Youth vs. Experience: A Super Bowl Story

Posted by Mark Schremmer on

Which is more valuable, youth or experience?

Talent or fundamentals?

Energy or wisdom?

Those questions may very well be answered when the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos meet Sunday, Feb. 7 in Super Bowl 50.

That is when we will see the dynamic skill set of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton matched against the unparalleled leadership ability of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.

On the surface, the differences between the two quarterbacks couldn’t be more staggering.

At 13 years, the 26-year-old Newton and the 39-year-old Manning have the largest age gap between opposing starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl history. To put it in perspective, Newton was only 8 years old when Manning was selected No. 1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft.

Newton is the quintessential new-age athlete. At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, he is three inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus. He boasts a cannon for an arm and the speed of a running back. If a scientist could create a quarterback in a lab, it would have the size and skills of Newton. This season, he passed for more than 3,800 yards and 35 touchdowns, while rushing for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Manning is the aging veteran whose knowledge outweighs his current skills. With a neck injury that sidelined him for the 2011 season, he no longer possesses the arm strength that helped him pass for more than 4,000 yards in 14 seasons. Less capable of throwing the deep ball, Manning relies on his knowledge of the offense and defensive tendencies to move the Broncos down the field. Even in his prime, Manning was never a runner. His 667 career rushing yards are only 31 more than Newton gained this season.

While the two quarterback are extremely different, their results are similar. Both No. 1 picks, Newton and Manning are proven winners. Newton won an NJCAA national title at Blinn College and an NCAA Division I national championship for Auburn. Manning led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory after the 2006 season.

But which wins out? Youth or experience?

As nice as it would be to see one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history end his career in appropriate fashion, the most likely scenario is a passing of the torch.

It’s a new era, and Newton’s unique set of skills is leading the way.

Meanwhile, Manning’s Hall of Fame career is near its end.

“Time takes everybody out; it’s undefeated,” Rocky Balboa wisely remarks in the 2015 film, “Creed.”

In Super Bowl, the time has come for Newton’s youth to edge Manning’s experience.


Mark Schremmer has been a sports reporter since 2000 and has covered games at the professional, college and high school levels for the Topeka Capital-Journal and The Joplin Globe.

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