Veteran Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith showed some love to his rookie quarterback Cam Newton, whose stellar first season has been largely overshadowed by the unexpected emergence of Tim Tebow.
While giving credit to the Broncos quarterback for the last-minute heroics that have sparked Tebow-mania, Smith said he would take Newton any day over Denver's new deity.
"You can't compare Cam to Tebow. I think Cam's a more complete player," Smith told The Charlotte Observer on Thursday. "Tebow has the wins. But everybody wants to crown Tebow. Yes, he has the will to win. I think Tebow is no different than any other professional. But Tebow has a great opportunity to play behind a great defense."
The Broncos defense, as The Observer points out, is ranked 19th in the league, compared to Carolina's defense at 24th. Meanwhile, the Panthers are virtually all but out of the NFC playoff picture at 4-9, while the Broncos, 8-5, are in the driver's seat to claim the AFC West title with three games remaining.
But while Newton ranks eighth in the league, and first among rookies, with 3,573 passing yards, and 17th in completion percentage at 59.7, Tebow's unlikely string of fourth-quarter comebacks continues to dominate the headlines despite a league-worst 48.5 completion percentage.
The Tebow craze has grown exponentially since he took over the reins in October, with the Broncos improbably winning seven of eight, including their past six with Tebow under center. The latest Denver miracle saw Tebow and company overcome a 10-0 deficit in the final quarter to defeat the Bears 13-10.
The victory came after Tebow's fifth game-winning drive in the fourth quarter this season, and as with the previous wins, came with Tebow using his feet as much, if not more than, his arm. The former Heisman winner's 193 rushing yards and 61.7 completion percentage in the fourth quarter has prompted analysts around the league to note his versatility as a quarterback.
But Smith, preferring the skills of Carolina's own Heisman winner, Newton, does not think the versatile moniker fits Tebow.
"Versatile would mean you can throw the ball very accurately, run the ball, create things," he said. "And the only thing he's creating is running. He isn't very accurate. You watch him, I don't think 3 for 10 (after) three quarters is a versatile quarterback."
Tebow was actually 3 for 16 through three quarters against the Bears on Sunday. He finished 21 for 40, but that does not appear to impress Smith.
"Come check me out in five years, Jack, and you'll know who's the better quarterback." he said.