In 2011, we saw one of the best passing seasons in NFL history. The single-season yardage record was broken, as was the passer rating record.
Rookie—and 2011 No. 1 draft pick—Cam Newton may have been the NFL's most impressive player. As a result, Newton was rewarded with the NFL's Rookie of the Year award.
Newton passed better than anyone thought he ever could while rushing as well as his biggest proponents said he would.
Prior to 2011, Peyton Manning owned nearly every rookie passing record. Now, they belong to Cam Newton.
Newton passed for an astonishing 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns while completing 60 percent of his passes. The Heisman Trophy winner also added 706 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.
Newton became the NFL's first player to pass for 5,000 yards and rush for 700 in a season. Any time a rookie is effortlessly breaking NFL records, he's doing something right.
Make no mistake about it: Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Von Miller were all fantastic as rookies. However, none of them had the impact Newton did, and none of them will be remembered like Newton will be.
The one possible justification for Newton not winning Rookie of the Year was Carolina's record.
The Panthers finished 6-10 with Newton starting every game. How can a quarterback not lead his team to a .500 record and be the league's best rookie, you ask.
Because Newton didn't lose those games; Carolina's defense did. The Panthers scored 25.4 points per game—the fifth-most in the NFL—which is more than enough to win.
In 2011, Cam Newton was not just good. He was outstanding, and no other rookie came close to reaching his level of performance.
It wouldn't have simply been a bad decision if another rookie had the won the award.
It would have been a tragedy.