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Newton's Law: Is Cam Newton Everything Michael Vick Was Supposed to Be?

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 09:   Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers watches on from the sidelines during their game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Samuel Bell JrSenior Analyst IOctober 10, 2011

Michael Vick went into Virginia Tech as a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime-like prodigy that had an unbelievable combination of speed, athleticism and arm strength never before seen at the quarterback position.

Vick's first college game at Virginia Tech saw him score three touchdowns in one quarter, and with that game, the legend of Michael Vick was born.

Vick could pass the football like a laser down the field in a tight spiral, or he could take off from the pocket faster than most running backs and wide receivers could dream of and spectacularly spin, juke and dodge his way for long gains and touchdowns.

This guy seemed unstoppable, but there were three big problems.

He was erratic and inaccurate, inconsistent in throwing the football and, as we would learn later, was not a student of the game.

Quarterbacks with far less physical gifts like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brett Favre were far better at their position than Vick because of one thing.

Film study.

Vick relied on his athletic ability too much, and that worked fine for him at Virginia Tech. He led the Hokies to the National Championship game in 2000 and Vick accounted for over 300 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.

Entering the NFL, Vick was an instant star before he ever played a game for the Atlanta Falcons. His talent dazzled fans and fellow players alike, and, before long, Vick was easily considered the most exciting player on a football field.

Michael Vick has struggled against opposing defenses this year.
Michael Vick has struggled against opposing defenses this year.Brody Wheeler/Getty Images

Fans flocked to the gates for tickets to see the Falcons quarterback, and he wasted no time making his mark on the NFL—defeating the Packers in the playoffs at Lambeau and handing Favre's Packers their first playoff loss ever at home.

Just as it seemed Vick and the Falcons were poised to be potential Super Bowl champions and ready to be among the league's elite, something happened that should have been foreseen with Vick a long time before.

His lack of enthusiasm for the game turned into a lack of preparation and over-dependence on the only thing he knew since he was a young boy: athleticism.

Vick faded, and he lashed out like a little child at everyone out of anger and confusion, flipping the bird at fans, dealing with drugs and engaging in illegal activities.

This all came to a head in 2007, when he was implicated in a dog-fighting ring in which his participation included fighting dogs, funding the operation and executing them.

If this couldn't wake Vick from his narcissism and the lethargy in his career, nothing would.

Enter Cameron Newton.

Much like Vick, Newton was a highly athletic quarterback that dazzled with his athletic ability, but struggled with accurately delivering the football and consistency in passing from the pocket.

Newton, a 6'5", 250-pound beast with 4.5 40-yard-dash speed, enrolled at the University of Florida to play behind Tim Tebow, eventually becoming his successor.

Newton showed flashes of brilliance when he got into games, and ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns in limited action, but, like Vick, his stay was short-lived due to bad decision making and immaturity.

Newton was arrested for stealing a laptop computer from a student and, as a result, transferred to Blinn College in Texas. This turned out to be one of the best decisions he could have made, as he flourished under the tutelage of Brad Franchione.

He led Blinn to a NJCAA championship and enrolled at Auburn University, where he also led the Tigers on a breathtaking National Championship run that commenced with a win over the Oregon Ducks.

Coming into the NFL, most draft scouts scoffed at Newton's accuracy from the pocket and chided him for his participation in a mostly spread offense at Auburn, suggesting that he would never be an accurate quarterback in the league.

The comparisons to Vick were endless, as most scouts likened his athletic ability and lack of accuracy to that of Vick and former Texas star Vince Young, who also struggled to make consistently accurate throws, but had similar athleticism.

Vick was released from jail shortly before Newton burst onto the scene at Auburn, and was subsequently signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, which was widely viewed as a very risky move from a PR and football standpoint.

Not only was Vick nearly 30 years old, but the backlash for his dog-fighting crimes was severe and he was in jail for about two years—nobody could be sure that he would be the same player he used to be.

Cam Newton dazzled in his debut against the Arizona Cardinals.
Cam Newton dazzled in his debut against the Arizona Cardinals.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Vick promised that he would renew his commitment to football and be the student of the game he never was, and he came through on the promise—leading the Eagles to the 2011 NFL playoffs, in which they would lose to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers.

Although Vick had the best season of his career, his penchant for injury—combined with his reckless style—threatened his future, as his durability was tested time-and-time-again as a full-time starter.

The Carolina Panthers selected Newton first overall in the 2011 NFL draft, against the opinions of many analysts and fans alike.

Newton quietly prepared himself for the regular season and far surpassed everyone's expectations, passing for 422 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception in a close loss to the Arizona Cardinals, marking his league debut with a record-breaking performance.

He followed that up with a 432-yard performance against the champion Packers with a touchdown but three interceptions.

So far, Newton has shattered the perception of not being an accurate, pocket-passing quarterback with consistent throws and 1610 passing yards in just five games.

In comparison, Vick has 1336 yards in five games, despite having talents like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy around him.

Newton is outperforming Vick so far as a rookie and has looked more accurate and less reliant on athleticism, but, instead, passing from the pocket and using his speed as a decoy more than a weapon.

This is exactly what people thought Vick would develop into when drafted by the Falcons in the first round a little over a decade ago.

It took jail time and lots of reflection for Vick to realize what he could be, and to become a student of the game that wasn't the last to show up and the first to go home from the practice facility.

That has helped Vick immensely, and he deserves credit for having the fortitude to pull himself successfully from the perils of a terrible crime and its consequences.

Unfortunately for Vick, his Eagles, who were dubbed as the "Dream Team" after numerous high-profile free-agent pickups in the offseason, have started 1-4 and he has nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns.

Newton is also 1-4, but is a rookie with considerably less talent, one who was supposed to be inaccurate and struggle immensely as an NFL quarterback.

It is very early in Newton's career, but it is fair at this point to ponder, "Is Cam Newton the quarterback that Vick was supposed to be?"

We do know that, so far, Newton is the quarterback Vick never was.

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