Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/27/11
Drew Brees artfully slicked a ball over his offensive line into the hands of a dead-sprinting Darren Sproles, who ran pell-mell through two Falcons and into the end-zone.  It was a simple half-back dump--the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints had done this play dozens of times.  As he sometimes does when throwing a touchdown, Brees indulged himself in a small fist-pump, at first forward in a gut-punch and then raised in a silent but obvious declaration of victory.  It was understated and cool, just as anyone who follows him has come to expect from Brees.  He is short for a quarterback, precise and eloquent, with none of Vick's convicted sparkle, Tebow's near-holy charisma or Brady's movie-star looks.  In that moment Brees was calm--after all, it was only nine-yard throw.  

Only moments later when his linemen hoisted him into the air and the stadium exploded with flashes of light, bulbs further illuminating Brees' luminary performance, would anyone not knowing the context of the moment realize this was something special.  With that pass Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's single season passing record, with still another game to play, and etched yet another place into the history of the NFL for himself.  Later Brees would say that he'd intentionally blotted out the thought of the record, erased it from his mind, so that really his touchdown celebration was quite normal because he felt quite normal, until guard Carl Nicks cranked the almost humorously small Brees into the Dome-sky.  I bet no one will remember that, and few will nitpick that Marino still had a higher yards-per-pass.  What they will remember is the image, a single fist in the air and a smile on his face, with which 5,087 yards and a new record were greeted--and I hope they will know that even if Brees had known, kept track, such minimalism would still be his calling card.  It always has been.

Cam Newton, on the other hand, has not a speck of minimalism in him.  He is everything that Brees is not, tall and flashy and a speed-demon.  This weekend alone he outran several members of the Buccaneers secondary--you know, those folks who are responsible for limiting the fastest men on the field--and added to his already record rookie year by passing Peyton Manning as the rookie with the most passing yards all-time.  Newton's doubled the previous number of rookie quarterback rushing touchdowns in a season with 14-- which is, by the way, more than most running backs in the league currently have.  Peter King has said that we don't have a way to really accurately measure the effect Cam Newton will have, and he's right.

These two men represent the changes in offensive football.  Brees is the more conservatively styled of the two, a nearly pure pocket passer, but his actual method--finding passing lanes between his line and using purely tactical placement sometimes, simply because he's so short--is a variation on the common theme.  Newton is a wholly different beast--a linebacker behind the center, a running back who passes on a nearly Hall of Fame level as a rookie.  Remember, please, that Cam Newton--or Yes We Cam, as his fans have dubbed him-- did all of this essentially without an offseason, without an effective running back for the first half of the season (no one knows why the previously fantastic Panthers runners were so poor at first, but they're getting there) and with only one really good receiver (Although in his defense Steve Smith is fantastic, and was underrated for a few years because the Panthers fell apart around him.)  Carolina got the tight ends it needed in the last offseason, they have the offensive line, their running backs are finally on track and are locked in...really they're only missing #2 and #3 receivers of real skill, something I guarantee they'll grab in the draft (for the #3, probably in the 2nd round, I'm guessing) and the #2 (saaaaaaaaaaay, aren't the Saints supposed to lose that Marques Colston fellow to free agency?  Two birds with one stone, Panthers.  Pricey, but worth it.)  

Brees is the quarterback of today, and near the pinnacle of his profession.  Cam Newton is the quarterback of tomorrow.
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