A few months ago, everyone had Cam Newton, Auburn's one-year wonder QB, going somewhere in the late first round or early second of the NFL draft. Then he got talked up and talked up some more, and suddenly, just hours before the draft, everyone already knew the Carolina Panthers had picked the versatile QB to lead their franchise back into contention.
Also a few months ago, Roger Goodell was one of the most hated sports figures in America. Not much has changed there.
When the NFL commissioner walked to the podium to officially open the 2011 NFL draft, he was greeted by a chorus of boos from the fans, and it wasn't long before he came out to hear some more and announce what we'd all just seen on TV (thanks to cameras on Newton who was on the phone and being congratulated by his family).
Seeing Newton and Goodell embrace (however quickly and awkwardly) and then smile and pose for the cameras only gave me one thought. Between these two, who's the bigger joke?
Let's find out.
*Note. The Carolina Panthers are not considered in this discussion.
We'll just get to this right off the bat since it happened in college and can't really happen in the NFL.
Last fall, it was alleged that Cam Newton's father, Cecil, tried to shake down Mississippi State for as much as $180,000 if they wanted his son to play for the Bulldogs. But that's not even where Cam's story starts.
Newton entered the University of Florida in 2007, and as a freshman, was the backup to Tim Tebow. He was a medical redshirt the next season but got into trouble off the field.
He was temporarily suspended from the team after he was found to be in possession of a stolen laptop (belonging to another student) and then decided to transfer instead of possible suspension or expulsion because he was also being investigated for three instances of academic cheating.
He's definitely not the first Gator under Urban Meyer to run into problems with the law or off-field problems in general, but stealing from a fellow student and cheating didn't help his image when the recruiting scandal came out.
He spent a year at Blinn College in Texas and led his team to the NJCAA National Football Championship. Then, the SEC came beckoning once again.
He'd had a pretty stellar first half of the 2010 season, which put him on the national stage, and then it all came crashing down. Recruiters and officials at MSU alleged the pay-by-play scenario put forth by Cecil Newton, but Auburn maintained they had no knowledge or involvement (at least one part of that is right).
Eventually, the NCAA ruled that Cam's father had in fact illegally solicited money from MSU, but because there was not enough evidence to claim his son or Auburn had any knowledge of it, he was declared eligible and led Auburn to the SEC and BCS titles and won the Heisman Trophy.
Only the most deluded Auburn fan thinks their school didn't know about this or didn't give any money to Newton, and most are probably praying the NCAA doesn't reopen the case someday in the future and decide to strip the school of its undefeated season.
Peyton and Eli Manning both had four years and plenty of game experience coming out of college. Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford each had three solid seasons, and even Vince Young and JaMarcus Russell had over two full seasons as the bona fide starter for their school.
Cam Newton has one year of football under his belt. And let's be honest, it wasn't a tough one.
Yes, it was at Auburn, where expectations are extremely high, and it was in arguably the strongest conference in the country, the SEC.
But the SEC of 2010 was not the SEC of years prior. It was a weak one and a pretty darn weak one at that, given previous standards.
The SEC is known for its tough defense especially, and it just wasn't completely there this year. The 2009 champs Alabama had lost much of their defense to the draft, which explains why they so willingly gave up a 24-0 lead to Newton (to Newton, not Auburn).
LSU was one of the better SEC teams defensively in 2010, and aside from Patrick Peterson, there wasn't a whole lot to brag about there either.
The toughest opponent Newton came up against was Oregon in the BCS National Title game, and that was a bore of game with plenty of offensive and coaching ineptitude to go around. The Ducks defense clearly frustrated Newton at times but not nearly as much as he frustrated himself.
With all that said, one year really isn't enough to go by. No matter how good it looks when he throws the ball 50 yards standing still or how easily he breaks tackles, it's not enough to merit a No. 1 overall, franchise-building or breaking pick, even when the competition is at its best.
It's too early to say he'll be a bust but also too early to say he'll be a star.
Cam Newton wasn't the most popular guy while he was Auburn (to non-Auburn fans obviously), and it only got worse when he declared for the draft.
Everyone can see he's got some talent and athleticism, but it's also pretty clear that he's not really someone you'd want to hang out with.
One scouting report portrayed Cam as arrogant, attention-grabbing, immature and much, much more.
Some football players can get away with being self-centered and only interested in fame. They're usually called cornerbacks (Darrelle Revis), and they're the guys you want to steal the spotlight. It works into the whole steal the ball mentality.
The quarterback however, is the one who leads the team, gets everyone on the same page and most importantly, he has to take the blame when things go wrong.
Another problem with Cam's one year of experience is that he never faced adversity. Being down 24-0 at Alabama is not adversity. Losing is.
He never lost and never had to answer any questions. If he's as immature as people think, he's headed to a team that earned its No. 1 overall pick. How will losing affect him?
He never had to face the media in such a situation. How will he handle the media? Most reports say he won't come off looking great.
The quarterback's most obvious job is to call plays, and unfortunately, Cam seems a little unfamiliar with that. Jon Gruden of ESPN asked Cam to explain the terminology Auburn used for play calls, and the Heisman winner drew a blank.
Not exactly a comforting notion.
Roger Goodell was roundly booed when he walked up to the podium to open the 2011 NFL draft.
The fans had only just stopped their chanting of, "We want football" when they saw him walk onto the stage.
Goodell only made it worse by saying he was in the same boat as the fans. He wants football too. He gets it. He's one of us.
Goodell famously said, during last season when the lockout and labor disputes were still just looming, that if the NFL did essentially shut down, he would cut his salary to $1.
His salary before the lockout? Well it was about $10 million a year, including bonuses. There's no denying Goodell is a smart business man. He studied economics at Penn, so it's safe to say he knows how to save.
He's not the only who has taken a salary cut though. The league general counsel Jeff Pash took the same cut at Goodell, so he's down from $5 million to $1.
Then there's all the dozens of league and team employees, who have taken pay cuts ranging from 10 to 25 percent. And not many of them are making much more than the average American.
Roger Goodell has not done anything to make him look good in the public eye, much like Cam Newton.
Cutting his salary to $1? Sorry, but everyone knows how much money "the most powerful man in sports" has, so we don't really feel for you. And for that matter, neither do your players.
Now, I'm not defending the NFL players who think $500,000 is $50 million, and they spend it like it is. But the players and all of us saw right through this move. Goodell is trying to show that he is in a sense being locked out as well.
Then he tells us that he wants football just as much as we do. He's suffering just like us.
And then he goes on and sets the 2011 NFL schedule and assures everyone the season will start and go on as planned. Of course, when he did that, he was assuming it would go on exactly as he wanted.
After Judge Nelson's ruling to immediately end the lockout, the public and it seems the ruling parties are all on the players' side. But the longer Goodell and the owners stick to their guns, the worse they all look. And since Goodell is the face, or quarterback, of the organization, he takes the most stick.
The players are in no way innocent or poor in this battle, but Roger Goodell endlessly trying to relate to the fans is really not bringing anyone over to his side.
The NFL makes $9 billion a year. That is far and away the highest grossing sport in the world (no soccer league even comes close, sorry futbol).
And Roger Goodell actually, willingly shut it down.
Most everyone assumes that the NFL will go on as planned this season, and it has to because hundreds, if not thousands, of people are depending on it.
Restaurants, shops, bars and more that are purposefully built in walking distance from NFL stadiums make their living because of those stadiums.
People come to games early on Sundays to have lunch or stay out late for dinner. People who don't have tickets watch the game in the bar and drink and drink and drink. They buy souvenirs before going inside to put in their house, and they enjoy themselves so much, they come back during the week and during the offseason.
Then there's all the advertising the NFL brings. The name of the stadium, the brand of the jersey and the TV ads make more money than is possible to calculate.
Oh, and these are all the businesses that are struggling most in the current economy. They need the big pull of the NFL to bring in all of their patrons.
And Roger Goodell actually shut it down.
Who is the bigger joke? Cam Newton or Roger Goodell?
Truth be told, it isn't even close. Goodell.
A lot of people are calling Newton the next JaMarcus Russell. Saying he's the next Vince Young isn't much better, and with Michael Vick, it's still too soon to say what that means.
No one is saying he'll be Peyton Manning, and when you're the No. 1 overall pick, that is kind of what you aim for.
Whatever happens, he won't be the first, so it won't come as much of a surprise.
As a person, no one is all that fond of Newton, but the bottom line is, his character issues come down to his age. He'll be 22 in May, and while age is not an excuse, you can bet he's not the only guy his age with these attitude problems.
You hope that Cam will realize he's gotta grow up real soon and that he'll do it. He's talented and athletic enough that he can become a decent NFL player, but he probably won't end up the face of the league.
Goodell, on the other hand, is an adult, and he's still behaving like a jerk, a completely clueless jerk at that.
Newton has some time to work his way onto the public's good sides, and if he doesn't, we've been forewarned. Even if Goodell were to completely fold tomorrow, it wouldn't save his image.
Goodell is the bigger joke by a landslide. Now, whether he's a bigger joke than David Stern... That's a tougher call.