Cam Newton entered this season with a huge question mark by his name. Many top analysts and other recognizable people from around the league said that he could never develop into a NFL quarterback, and certainly not have immediate success during his rookie year. They said Cam couldn’t make the throws that NFL quarterbacks are required to make, couldn’t operate from under center, couldn’t read a defense, and would always be too eager to leave the pocket. And after a couple preseason games those critics were seeing their predictions become a reality. For most of the preseason Cam had a completion percentage under 50%, and did not have a third down conversion until the second half of his third preseason game. When week one of the regular season rolled around critics were just waiting to burry him with “I told you so’s”, but after just one quarter in his first NFL game Cam was already starting to silence his doubters.
In the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals he heaved a ball deep down the left sideline that was caught for a touchdown by Steve Smith. After that it was clear that this was not going to be the boring, lifeless offense from a year ago, and Cam was going to be the centerpiece of it. He ended his first NFL game with over 400 yards passing. Then he repeated that feat the following Sunday against the best team in the league, the Green Bay Packers. Even the Panthers coaching staff was shocked at how well their rookie quarterback was performing. And that was evident by the play calling. They didn’t know where to run the ball to set up the pass, or throw the ball to set up the run. But early in the year it seemed as if the coaching staff just decided to let him air it out, and kind of abandoned the running game. However, during the second half of the season, they started becoming a more balanced offense, and the results speak for themselves. Carolina has won four out of its last five games, and has done so by giving opponents a heavy dose of the running game. The Panthers running game is very unique and differs from all other NFL teams (except maybe the Broncos); and that is because they have a guy lining up at quarterback who is just as good a runner as most running backs. They can line three guys up in the backfield (Newton, Stewart, Williams), and all three of them are a threat to pop off a big gain. And if defenses start honing in on the run game, then Cam has the ability to drop back in the pocket, and complete passes to playmakers like Steve Smith and Greg Olsen.
In just his first season as a pro Cam is already shattering records. A couple weeks ago he broke the record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, and last week he broke Peyton Manning’s record for most passing yards by a rookie. Not bad for a guy who most people said couldn’t be an efficient starter in this league. Not only has Cam increased Carolina’s win total from last year, but he has also increased the morale around the entire team and among the fans. Last year, Carolina fans saw coach John Fox use a musical chair-like system to determine his starting quarterback, which involved starts from Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore, and Brian St. Pierre (and no, you’re not alone. Nobody else has ever heard of Brian St. Pierre either). However, you could feel things start to change once Carolina decided to draft Cam Newton with the first overall pick in this year’s draft. He has a certain swagger about him that just refuses to accept losing. And that is something Carolina has needed in a quarterback, especially after last year. He is also showing everyone around the NFL that mobile quarterbacks can succeed in this league and can do so at a very high level.
The team is growing around Cam and they are starting to believe they can win. That’s what happens when you have a starting quarterback who has gone through his entire life as a winner. He won a national championship at Florida University while serving as Tim Tebow’s backup. Then he transferred to a junior college for one year, where he won a national championship there. The following year he transferred to Auburn University where he had his most prolific offensive season, and won yet another national championship. Winning is all this guy knows how to do, so it is no surprise to me that he is having instant success. The number of wins isn’t where you’d like them to be just yet, but they will come once some tune-ups are made to the defense. The sky really is the limit for Cam. With his size, speed, arm strength, and constantly improving accuracy, he really is a total nightmare for defenses. And if the Panthers can get their injured defensive personnel healthy, and add a little more talent on that side of the ball via draft or free agency, then I think that this team will most definitely be a playoff, as well as a division contender for next season. I mean as long as Cam Newton is lining up every game behind center, then how could they not be.