"I've received a lot of awards, but to be able to get this organization here, I'm really proud," Newton said, per David Newton of ESPN. "We didn't get in this position by happenstance. It took years of hard work and dedication, and now we are reaping the benefits."
"This validates him, and deservedly so," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera added, per Newton. "He's done the things that we've asked of him, and he's developed into a player that a lot of us believed he could be. But for him, there's still more to come."
Despite being saddled with one of the NFL's worst supporting casts of skill-position players, Newton threw for 3,837 yards and a career-high 35 touchdowns against 10 interceptions in the regular season. He added 636 yards and 10 scores on the ground, becoming one of seven players in NFL history with at least 45 total touchdowns.
The Panthers won their first 14 games on their way to a 15-1 regular-season record, taking home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs.
“They [lost] (No. 1 receiver) Kelvin Benjamin early,” a general manager told Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “I know they’ve had a good defense. But I really feel like he’s carried their team. He’s stepped up and made critical throws when he needs to. He’s shown great leadership. Otherwise it’d be—who else?”
Carson Palmer had perhaps the best case next to Newton. The Arizona Cardinals quarterback threw for 4,671 yards with 35 touchdowns against 11 picks, leading Arizona to an NFC West title and a first-round bye. His 104.6 quarterback rating was third-best behind the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson and the Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton among qualifiers. Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner actually chose Palmer as the site's MVP.
No one was even close to being as consistent as Palmer game in and game out. It was a truly dominant season, nearly on par with those we saw from Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees in the “Year of the Quarterback” back in 2011. Palmer didn’t have a single game graded negatively, and only three of his games earned a grade lower than plus-2.0 (0.0 for a game is average). The reason? Downfield accuracy and efficiency, the likes of which we haven’t seen in the PFF era.
Had Wilson performed throughout the year the way he did in the season's second half, he would have had an equal claim to the prize. The Seahawks quarterback threw 24 of his 34 touchdowns and had one interception over the regular season's final seven games, atoning for a strange first nine games in which he had multiple touchdowns just one time. Seattle won six of those seven contests to lock up a playoff berth.
That said, no one in football did more with less than Newton this season.
No Carolina wide receiver had more than 44 receptions or touched 800 yards, with tight end Greg Olsen being forced to pick up an inordinate amount of slack. Newton also led the team in rushing touchdowns and was a more efficient option than running back Jonathan Stewart, who had an extra 110 carries but finished with a mediocre 989 yards.
Even accounting for the Panthers' elite defense, Carolina would be nowhere without Newton. He was truly the team's Superman, dabbing all over folks and setting a confident tone for the Panthers behind the scenes. Now no one will ever question whether he's worthy of being the face of a franchise; we must now wonder if Newton is the face of the NFL itself.