Over the past six months, I have heard every conceivable argument why Cam Newton was not worth the No. 1 draft pick for the Carolina Panthers.
He isn't accurate enough. He doesn't work hard. He is just going to take off and run every play. Jimmy Clausen needs one more year. Oh, let's not forget my personal favorite...
We should wait for Andrew Luck.
Well, allow me to be the voice of reason. I believe the Panthers picked the right quarterback with their No. 1 overall pick. Here are seven reasons he just might be the best rookie NFL QB ever.
Cam Newton was drafted to be the starter for the Carolina Panthers, not to sit behind Jimmy Clausen or Derek Anderson. We already know what they can do behind center, right?
The Carolina Panthers rookie is going to be given the opportunity to show his potential over a full season, instead of coming in to play the last 4-6 games.
Head Coach Ron Rivera and Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski have done a wonderful job of challenging Cam Newton to become an elite NFL QB.
He has been asked to stand tall in the pocket, improve his footwork and read coverages. Yes, Newton may struggle against Green Bay Sunday, but let's look at who he has in his corner...
As defensive coordinator is San Diego, Rivera's 3-4 defense was tops in the entire NFL last year and his Chicago 4-3 D was No. 2 in 2005.
On the other side of the ball, Chudzinski helped the Chargers field the No. 1 offense in 2010 by stretching the field vertically, one of Newton's biggest strengths.
And let's not forget he is throwing to an elite WR in Steve Smith and one of the best pass catching TE duos in Olsen and Shockey.
Newton was clearly the best college football player in the country on Saturdays. Now surrounded by coaches who are committed to his development, he has the tools he needs to possibly become one of the best on Sundays too.
I continue to be amazed how many "experts" doubt Cam Newton's ability to learn to play this game at the NFL level. His improvement over the last 6 weeks is obvious, at least to me.
I get that I didn't play football in the NFL like ESPN analyst Tim Hasselback (who says he doesn't think Newton even saw the blitz coming on Steve Smith's TD catch). So I respect it if former players aren't ready to say Newton is the real deal yet.
However, why I can see Newton walk to the line of scrimmage, point to the 3 blitzers, then adjust protections pre-snap before dropping into shotgun and tossing Smith a 77 yard TD and Hasselbeck can't is a mystery to me.
I was equally impressed to see that once Newton recognized that Smith would beat 1-on-1 coverage to his left for his 2nd TD, Newton looked the safety back off to the right before launching a perfect rainbow behind Patrick Peterson.
Why don't the Hasselbecks of the world see Newton's improved QB play? Curious.
The Carolina Panthers lost 14 games in 2010 and their offensive stats were just that. Offensive.
Teams blitzed without fear of being burned. The 4 QBs Carolina played last year threw a total of 9 TDs. Steve Smith fought through injuries, leading to season totals of 554 receiving yards and 2 TDs.
"Double Trouble" ran into 8 or 9 defenders in the box on nearly every play. To their credit, I saw most players on the team fight until the last play of the year.
I especially tip my hat to last year's defense for giving their all, even in games that they were on the field 40 minutes. Now fast forward to the 2011 season.
The Arizona Cardinals blitzed seemingly every play. (I expect Green Bay will mix in a little more zone coverage). Newton has shown he can burn an aggressive defense.
He has also proven to the Panthers' defense that if they give up a score the offense now has a realistic chance to answer with a score of its own, providing much needed rest for the thin D-line.
And Steve Smith? Well, he has already matched his 2 TD total of last year with 15 games left to play. I can't even wrap my mind around how insanely dominant his career could have been with better QB play.
Newton's leadership gives the entire Carolina Panthers team hope for the future. And that makes being a fan exciting again.
YOU QB Slide!!!
The bigger the stage, the louder the critics, the more Cam Newton seems to shine. He somehow is able to block out pressure and just perform at his highest level.
He did not look like a person in awe of his first NFL start when he stepped onto the field in Arizona.
The trait I find even more impressive for this rookie is his mental toughness. Do you want to know what Newton did after throwing his first NFL pick? (This picture says it all).
Then he showed the ability to march his team right back down the field.
There are going to be plenty more interceptions thrown this season. It's what rookie QBs do best, it seems. However, the Carolina Panthers now know that Cam Newton won't wilt under the pressure of a negative play.
I hoped Carolina would draft Newton after seeing him toy with my South Carolina Gamecocks twice last year. I believed in this young man's will to win and his drive to maximize his abilities.
However, I wasn't convinced starting him against Arizona was the best thing for the team. Boy, was I wrong. Passing for over 400 yards and three total TDs in his first NFL start? Are you kidding me?
I have watched this entire game three times and some of the placements on his throws are still amazing. Granted, his tendency was still to miss a little high, but Newton did an excellent job of avoiding the throws at a receiver's feet that I saw during the preseason.
He hit both tight ends, watched Steve Smith torch Patrick Peterson (one of the players some Panther fans preferred the team draft instead), and came within two yards of possibly forcing overtime.
No rookie QB has had a more productive first game in NFL history. Not even Brady, Manning or Rodgers.
At first glance, Newton's 422 yards passing might seem like the No. 1 reason to believe he may turn into the best rookie QB ever, but not if you look deeper.
The player in this picture isn't thinking about the numbers he got. He seems to care more about the letter L his team got.
Head Coach Rivera confirmed that Newton felt that "he didn't do enough." That mental approach is why Newton has the chance to be a special rookie. He won't let this one game be his ceiling or his only claim to fame.
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers want more. More respect. More wins. And the first opportunity to get it will be at home Sunday against the reigning Super Bowl Champions.
It's going to be electric and I do not plan to miss a single play. Enjoy, fellow Panthers fans.