Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton is absolutely the real deal. The first year signal caller is nearly flawless on the field with a first-class personality off the field and displays leadership among his veteran teammates. Newton is rightfully gaining stream for the 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
However, the 6’ 5,” 248 lbs. quarterback has currently led his Panthers to a 2-6 record at the midway point of the 2011 NFL season, while Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has his Thundercats at 6-2, on pace for a playoff berth.
Former NBA superstar guard Allen Iverson and Miami Heat megastar guard/forward LeBron James were just as dynamic as Newton when they were rookies. But in the rookie years’ of Iverson (1996-97) and James (2003-04), the better performances came from former NBA superstar guard Stephon Marbury (1996-97) and New York Knicks megastar forward Carmelo Anthony (2003-04) in their first season, as they led their teams to the playoffs. Much like Dalton is currently on pace of accomplishing for the 2011 NFL season.
Compared to Iverson and James, Newton is explosive as he is displaying the skills to be effective on the highest level of football, making him a shoe-in for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Nevertheless, if the Panthers finish out the 2011 NFL season with a losing record and Dalton get his Bengals to the playoffs, Newton should not win the Rookie of the Year award, like Iverson and James should not have had. Or should he?
Entering the season, Newton was a must-see coming out of Auburn, fresh off winning a National Championship and the Heisman Trophy. Many fans and media members want Newton to succeed, while others want to see him fail.
Clearly, Newton was on a mission, as he threw for over 400 yards in his first two games, despite losing. Newton has talent around him, most noticeably tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey and rejuvenated wide receiver Steve Smith, who led all receivers in receiving yards with 918, coming into Week 9.
Newton is doing all he can to compile wins for his squad. The Panthers’ field general was either extremely doubted to have a good season (let alone a decent career) or expected to be great early and often.
Thanks to ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden’s, former NFL Super Bowl winning head coach, interview with Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner’s critics’ criticisms gained more momentum when the young quarterback could not tell Gruden a standard play from the playbook. Newton told Gruden that his plays at Auburn were numbered to keep the logic simple.
Suddenly, Newton was immediately judged as a player who will struggle mightily with the encyclopedia size NFL playbook, giving him no chance to succeed.
Well, Newton has given his critics the gas-face. The rookie quarterback threw the most yards for a rookie debut (422), threw the most passing yards in a single game as a rookie (432), totally another rookie record for the first two outing (854).
He has also became the fastest rookie quarterback to throw for a thousand yards, became the first quarterback in NFL history with at least five touchdown rushes and five touchdown passes in his first five games, and tied a rookie quarterback record with seven touchdown rushes in his first season. Newton has announced to the football world he’s the real deal midway through the 2011 NFL season.
Dalton is not making individual highlights that are seen on SportsCenter and the NFL Network like Newton is. The red-head quarterback from TCU is doing something else to ‘wow’ the league—winning.
Marbury and Anthony were in the similar situation during their rookie campaigns.
Marbury, who averaged 15.8 points and 7.8 assists per game his rookie year, had a veteran squad in the Minnesota Timberwolves, led by their young superstar in forward Kevin Garnett. Garnett needed that counter punch to help get over the hump to earn a spot in the playoffs. Despite finishing with a 40-42 record, Marbury help led the T-Wolves to their first ever postseason appearance and had a +14 win turnaround.
Anthony was that sure-thing the Denver Nuggets needed to be relevant as they would fall short of the postseason year in and year out. Anthony stepped in, averaging 21 points per game his rookie season, and immediately became the captain of the team and carried his squad through the far better competitive Western Conference to achieve early, but consistent success.
Upon Anthony’s arrival, the Nuggets had not been to the postseason since 1994-95 season. After finishing with a 17-65 record for the 2002-03 season, Anthony carried the Nuggets to a 43-39 record (a +26 win turnaround) and earned the sixth seed in the Western Conference bracket the following season.
The star guard brilliance of Marbury, who was a pass first, shoot second point guard at the time, and the effortless talented skills of Anthony allowed them to get their clubs to the playoffs in their first season, making them winners.
Nevertheless, the hype and overwhelming expectations of Iverson and James could not be ignored, as they not only delivered, but blew the doors off the NBA.
Iverson shot the ball at will as a streaky shooter who averaged 23.5 points and 7.5 assists per point. Moreover, Iverson embarrassed all challengers who dared to face him with his crazy, killer crossover, including his “Airness,” Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, who looked like he went bowling after trying to steal the ball from Iverson.
Iverson had some talent around him, while James had absolutely nothing for a supporting cast, and yet made something out of nothing night in and night out. James did not have much of a jumpshot then, but he simply overpowered grown men as he was fresh out of high school. Coming into the NBA, no player entered the league with as much hype as James had, and he delivered, despite having a losing season. Sort of how Newton may end his season.
It’s not all Newton’s fault that the Panthers have only two wins, as his team has been competitive in each game thus far. Newton has 2,393 passing yards with 11 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. Newton has had costless mistakes, but oftentimes when the game was on the line, the rookie signal caller put the Panthers in situations to win. Unfortunately, due to the team’s defensive breakdowns or the special teams’ shortcoming, Newton gets hit with the lost.
Dalton has thrown for 1,696 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he has the luxury of a solid defense, which ranks fourth in total defense, to support him. If Dalton struggles or starts off slow early in a contest, the defense buys him the time he needs in order to get settle and orchestrate the offense towards a triumphant comeback.
Newton’s excellence can not be disputed, while Dalton’s success should not be ignored. Iverson and James experienced their star power, beginning as rookies and carrying on throughout their careers.
Newton is currently in that same boat. Without a doubt, Marbury and Anthony were expected to do great things as well, just not to the level of their counterparts, similar to Dalton towards Newton.
The star power of a professional athlete can sometimes overshadow winning as it did for Iverson and James over Marbury and Anthony.
Newton must likely will be named the 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, which would be great because, in hindsight, his performance has been breathtaking—much like Iverson and James.
Furthermore, Dalton may play onto mid-January, which is just as noticeable, just not notable—similar to Marbury and Anthony in their first year—as winners.