Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How The Carolina Panthers Lucked Out In The End

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Cam Newton is having a historic rookie season with the Carolina Panthers. Newton
has already broken numerous records this season, and still has one more game to play.

When the presumed number one pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, declared that he would return to Stanford for his junior year, the Carolina Panthers were forced to go with a different plan. Whether it was Plan A, Plan B, or Plan C, the Panthers were not going to end up with the quarterback everyone speculated them to draft.

Plan A was to trade down their pick, and stock up on first round picks for next year. This way they could let Jimmy Clausen get a little more experience under snap, and if that didn't work out, they would have a chance to draft Luck again in 2012.

Plan B was to draft a wide receiver or another skill position. With AJ Green, Patrick Peterson, and Marcell Dareus all available, the Panthers could fix another weakness and save the quarterback position for another year. Plan B would work well with Plan A because the Panthers would get another high first round pick in 2012, but would be able to draft another top rookie.

Plan C, as we know now, was to draft Cam Newton. Newton was coming off an incredible season, winning the Heisman, National Championship Game, and breaking records all over the place. The only problem with drafting Newton, was that they would have to invest a lot of money, pressure, and time on a quarterback who only had one successful year playing Division I football. Clearly the Panthers "lucked out" by taking Newton.

In just his first year in the NFL, Newton has accomplished more than anyone ever thought he would. Newton has broken 11 NFL rookie records, and still has one last game to play. Among his achievements include being the first rookie to throw and rush for 10 touchdowns, becoming the fastest player to throw for 1,000 yards, and throwing for the most yards in a game, and an entire season as a rookie.

Statistically speaking, Newton is having the best rookie season of all-time. Better than Manning, Brady, Unitas, Marino, you name it. The one thing that the Panthers could improve on is their overall record, 6-9.

Although the Panthers are 6-9, their record is very misleading. Six of their nine losses are by eight or less points. Of the six losses, three could have been wins if Olindo Mare didn't miss game-winning field goals. On top of that, the Panthers have held leads in 13 games this season. Also, the Panthers' defense took a major blow when they lost Jon Beason and Thomas Davis very early in the season.

To be fair, let's look at the impact Cam has had on Carolina's offense. The Panthers rank 11th in passing yards, and third in rushing yards this season. Last season the Panthers were dead last in passing yards, and third to last in rushing.

Not only is Cam improving, but he is making everyone else around him better. The Panthers have practically the same group of guys on offense that they had last year. Because of Cam, their passing yards and rushing yards per game have gone up astronomically.

It's hard to say how the Panthers would have been this season with Luck, but it probably wouldn't have been as good as this season with Newton at quarterback. Unlike almost every quarterback who has tried to implement the spread offense from college to the NFL, Cam has succeeded. Analyst always say how NFL teams will pick up on spread option offenses, or that NFL players are quicker and stronger than college players, but Cam has proved them wrong.

The Panthers didn't end up with Andrew Luck, but they sure found luck with Cam Newton.

No comments:

Post a Comment