Cam Newton Named 2015 AP Offensive Player of the Year: Latest Comments, Reaction

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2016

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) scrambles for running room against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. The Panthers won 38-10. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
Bob Leverone/Associated Press

The Associated Press recognized Cam Newton as the NFL Offensive Player of the Year on Saturday, the NFL announced.

Few can take umbrage with the decision. Not only did Newton help the Carolina Panthers finish the regular season with the NFL's best record (15-1), but he also posted incredible numbers in an otherwise mediocre Panthers offense.

The season-ending injury to Kelvin Benjamin left Carolina with a dearth of talented wideouts. Collectively, Jerricho Cotchery, Ted Ginn Jr., Corey Brown and Devin Funchess don't strike fear into opposing secondaries. Cotchery earned the highest grade of the four on Pro Football Focus, and he ranked 23rd among all wide receivers.

Luckily for Newton, he had tight end Greg Olsen; the pair makes arguably the NFL's second-best quarterback-tight end duo behind New England's Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

Newton finished the regular season with 3,837 yards passing, 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns, which tied for fifth-most in the league. He's the first QB to have at least 30 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns in the same season, per's Gil Brandt.

Newton seemingly got stronger as the year went on, too. From Week 10 on, he had one interception to 21 touchdowns.

Former quarterback Kurt Warner argued no player was more important to his team in 2015 than Newton, per NFL Network:'s John Breech also explained why Newton made for a better MVP candidate than Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer:

Since 2010, every quarterback who won MVP has ranked either first or second in touchdown percentage. Palmer finished the season ranked third (6.5 percent), behind Newton and Russell Wilson (7.0 percent).

Now, I'm not saying that Newton is a better passing quarterback than Palmer, but it's closer than a lot of people make it out to be. What's not close though is when you start comparing their ability to run. ...

Newton also had 10 rushing touchdowns, which was the fifth highest total for anyone in the NFL, including all running backs. Think about that: Newton finished second in passing touchdowns and fifth in rushing touchdowns.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who joined the Panthers in 2015, spoke about Newton's progression on the field.

"The first couple of years, when we'd come to play Cam, we knew he was a big, strong, athletic quarterback," said Finnegan, per's Tim Keown. "As a secondary, we'd say, 'Well, he's not very accurate; he's not comfortable in the pocket yet.' But now? To see him in person now? It's night and day. It's like—wow!"

After his first two electric seasons, Newton fell back to earth a bit. It wasn't until this year that he fulfilled the potential he showed in 2011 and 2012. The Panthers may still have been a playoff team without Newton under center, but he is the difference between merely being a postseason contender and truly being in position to win a title.

Between his contributions in the air and on the ground, no offensive player was more outstanding in 2015 than Newton. Still only 26, it's scary to think how good he could continue to get in the coming years.