TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 4: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after his second touchdown run against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers December 4, 2011 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
9. Cam Newton, Panthers: The rookie No. 1 pick continues to improve. Instead of forcing passes, as he did on occasion earlier in the year, Newton is taking advantage of his running skills, leading all players with 13 rushing touchdowns, including six in the last three games. As a passer, he has been interception-free in four of his last six outings and picked off only once in another. His play has helped lift the Panthers to two straight wins.
There is no denying Newton has raised his level of play and its nice to see the national pundits recognize it. I firmly believe he belongs in the top 10 of NFL QBs based on any criteria you may want to include in the rankings. I admit though I had a hard time getting much real satisfaction from Trotter's ranking given seeing who was ranked above him, in particular an unorthodox QB who just wins, after the jump...
The guy I loathe to talk about is at #5 (but here I go talking about him):
5. Tim Tebow, Broncos: He looked so completely lost as a passer after his first two starts this season, I put him 31st in my midseason rankings. But Tebow is a different QB today. He has flourished since the Broncos adjusted their offense to take advantage of his read-option skill set.
Overall, he is 6-1 as a starter, with 11 touchdowns (nine passing) and only two turnovers (one fumble, one INT). But his incredible rise up the rankings is due to him coming up biggest when games matter most: at the end. Review the Broncos' last six wins and you will see Tebow was an integral factor in the outcome, particularly down the stretch. Will it last? Who cares? The rankings are about today, not tomorrow.
Ack! It would be easy to accuse Trotter of jumping on the Tebow train and that might be fair but he did also include the comeback player of the year, the 49ers Alex Smith at #6. I think that does give a little more cred to his notion that the rankings are simply based on 2011 season-to-date performance and not on past accomplishment. Note some of the big names outside the top 10, including the suddenly pedestrian Andy Dalton who has fallen to #17, under even former Panther Matt Moore at #14.