Cam Newton is one of the most electric performers in the NFL. His big personality and even bigger arm have made him a star attraction and a ‘love or hate’ figure in the league. However, he needs a Super Bowl win to become one of the true greats.

In the 2015 season, he seemed to be destined for immortality. He was unbelievable in almost single-handedly taking the Carolina Panthers to a 14-0 record, and an unbeaten season seemed a near certainty. The Denver Broncos ended the greatest dream of all, but the Panthers still finished with a 15-1 record, with Newton being crowned as the league’s MVP.

Cam Newton – an MVP, but no NFL legend

For Super Bowl 50, he came up against a Broncos side that was having plenty of quarterback issues. Peyton Manning had been dropped earlier in the season, being replaced by Brock Osweiler, only to be reinstated for the playoffs. It wasn’t just the offence that was feared, however. Denver’s defence were faultless, and kept Cam Newton’s Panthers down to just 10 points with Vonn Miller being the MVP for the game, with his forcing of a fumble from Newton considered by some to be the deciding element in that regard.

A win there would have capped off an incredible season for Newton, but instead, it gave a perfect end to Peyton Manning as his second ring helped him secure his own legacy, even though he had a very poor game himself. It was another underlining of the fact that a player can have all the passing yards in the world, a great completion rate, and a fantastic quarterback rating and not make it. The key to success is getting the ring that separates the great from the good. The ability to do it in the big games, when it really counts, has always been the true measure of Super Bowl success.

It is for this reason that Tom Brady is now almost universally accepted as the greatest quarterback of all-time, and the reason that NFL odds will always have the New England Patriots at the top of the list while he remains in action. Not only has he led his team to eight Super Bowls, but he has won five of them and been the MVP in four. That kind of record can’t be argued with. Brady can’t throw the ball further than Newton, he isn’t quicker and doesn’t throw the tightest spiral. Yet, what he does have is the ability to use his considerable talent in the biggest games.

Slip in the standings

Cam Newton was part of the biggest game once and failed. Since that moment, he’s not quite been the same and the Panthers have struggled to live up to that season. His overall passer rating isn’t that special, currently standing at just over 85, and while he can look imperious in some games, he looks lost in others.

At 28 years old, however, there is still plenty of time for him to claim at least one ring, which he so desperately craves. It’s a pivotal point of Cam Newton’s career as his experience should now meet his talent and combine for much more well-rounded performances and an increased passer rating. He has the talent to win numerous Super Bowls, but it’s all about showing that talent on a consistent basis, and when it counts.

Newton would be well-advised to observe the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Though the identity of history’s greatest quarterback is a common debate, one name that will come up often in conversation is Dan Marino. He had a great career at the Miami Dolphins but will continue to be regarded as the best quarterback to never win the Super Bowl. He led his team there once but ultimately couldn’t get the job done.

Newton must respect his limits

As shown by Marino’s failure to win a Super Bowl, one element a quarterback can’t control is the players around him – a quarterback can’t do it just on his own. This was seen in the latest Super Bowl, as Tom Brady and his offence put up an impressive 33 points, only to be let down by shoddy defending.

Tom Brady has won Super Bowls with fewer points than the 33 gained in February’s defeat. Clearly, however, his teammates had a huge role in his five wins to date – which again shortens New England’s odds of winning the AFC conference while Brady continues to resist the lure of retirement. By contrast, Newton’s performance in his own Super Bowl left a lot to be desired. 10 points, with just 18 completions in 41 attempts, is indicative of individual faults that need to be ironed out sooner rather than later.

Nonetheless, Marino’s own standing amongst quarterbacks in NFL history shows that winning a Super Bowl is not necessary to have universal respect. However, it is worth remembering that the game is now awash with big personalities. Marino, in many respects, broke the mould with his excellent marshalling abilities and bravery. Thus, until Cam Newton can lead a team like Marino did, and put up similar individual numbers, he will never be seen as anything near Marino’s equal, let alone equal to any quarterback that has actually won a Super Bowl.

Silverware mentality puts Newton under pressure

In the minds of most football fans, a Super Bowl ring immediately represents a one-way ticket to greatness. Eli Manning, for instance, will never be seen as the greatest of all time, but he will forever be known as a two-time winner of the Lombardi Trophy. Indeed, Manning has won the same amount of titles as his brother, but it is Peyton who will always be regarded as the better quarterback after the events of 2015.

Many good quarterbacks before Newton have gone without a Super Bowl, and these are quarterbacks who probably will go without much of an NFL legacy. As an example, Tony Romo – for all his qualities – wasn’t able to do it, and will probably be forgotten as time passes. Likewise, Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers need a Super Bowl win on their record to be regarded as one of the greats.

At his current level, Newton is most likely to slip into the category of a Rivers or a Romo, known as a good quarterback, but not good enough to win a Super Bowl. If he wants the kind of legacy that Marino enjoys, then an all-round improvement of mental tenacity and fortitude will also be needed in addition to the physical developments that come to the best players in their prime.

Cam Newton has plenty of time to change history. He has around ten years of good football left in him, but the pressure can only grow as his body ages.