We as Panthers fans have been treated to a truly amazing show through the last 8 weeks in rookie QB Cam Newton. He's put up numbers you'd be proud of in a game of Madden time and again. No, he hasn't been perfect by any stretch but he's been far better predicted. In fact he's on track to go down as the best rookie QB of all time and that's just the beginning. After the jump we're going to look at both some recent rookie seasons of note as well as some all time greats to see just where our young phenom stands through 8 weeks.
The first QB I want to look at is Dan Marino. Marino fell all the way to the Dolphins, the defending AFC Champions, with the 27th pick of the 1983 draft. He ascended to the top spot in week 6 in an overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills while posting a then rookie record 96.0 passer rating. In his first 2 games Marino was 36 of 59 (61%) for 547 yards, 6 td's and just 2 int. For the season he was 173-296 (58.4%) for 2210 yards, 20 td's and 6 int. It was evident from very early just what kind of player Marino was to become. But his true effect can be better seen in the change in philosophy the previously run first Dolphins experienced when he became the starter, throwing 25 or more times in 7 of his 9 starts. He would also become the first rookie QB to ever start in the Pro Bowl.
Next up is the number 1 over all pick from that same 1983 NFL draft, John Elway. Elway's career got of to an interesting start when he threatened to play baseball if he wasn't traded by the team that drafted him the then Baltimore Colts. He was eventually traded to the Broncos for a QB, OL, and a 1st rd pick in the 1984 draft. And people said Cam had character issues... The highly tauted Elway didn't have the kind of start his classmate did, going just 10 for 29 in his first 2 NFL games for 120 yds 0 td and 1 int. His first 8 games saw him go 87-157 for 891 4 td's and 9 int. All totaled he appeared in 11 games his rookie year amassing 1663 yards, 7 td's and 14 ints while completing 47.4% of his passes.
The 2006 draft saw an athletic and talented young man named Vince Young drafted with the 3rd overall pick by the Titans. Young himself, a controversial pick after talk of an awkward throwing motion followed by a disastrous wonderlic leak that may or may not have been the true score. He became the starter following the week three bye going 24-50 for 218 yards, 1 td and 3 int in his first two starts. He also managed 9 carries for 46 yards and a td. Through his first 8 games young was 105-208 1190 yards, 7 td"s, 7 int and rushing for 264 yards and 4 td's on 50 carries. He finished the year 185-357 for 2199 yards 12 td's, 13 int. He also ran the ball 83 times for 552 yards and a then record 7 td's. ( A number Cam has already reached in just 8 games.) He was also selected to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season.
Our neighbors to the south drafted Matt Ryan with the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 draft. Ryan the fresh faced, squeeky clean prospect from Boston College was named the started over incumbent Chris Redman in advance of the 2nd pre season game. In his frist two NFL starts he completed 47.8 % of his passes going 22-46 for 319 yards, 1 td and 2 int, that one touchdown came on just his first pro pass going 62 yards to Michael Jenkins. After 8 games Ryan had tallied 8 games he was 133 for 227 58.5 % 1661 yards 5 int 9 td's as well as 5 wins. On the season Ryan started all 16 games as well as a wild card loss to the Cardinals finishing 265-434 for 3440 yards, 16 td's and 11 int's. Ryan threw for 300 yards just 2 times but did have a stretch of 9 games in a row where he threw for more than 200 and became just the second rookie QB to throw for more than 3000 yards along with Peyton Manning. He was also named AP Rookie of the Year.
A few years before Ryan, a big, strong athletic guy from Miami of Ohio was drafted with the 11th pick of the 2004 draft. Ben Roethlisberger took over for an ineffective Tommy Maddox after half time of the week 2 game against the Ravens and became the full time starter the following week helping the team win 14 straight until finally running into the Pats in the AFC title game. In Bens first two starts he was 24-44 for 339 yard 3 td's and 3 int. He finished the halfway mark having completed 117 of 171 passes for 1450 yards 11 td's and 6 int and an amazing 68.4% completion rate. On the year he started 14 games appearing in 15 throwing 196- 295 for 2621 yards 17 td's and 11 ints. On the year he also rushed for 144 yards and 1 td on 56 carries.
Next up is the man who's record Cam Newton will likely be chasing for most of the year. Now Peyton Manning didn't make a playoff run like the last two QB's, no he was just 3-13 that season. The first pick in the 1999 draft had a decidedly more uphill fight on a team who's defense was giving up a whopping 27 points a game. In his first two games he completed 60.3% of his passes for 507 yards, 5 td's and 4 int. After 8 games Manning had thrown 278 times, completing 166 for 2282 yards, 15 td's and 9 int. After starting all 16 games of his rookie season, going 331-533 for 4135 yards (record), 26 td's (record) and 28 int. (record) Peyton threw for more than 400 yards once and more than 300 two times that same season.
Last but certainly not least we have our very own Super Rookie, The first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft Cam Newton. This young man was wildly polarizing and was criticized for everything from his past mistakes to his smile. He had survived being dismissed from Florida, transferring to Junior College and then to Auburn. He endured an NCAA investigation into his father for a potential pay for play scam. Yet all he did was find a way to focus and win not one but two national championships at two different levels.
Add to that the Heisman Trophy and the half dozen or so other awards and you have the makings of the ultimate Boom or Bust prospect. He was the kind of pick that could quite literally set a franchise back 5 years or make them legitimate contenders for the next decade. After doing their due diligence Ron Rivera and Marty Hurney made the decision to draft Newton with the first overall pick, and I doubt they've looked back. After being named the starter for the teams 3rd preseason game and having a rough outing his biggest concerns were not about how he looked or played, but that he had let his team, coaches and fans down.
Starting the final preseason game, he had his most productive work though for just one drive against the Steelers finishing the drive with a td pass. His first two regular season starts were truly something to see, throwing for 422 and 432 yards respectively with 3 td's and 4 int's along with 18 carries for 71 yards and 2 td's. Now sitting at the halfway mark he's totalled 174-287 (60.6%) for 2393 yards, 11 td's and 9 int while rushing 63 times for 319 yards and 7 td's (tied for record).
If he continues on this pace he will most certainly be considered the Best Rookie QB of all time, and will finish 348-574 for 4786(record) 22 td's, 18 int, 126 rus for 638 and 14 td's.(record) One thing's for sure, it's no longer can he be an NFL QB. No, the only question left is how good can he be?