot be said of the Panthers' field general.

3. Completion %

Again, Luck stands out above Newton. The latter's completion percentage decreased by nearly ten percentage points when playing outside on the road. Conversely, the former's rate rose more than five percent under the same circumstances.

4. Touchdown %

Newton gets the better of Luck here because his touchdown rate was simply better than Luck's.

5. Interception %

This final piece of data proves Luck was more efficient than Newton from a ball security standpoint. The former shaved off almost a full percentage point from his already low interception rate, while the latter nearly gained a full percentage point in the wrong direction.

Rushing Stats

Attempts Yards Yards/Attempt TD First Downs Fumbles
Andrew Luck 63 377 6.0 4 23 1
Cam Newton 111 585 5.3 6 45 1

Yards per attempt aside, Newton proved to be the better runner in 2013. However, it is certainly worth noting that Luck's rushing ability is an underrated part of his game.

Final Verdict

The first ten categories which measured today's featured quarterbacks were decidedly in favor of Newton, while the second set of analysis comparing their Dome/Home numbers to their Outside/Road numbers seemingly placed Luck in a better light. But even this was deceptive when considering the poorer level of defenses he was fortunate enough to face. Moreover, Newton finished with nearly twice as many first downs rushing the football and also hit pay-dirt two more times as well.

So what about Luck's legendary fourth quarter comebacks? Yes, he definitely has displayed a knack for leading his team to comeback victories, but it is also worth noting that he had a hand in building those deficits in the first place. Even so, he deserves some credit for overcoming this type of adversity, and so does Newton. In fact, both finished the 2013 season with exactly four game winning drives.

So what is the final verdict?

After considering all of today's data, a decision has been made. The numbers have given the slight edge to....


So what say you CSR? Be sure to let everyone know how you feel in the poll and the comment section that follows.


Category Explanation

1. Sack Percentage

This percentage not only includes how many times each quarterback was taken down behind the line of scrimmage by a defender, but also the number of plays that were ruled an intentional grounding. This percentage was obtained from Footballoutsiders.com.

2. True Completion Percentage

This particular completion percentage takes into account how many times each quarterback's intended target dropped a catchable pass.

3. Touchdown Percentage

This percentage is calculated by simply dividing each quarterback's total number of touchdown passes by their total number of pass attempts.

4. Interception Percentage

This percentage is calculated by dividing each quarterback's total number of interceptions by their total number of pass attempts.

5. PFF Pressure Rate

This percentage is calculated by dividing the total number of sacks, hits and hurries by the total number of pass attempts. This was obtained from Profootballfocus.com.

6. Yards Per Attempt

This is simply calculated by dividing each quarterback's total pass yards by their total number of pass attempts.

7. FO DVOA Opponent Defensive Ranking Average

Here is a metric which takes into account the defensive rankings of each quarterback's collective opponents in 2013. Footballoutsiders.com uses a formula that compares every play to a league-average baseline that relies primarily on situational performance and productivity. As such, DVOA gives us a better idea which quarterback faced the tougher defenses according to their scheduled opponents.

8. FO DVOA Opponent Defensive Percentage Average

This calculation is similar to category number seven in that it helps us understand which quarterback experienced greater resistance according to their scheduled opponents in 2013.

9. Yards Per Attempt, Minus Yards After Catch

This is one of two new categories I added that specifically deals with yards after the catch. Arriving at this number is simply a matter of determining the average of how far past the line of scrimmage the ball traveled without factoring in how many yards the pass catcher accumulated after the catch.

10. Yards After Catch Percentage

This second new category reveals the percentage of a quarterback's total passing yards that were purely acquired from yards after the catch.

More from sbnation.com: