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Is Cam Newton the greatest dual-threat QB in history?

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Cam Newton is the evolutionary quarterback.

At a chiseled 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds with 4.60 wheels, he has the size and speed to match the All-Pro defensive ends giving chase. A half-decade into his career, he gets his offense into the right plays, reads defenses, exhausts his progressions, takes advantage of over-aggressive pass rushes and attacks every inch of the field with one of strongest arms in the league.

It was less than two years ago that scouts, coaches and executives were bemoaning the death of the running quarterback. Now Newton stands atop NFL Network's The Top 100 Players Of 2016 countdown after becoming the first player in NFL history with at least 30 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns in a single season.

He's the ultimate pick-your-poison weapon, capable of burning defenses with his arm on game-breaking downfield strikes or converting short-yardage situations with his legs.

To Newton's credit, he warned us this historical season was coming.

"Nobody has ever been who I'm trying to be," Newton boasted in May of 2015. "Nobody has the size, nobody has the speed, nobody has the arm strength, nobody had the intangibles that I've had. ... Hear me out. I'm just saying that so much of my talents have not been seen in one person."

He reiterated that sentiment in January, telling reporters he might scare critics "because they haven't seen nothing that they can compare me to."

A football world tempted to diminish Newton's prediction as hubris a year ago is now lining up to pay tribute to his extraordinary skill set.

"I haven't seen one like him," Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips acknowledged in the lead-up to Super Bowl 50. "None of us have."

Broncos Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib agreed, labeling Newton "super unique."

"I've never seen nobody that size," Talib explained. "You look like the typical NFL quarterback. You can sit in the pocket and throw it. And then you can run ... you probably could play any position in the NFL that you wanted to. So he's definitely a unique player. Like I said he's probably the most dangerous quarterback in the NFL right now. ... He's the best of both worlds, man."

The 2015 MVP has won over opponents such as Colts cornerback Darius Butler, who acknowledged Newton has developed into the best player in the league.

If Newton reigns supreme during football's most advanced, complex era, it's natural to wonder if he is also enjoying the greatest dual-threat season in NFL history.

Top dual-threat QB seasons in NFL history
  Passing yards Passing TDs INTs Passer rating Carries Rushing yards Rushing TDs
  2015 Cam Newton 3,837 35 10 99.4 132 636 10
  2015 Russell Wilson 4,024 34 8 110.1 103 553 1
  2012 Robert Griffin III 3,200 20 5 102.4 120 815 7
  2010 Mike Vick 3,018 21 6 100.2 100 676 9
  2004 Daunte Culpepper 4,717 39 11 110.9 88 406 2
  1997 Kordell Stewart 3,020 21 17 75.2 88 476 11
  1994 Steve Young 3,969 35 10 112.8 58 293 7
  1990 Randall Cunningham 3,466 30 13 91.6 118 942 5

We can trace the evolution of dual-threat quarterbacks to Fran Tarkenton, who bedeviled pass rushers with his madcap scrambling ability in the 1960s and '70s.

The next stage brought us Randall Cunningham and Steve Young in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Cunningham was the first truly explosive running threat to excel as a passer while Young was the first to be just as effective throwing as running.

Newton is a different animal altogether. Whereas most dual-threat quarterbacks compromise a defense by fleeing the pocket and taking off for back-breaking gains, Newton is integral to the Panthers' chain-moving rushing attack with his deceptive ball-handling and short-yardage prowess.

A two-play sequence in the NFC Championship Game drove home Newton's rare ability. Facing third-and-10 from the Cardinals' 23-yard line, he started to his right and carried safety Chris Clemons for an 11-yard gain and a first down. He ran again to his right on the next play, taking off from the 3-yard line and somersaulting into the end zone for a touchdown.

"Those two plays there -- he's the only quarterback in the league who is doing that," tight end Greg Olsen said after the game. "That sums him up. He's different. He's a special guy. What more can you say?"

Sequences of that unique nature are what led NFL Media analyst Michael Robinson to wonder prior to the start of the playoffs if Newton had emerged as the greatest red-zone threat ever.

What we can say with certainty is that Newton is the most lethal short-yardage weapon the game has seen.

The video to the right highlights all 12 of Newton's rushing scores last season. No other player has ever offered the acrobatics to flip over the goal line and land on his feet, the speed to beat defenders to the pylon, the power to break tackles at the goal line, the vision to see the open holes, the arm length and enormous hands to reach across the plane of the goal line and the passing ability to burn potential tacklers selling out to stop the threat of the run.

Cunningham, Mike Vick and the rookie version of Robert Griffin III boasted more dynamic speed and lateral agility. Daunte Culpepper could compete with Newton's size and power. Tarkenton, Russell Wilson and Roger Staubach offered more creativity and elusiveness as scramblers. Young was just as athletic with better passing ability, winning a record six passer-rating titles and retiring with the most rushing touchdowns and second-most rushing yards of the Super Bowl era.

While other dual-threat quarterbacks have run for more yards or posted a higher passer rating in a single season, no one has ever combined all of Newton's best traits into one package.

It's fair to claim that the current version of Newton enjoyed an unparalleled dual-threat in 2015, breaking defenses with his incomparable short-yardage and red-zone prowess.

If he's going to overtake Young as the greatest dual-threat quarterback in football history, though, he must repeat that success for several more seasons.

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