Both Mariota and Newton lead their teams in different ways, and have had varying levels of success. Newton has a NFL MVP award and a Super Bowl appearance. Mariota has neither, but could sniff one or both if he continues on his current path of progression.
There are a few obvious on-field comparisons: Both are exciting dual-threat starting quarterbacks, both won the Heisman Trophy and both are former top-two draft picks. Beyond those facts, Mariota doesn't have much connection to Newton despite the stretch comparisons people try to make. The two aren't exactly friends yet.
"Actually, I haven't gotten to know him yet," Mariota said, before shifting gears to their Heisman similarities. "It's cool to be able to experience that, especially with the Heisman House and different things like that you get to meet a bunch of different Heisman [winners]. It's a lot of fun to get to be able to know those guys and just kind of share stories. I look forward to talking to him and getting to know him."
Mariota and Newton didn’t have any side-by-side battles Wednesday as the Tennessee Titans hosted the Carolina Panthers in the first of two joint practices this week. Newton is healing from a shoulder injury and didn’t do any live action. Panthers coach Ron Rivera is currently undecided on whether Newton will play Saturday against Mariota and the Titans, but if Wednesday’s practice is any indication Tennessee won’t see much of him.
Newton has four NFL seasons on Mariota so the two didn't cross paths in college and they have played against each other only once, a 27-10 Panthers win in November 2015.
Mariota spent a lot of time in the film room this year reviewing his 2016 tape while rehabbing his broken right leg. Sometimes NFL quarterbacks watch the tape of quarterbacks across the league to gain insight, but it was important for Mariota to lock into reviewing his own footwork and timing flaws rather than copying a facet of Newton or any other quarterback’s game.
"I don't really compare myself or try to imitate a whole lot of guys," Mariota said. "It's important that you understand what your game is. Everyone's kind of unique and you kind of build yourself to be the best player that you can be for this team."