Carolina Panthers: What Can Cam Newton Learn from Robert Griffin III's Success?

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Carolina Panthers: What Can Cam Newton Learn from Robert Griffin III's Success?
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Cam Newton (1) on the sidelines during Carolina's 19-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

On the surface, the Carolina Panthers Cam Newton and the Washington Redskins Robert Griffin III have a lot in common.

Both are young, athletic quarterbacks more widely known for their ability to run the football than their ability to pass.

Both are top draft picks—Newton was selected No. 1 overall in 2011 and Griffin was the No. 2 pick in 2012—with the weight of an NFL franchise and major advertising campaigns resting on their shoulders.

Both are accustomed to winning hardware and each has a Heisman Trophy—Newton won in 2010, Griffin won in 2011—resting on his mantle at home.

However, once you scratch beneath the surface and look beyond each player's undeniable physical gifts, the differences between SuperCam and RGIII become much more remarkable than their obvious similarities, and the "intangibles" appear to favor the rookie.

Newton may have a pair of national collegiate championships—Blinn (Jr.) College and Auburn University—and the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year award under his belt, but he could stand to learn a few things from Griffin, the leading 2012 NFL ROY candidate.

I am not arguing that Robert Griffin III will not experience the same second-year struggles which have plagued Cam Newton so far in his sophomore season, but the rookie possesses at least three key traits the Panthers' QB1 would be wise to emulate.

 

One Play at a Time

Newton has been lauded by some observers as the most physically gifted quarterback to ever play in the NFL, and he certainly passes the eyeball test, but at his best he is a faster version of Ben Roethlisberger.

Big Ben has several Pro Bowls and a pair of Super Bowl championships on his resume, but it took him at least six or seven seasons to become an elite NFL passer.

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Griffin, on the other hand, plays like Michael Vick from the waist down and Drew Brees from the waist up and he is already a much more refined and fundamentally sound passer than Newton.

Newton is at his best when he runs because his legs are still his greatest weapon, whereas Griffin is as good a passer as he is a runner and he is nearly always the fastest player on the field.

Not only are Griffin's mechanics superior to Newton's at this point in their respective careers, but RGIII's decision-making is also much more advanced than his counterpart in Charlotte.

Griffin is more apt to check down to his intermediate receivers and take what the defense gives him in the passing game as opposed to constantly looking to throw the ball 25-30 yards downfield on 3rd-and-7.

Newton has the arm strength to make every throw in the book, but he would be wiser to make the play that moves the chains and take his chances more sparingly a la RGIII.

 

Leadership

From Pop Warner football right on up to the NFL, quarterback is the ultimate leadership position in all of American sports.

To succeed at each level requires more than just natural talent, and the degree to which mental makeup, leadership and persistent dedication to the craft contribute to success is exponentially greater at each level.

Al Bello/Getty Images
Robert Griffin III (10) throws a pass against the New York Giants.

At this point in their respective careers—22 games played by Newton and seven games for Griffin—the Redskins quarterback is light years ahead in the leadership department. 

Newton may talk the talk, and he certainly wants to win as badly as anyone else in the NFL, but leadership also comes from action.

When faced with adversity, Newton tends to sulk and become reclusive instead of inspiring his teammates, while Griffin has already shown the ability to lead and to stand by his teammates whether his team is winning or losing.

Perhaps leadership is an innate quality—and it is a quality Griffin has in spades—but it is also a quality that can be learned, and Newton could learn a thing or two about leadership from the 'Skins QB.

 

Lose the "Me" Mentality

Cam Newton loves him some Cam.

And there is nothing wrong with exuding confidence and even showboating a bit in the NFL.

This is a tough league full of alpha males with Type A personalities where chest-thumping has its merits, both from a confidence-building perspective and from an entertainment standpoint.

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But if you take a look back at the some of the greatest players of the past quarter century, i.e., Peyton Manning, Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice, they all acted like they had been there before whenever they made a great play.

Granted, there are the Deion Sanders' and Ray Lewis' of the world who have celebrated nearly every interception and tackle along the way, but they were also leaders who pulled the best out of their teammates.

Newton entered the NFL wanting to become an icon, and though he wants to win as badly as anyone else in the league, his reasons for wanting to win often come across as being more self-centered than they are team-oriented.

Griffin understands that success is not something that can be achieved alone, and by putting his team ahead of his own personal success, he has already become a better NFL quarterback and a better teammate than Newton has been at any point so far in his career.

 

Jimmy Grappone is a Featured Columnist covering the Carolina Panthers and the NFL on B/R.

You can follow me for random updates and pointed commentary on Twitter @JimmyGrappone.

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