Cam Newton Silences Some of His Early Critics with Great Play

Jordan Heck@@JordanHeckFFContributor IIIDecember 29, 2011

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was one of the most scrutinized players heading into the 2011 NFL Draft.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper compared Newton to former draft bust Akili Smith calling them both “one-year wonders.” Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly said this of Newton.

“[He] has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law.”

Terry Bradshaw of FOX Sports was asked on FOX NFL Sunday’s pre-game show what he thought of Newton and he didn’t think he was ready to be an NFL quarterback.

“Just because you need a quarterback doesn’t mean you go out and draft one. I actually like Jake Locker down in Tennessee, Christian Ponder in Minnesota and Blaine Gabbert down in Jacksonville. These young kids, as far as I’m concerned, are far ahead of Newton as far as being an NFL quarterback.”

Bradshaw wishes he could take that statement back. Since Locker hasn’t started a game this season we won’t compare him to Newton, but let’s compare Ponder and Gabbert. In 10 games with the Minnesota Vikings, Ponder has thrown 13 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and 1,825 yards with a 72.4 quarterback rating. In 14 games with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Gabbert has thrown 11 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and 2,122 yards with a 64.3 quarterback rating.

Meanwhile, Newton, in 15 starts, has thrown 20 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and 3,893 yards (a rookie record) with an 85.0 quarterback rating. Newton also adds 674 yards on the ground and 14 rushing touchdowns (an NFL record for a quarterback).

Newton has been playing at a high level all season long. He’s even resurrected the career of receiver Steve Smith. Last year Smith had 46 receptions for 554 yards and just two touchdowns. Through 15 games this year, he has 73 receptions for 1,308 yards (more than double his yards from last year) and six touchdowns.

While connecting with Smith, Newton has broken some NFL records. He became the fastest quarterback to throw for 1,000 yards. That record was achieved due to Newton becoming the first rookie to throw for over 400 yards in his first two starts. In Newton’s second start, he set the record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie with 432 against Green Bay. In seven games this season, Newton scored three times (he scored four touchdowns in one game twice).

With all of these NFL records that Newton is setting, there’s no question that he should be the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. His team didn’t make the playoffs this year, but that was no fault of Newton’s. The Panthers suffered two big injuries on defense at the beginning of the year when they lost Jon Beason and Thomas Davis. Get those two linebackers back next year to improve the defense and the Panthers could be a dangerous football team. Especially if Newton continues to prove people wrong.