This Sunday Cam Newton will play in the biggest game, in the most important season of his pro career.
Cam has looked Super through the first half of 2013. Photo Courtesy: Jeremy Brevard/US PRESSWIRE
When the 5-3 Carolina Panthers put their four game win streak on the line up against the 6-2 San Francisco 49ers, it will serve as a litmus test for both the Panthers and Newton as to where they stand amongst the NFL’s best.
Year three for a quarterback in the NFL has been called the most critical season of their career. The “experts” say this is the defining moment in which a player who was drafted as the franchise guy, can validate his draft status or be exposed as a flash in the pan who is no longer hot.
In the “Franchise Issue” (09/30/13) of ESPN The Magazine, Peter Keating wrote “Rookie Quarterbacks who start well tend to fall back the next season, and those who start poorly can bounce back; their third years, then, show where their performance likely will settle.”
Newton was the former before disappearing from the national spotlight in 2012 behind Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson—his younger contemporaries from the draft class after him. halfway through his third season, Newton appears to be justifying his selection as the 2011 #1 pick and franchise QB status he gained in his record setting rookie season.
Of the big name QBs from the 2011 NFL Draft playing in their 3rd season—Colin Kaepernick (although he’s only really played one and a half seasons), Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder—Newton is the most scrutinized because of his draft status, sensational rookie season and being a former Heisman Trophy Winner.
Right now his Carolina Panthers are sitting in good position to make the playoffs, his first and their first since 2008, and he is the key reason for their success.
At the midway point in 2013…. Cam is on pace to throw for 3,602 yards, 26 TDs, 14 Ints on 64.4 % passing and 8 rushing TDs. He currently maintains a 59.0 Quarterback Rating, also an improvement on his 56.2 and 54.1 QBRs in 2011 and 2012. The 3,602 passing yards would be his lowest total of his three year career, but the 26 TDs and 64.4% complete rate would be career highs and more important to the overall goal of winning.
Photo Courtesy: NFL.Com
Newton has also taken shots about his attitude. His critics have poked at this attribute going back to his days coming out of Auburn and his brief stint at The University Of Florida. He appears to be more of a leader now, he’s more active on the sidelines communicating with teammates and they’ve rewarded him by naming him team captain for the first time in his pro career.
Ultimately wins, championships and to an extent individual awards will be the determining factor in what label Newton’s career should have. But for all those who were as quick to call him a bust as those were to put him in the Hall Of Fame after his rookie campaign, Cam Newton is doing just what a franchise QB should be doing, leading his team to victory; with a few style points too, and as anyone who has watched Cam going back to his Heisman Trophy winning season, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Cam sporting his clothing line “Made.” Photo Courtesy: Belk