Casting aspersions: The overly critical evaluation of Cam Newton

Is Cam Newton more ready for the NFL than the media have lead us to believe?

If you cast your mind back to just a few days after the NFL combine there was a credible report from CBS Sports detailing a 'high-ranking NFL source' who said the following about Cam Newton

"I think that is an example of a team trying to knock the kid down [...] I can tell you right now, he was very likable with us. He answered every question we had about his off-field stuff and did a great job on the white board.

He knew where to go with the football against different schemes, where his hot read was... he did it quickly and with confidence. I wasn't in the other teams' meetings, so I don't know what they asked or how he answered, obviously. I can't imagine that kid 'struggling,' though, in that kind of setting."

How do we then separate the wheat from the chaff, and the accurate reports from the yellow journalism? This isn't something I have the answer to. However, if this source from March was accurate, and teams were trying to knock Newton's stock down then it's probably a good thing Carolina didn't take the bait; and yes, before you postulate, the thought has crossed my mind that the above quotes could have come from Marty Hurney or Ron Rivera.

More after the jump

Until Cam Newton takes the field and performs well the Carolina Panthers will be the targets of  31 other team's reciprocated jokes. Allusions to Jamarcus Russell and Vince Young will be rife, spoken with a gleeful squeal as they are bandied from the pursed lips of the uninformed. As much as I detest quoting John Fox, "It is what it is", we will endure these comments until Newton is able to prove the doubters wrong, and they can scurry away back into the walls to join the silent majority.

However, expand your mind for a moment and think of the case perpetually leveled against Cam Newton not as a racial issue, but rather one of longing- after all, as cliched as it sounds 'jealousy is a stinky cologne' and most of these arguments have a very distinct odor. If someone cares to disagree, fine... but it's only natural. It takes a rare personality to wish for Cam Newton to succeed and not be a fan of the Carolina Panthers, because, well... who else wants to see a 6'6", 250 lb quarterback who runs a 4.50 forty throw the ball well? The answer should probably be 'no-one'.

I'll be the first to admit that I bought into a lot of the 'anti-Newton' arguments that populated the collective consciousness of NFL fans. Granted, I still have myriad concerns about his ability to develop into an NFL quarterback, but that's only because he is still extremely young at the position. Now, I have equal concerns as I would with any QB who spend one year in JUCO before one year as a Division One QB... but it's no longer anything specific to Newton himself. In fact, I'll say that the amount of criticism leveled at him was at a fever pitch leading up to the draft.

Matt Bowen of the National Football Post seems to agree that the judgement of Cam Newton has been overly harsh. Roughly two months ago he wrote about a successful way to integrate Newton into an NFL offense, suggesting that he be eased into the NFL like Michael Vick was in 2009. Today he writes about how he himself adapted to dealing with the NFL:

When I was handed the St. Louis Rams defensive playbook during my first mini-camp as a rookie I immediately began to panic. New alignments, adjustments and an immense amount of X's and O's that read like a history textbook.

"What the hell is Cover 7," I remember saying to myself as I sat down in my hotel room out in Earth City, Missouri trying to take notes on something I didn't understand.

Perhaps the greatest myth of all is that any college player can be more 'NFL ready' than another? Sure, we see success stories vs. projects, but maybe it's all a product of the work done after being drafted, rather than some ethereal characteristic some players have, and other lack. Don't believe me? Cast your mind back to the 2010 draft when Jimmy Clausen was considered the 'NFL ready' quarterback, while Sam Bradford was going to need more time. Still not convinced? I remember when Josh Freeman wasn't going to be ready to take the field for '2-3 years', then in his second year he puts up pro-bowl worthy numbers.

It seems that much of the criticism leveled at Newton is due to Auburn's offense being so simplistic, and so unlike anything run by any NFL team. This notion of a one-read system that required almost no foresight by the quarterback. Alright... so what do you make of this article by SmartFootball.com? It doesn't get much more cut and dry than a xeroxed page of Gus Malzahn's play book... and what's that? They're all NFL style passing plays? The plot thickens.

In the end I'm not naive enough to think that Cam Newton is the perfect quarterback right now. He has a lot of work to do both mechanically and mentally to prepare himself for the NFL game. What I am saying, however, is maybe that 'high ranking' source from March is right, maybe everything was overblown as a means to an unseen end? I don't have an answer to that question, but it's as plausible as any other report given.

Immediately following the draft I spoke with a beat writer covering an AFC team. I asked him what his opinion was of Cam Newton to try and get an opinion from outside our market, he said to me:

"James, let me put it this way. When Jimmy Clausen was drafted in 2010 he was passed on forty-seven times, when Brady Quinn was taken in 2007 twenty teams, many of whom needed quarterbacks didn't want him. If the Panthers passed on Cam Newton he wouldn't have made it out of the top five... that should tell you something"

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