By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The 2020 Patriots have gotten a front-row seat to the future of the NFL’s quarterbacks. Fittingly, they also happen to employ a man who helped inspire those young QBs to become the stars they are today.
In Week 10, it was reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. In Week 11, it was Deshaun Watson. This upcoming week, it’ll be Kyler Murray. Throw in Josh Allen in Week 8, and the Patriots have seen quite a bit of the NFL’s next generation of dual threat quarterbacks.
Unsurprisingly, those young bucks hold Newton in high regard. As they were coming up through the high school and collegiate ranks, Newton was winning a national championship and a Heisman at Auburn, and then leading the Panthers to a Super Bowl while winning an NFL MVP award.
While Newton appreciates his role in giving those young QBs someone to look up to and emulate, he made sure to note on Wednesday that he’s far from the first dual-threat quarterback to make an impact on the league.
“No, listen, this train was started way back when, when you had the Steve Youngs, the Warren Moons, John Elway, Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Kordell Stewart, to a degree, you know what I mean?” Newton said when asked if he felt like he started this current trend. “So I’m not gonna sit up here and be the first person to say that I am the originator of this style of play, because that’s not true. There’s been a lot of a lot of quarterbacks that played way before me that have brought an element to the quarterback position that was extremely beneficial or heart-aching for defenses that try to figure out.”
Newton did acknowledge that it’s an honor to have had that kind of role for the next generation. But when it comes to Sunday afternoons, his mindset doesn’t change.
“It’s cool … but I still want to beat ’em,” Newton said with a grin. “So, I’m pretty sure they can say the same thing about me, and that’s what we play this game. It’s a mutual respect, but just like any competitors going against each other, you want to see that person do good until you play them. And then afterwards, it is what it is.”
Interestingly, though, the ability to run and throw may be becoming more of a requirement than a supplement to the quarterback position these days. Newton remarked Wednesday that outrunning the big boys in the middle of a defensive line is no longer a given — even for him.
“Yeah. I mean, going against certain players and certain defenders who are running if not faster than you [then] as fast as you,” Newton said of the rise in athleticism from D-linemen during his NFL career. “And I’m not just talking about defensive ends. I’m talking three techs, shades, nose tackles. Guys are just freakish athletes these days and you just have to have an edge in some way, in some category of your game.”
With over 5,000 rushing yards, Newton ranks second on the all-time rushing list for QBs, trailing only Michael Vick (by 962 yards). Newton’s 67 rushing touchdowns are by far the most of any quarterback, with Steve Young ranking second with 43.
The new generation of young QBs represents an undeniable wave of athleticism to the NFL, and the 31-year-old Newton may represent the “old guard” in that sense. But with a win over Lamar Jackson and the Ravens already on his resumé, he’ll be looking to show that he’s very much still a part of the present picture come Sunday afternoon.
“It’s just fun to play against a guy like that,” Newton said. “As well as knowing that the game is kind of turning to that style of quarterback, who can not only attack you with the legs but as well as [being] as potent with his legs as with his arm as well.”