Cam Newton is not overrated, and his record-setting touchdown rushing performance as a rookie—he broke Steve Grogan's 35-year-old single-season NFL record for touchdown runs by a quarterback—was not a fluke.
As an NFL fan who reads about football nearly every day and as a featured columnist who writes about the Carolina Panthers on Bleacher Report several times each week, I feel it is my moral obligation to respond to fellow B/R columnist Scott Kacsmar's assertions that A) Cam Newton is the most overrated player in the NFL and B) that Newton's record-setting 14 rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in one season is a fluke.
My regular readers and fans of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers—as well as NFL fans in general—deserve it.
Cam Newton Is Not Overrated
Cam Newton is the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year.
Cam Newton is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in each of his first two starts.
Cam Newton is the only rookie NFL quarterback to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a season, and he turned the NFL's worst offense in 2010 into a top-five scoring unit in his first season as a pro.
ESPN's Ron Jaworski is in the process of feeding America's endless appetite for NFL consumption with his daily segment, "Jaws' QB Countdown," in which he analyzes and ranks the top-30 signal callers in the NFL, and he recently ranked Newton 15th on his list.
Is Cam Newton overrated?
With just one NFL season under his belt, this is a fair ranking for Newton, though the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time collegiate national champion clearly has the talent to become a top-10 quarterback in 2012 and a top-five, elite-level quarterback by his fourth or fifth season.
Newton is also responsible for Steve Smith's resurgence as the most dangerous receiver under 6'0" in the NFL, and he played a huge role in resurrecting the Panthers' third-ranked rushing offense and seventh-ranked total offense in 2011.
Finally, Newton has a full off-season of mini-camps and organized team activities (OTAs) with his teammates and offensive coordinator, Rob "Chud" Chudzinski under his belt, and he is better prepared to lead his team to a winning season and a run at the playoffs this year.
Though he may not reproduce his rookie passing and rushing totals in 2012, Newton will be a smarter, more experienced and more efficient quarterback in his second season with the Panthers.
So, no, Cam Newton is not overrated.
Newton's "Unflukey" Record Runs
Cam Newton broke former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan's record of 12 rushing touchdowns in one season by a quarterback, set in 1976, when he dove over the goal line for his 13th scoring run in Week 13 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Is Newton's rushing touchdowns record a fluke?
Newton entered the contest with 10 scoring runs, and he asserted himself as one of the league's best goal line runners with three scores from inside the 1-yard line in that game.
Newton added his 14th and final rushing touchdown of the season on a brilliant 49-yard run against the Bucs three weeks later in a 48-16 throttling of Tampa Bay in front of the home crowd.
All of Newton's running skills were on display in his Christmas Eve romp, in which he hit the line of scrimmage at full-speed, juked one Tampa Bay safety and outran the entire Buccaneer secondary on his way to the end zone.
Though "unflukey" is nowhere to be found in Merriam-Webster, it may be the best word to describe Newton's persistence as a runner and as a competitor who will do whatever it takes to put points on the scoreboard for his team.
Cam Newton is a rare and gifted athlete with a preternatural ability to run and throw a football at an elite level.
Newton is also a football savant and a leader of men, whether his sideline headgear of choice is a Panthers cap or a Gatorade towel.
Where should Newton be ranked among NFL QB's entering the 2012 season?
The impact Newton has on the football field and in his communities over the course of the next decade, both in the Charlotte, the North Carolina region and in his hometown of Atlanta, will determine whether he is currently overrated as an athlete and as a person.
He will likely never rush for 14 touchdowns again in a single-season, but he could very well overtake Mike Vick as the best rushing quarterback of all-time.
However, I seriously doubt whether Carolina's number-one QB gives a second thought as to where he is ranked on Jaws' list or what any of his critics write and say.
Newton just wants to improve in every practice and win every Sunday, and those are qualities that, in my book, can never be overrated.
Jimmy Grappone is a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Carolina Panthers for Bleacher Report since 2008.
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