Warning: this column may offend you if you aren't comfortable with the issue of race being discussed in sports.
NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon is plenty comfortable with discussing race, particularly when it comes to the way he perceives the treatment of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Moon had Newton's back before he was drafted, suggesting those who felt Newton wasn't worthy of being the top pick were racially motivated.
Issues arose when Newton told Sports Illustrated's Peter King, "I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon."
It appeared Newton had silenced many of his critics with a Rookie of the Year season in 2011, throwing for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns, along with rushing for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns.
It's come back up recently, as Moon recently blasted critics who are making comparisons between Newton and Vince Young, the former third overall pick of the Tennessee Titans whose career has gone downhill since being named Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006.
To paraphrase Moon, the issue isn't with the criticism on Newton's play as he is slumping badly for the 1-5 Panthers. It's that a comparison to Young, in Moon's opinion, is only being made because he's black.
Moon would later clarify his remarks, saying, "I think race is a little bit strong. I think stereotype is a little bit more of what I was talking about. If we're in a day and age when all quarterbacks are supposed to be equal, why can't we start comparing quarterback to quarterback, not just black to black and white to white?"
While Moon has taken heat from many over his suggestion race has been an issue with Newton's career to this point, taking his comments objectively, he's making reasonable points. One doesn't have to agree with him to understand the points he's making.
So who does Moon feel Newton is comparable to, then, if not Young (which I agree with)?
Obviously that depends on what he means by "gifts."
Both are known as nimble and athletic, both are somewhere around 6-foot-5 (taller than Young) and around 240 pounds (heavier than Young). All three were named Offensive Rookies of the Year (Roethlisberger in 2004, Young in 2006 and Newton in 2012).
But Newton doesn't even have anything close to Roethlisberger's record or stigma of pulling wins out of bleak situations. Interestingly, that's the same kind of rep Young used to have when he was in Tennessee.
Moon went on to compare Newton's demeanor in recent losses to Bears QB Jay Cutler, who has been seen berating members of his offensive line and unable to remove the stigma of petulance he's carried with him since he was drafted by Denver in 2006.
To Moon's credit, he calls Newton out for his Cutler-esque sulkiness, the same attitude veteran wide receiver Steve Smith has called him out on already this year.
That's one trait Roethlisberger does not have. Comparisons between the two in that regard is ridiculous.
Harvin is a little taller (5-foot-11 vs. 5-foot-9), but both play the slot, both are the primary receivers for their respective teams, both are projected to catch around 120 passes this season, both have kick and punt returning ability, and while Welker is used on deeper routes a little more than Harvin is, Harvin makes the difference up in rushing yards.
In fact, it's tougher to find two more comparable receivers. Maybe I'm blind and deaf, but I've yet to read or hear anyone compare the two. Comparing Newton to Young is just as ridiculous. Young never sniffed what Newton did in the air or on the ground. What's comparable outside of race? Height and weight, perhaps, but both carry it very differently. The fact they struggled as young quarterbacks? Ok, but two players compared between 2006 and 2012 did not create the term "sophomore slump," as it's applied to NFL quarterbacks who struggle in their second season. The fact they won Rookie of the Year awards? Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford have won it since Young did, no one's bringing their names up.
Let's be clear on what Moon is saying here. He's not letting Newton off the hook for his sagging performance or him wearing his negative emotions on the field. These are issues any player in the NFL of any color deal with on a daily basis, some better than others, regardless of race. Also, it's fair to point out Moon serves as a mentor to Newton, and it wouldn't seem his job would be best done by failing to protect his client if he feels he's being portrayed in a negative light.
Whether we want to center all of this around Newton, who's performance has dropped off somewhat this season, or the fact we naturally compare blacks to blacks and whites to whites is our choice.
For my part, I think Moon is partially right - Newton does display some Roethlisberger in his game. He also has acted like Cutler at times, and Moon will have an extremely difficult time convincing active followers of the NFL Newton has been criticized even close to what Cutler's taken over the whole issue.
But he's dead-on that comparisons to Vince Young are ignorant by way of their styles of play in the NFL (Newton after one year shows far more accuracy in deep passing, and Young dwarfs Newton's comeback abilities, and the list goes on).
Suggesting they're being compared simply because of their race seems valid.