FanPost

Cam Newton Vindicated

Cam Newton has had two of the best first two seasons any NFL quarterback has ever had and yet many folks across the country view him as a potential bust who will never lead the Panthers to success in the playoffs. I think all the evidence currently available suggests Cam is not to blame for the Panthers not making the playoffs this year and a comparison of Cam to the best quarterbacks in the NFL should make Panthers fans optimistic that he will become a Tom Brady/Peyton Manning level of quarterback.

A perplexing element in the criticism of Cam is the difference between how he is perceived this season as opposed to last. Last year Cam was widely regarded as having the best rookie season ever and in almost every area he has improved. This year Cam’s advanced passing numbers are very impressive most notably his 117 yards per attempt plus. This stat, like all stats I will mention that end with a plus measures performance against the leave average in that category, with 100 being average and 99 being 1 percent below average and 101 being 1 percent above average. Cam’s 117 Y/A+ means his yards per attempt was 17 percent better than league average. His raw yards per attempt is 8.0 trailing only Robert Griffin III in that category. This number like nearly all his rate numbers was an improvement over his rookie year. Here are his advanced numbers for both his rookie and sophomore seasons.

Year

Y/A+

NY/A+

AY/A+

Cmp%+

TD%+

Int%+

Sack%+

Rate+

2008

115

112

107

98

98

93

99

100

2009

117

112

113

93

100

107

92

104

The advanced numbers show almost universal improvement across the board. Cam’s numbers have regressed only in completion percentage and sack percentage. The completion percentage numbers don’t seem very troublesome when his overall yards per attempt has gone up meaning he is completing fewer passes but being more productive per pass. The sack numbers being worse can mostly be attributed to a Panthers offensive line that has been wrecked by injuries including the loss of all-pro center Ryan Kalil. That Cam has improved as a passer while dealing with a worse offensive line is a credit to him.

Most impressive is the huge leap Cam has made with avoiding interceptions this season. He has achieved a 13 percent improvement in interception percentage plus, a monster increase that shows his improved decision making as a passer this season. Overall these numbers make it clear Cam is a better passer than he was last year when he was the best rookie QB in NFL history. Also all his touchdown numbers and QB rating fail to account for the 22 touchdowns Cam has as a rusher. Adding these numbers to his passing total would increase his touchdown percentage and QB rating by a significant degree.

So in the comparisons to other QB’s, those 22 touchdowns need to be remembered when looking at touchdown numbers and QB rating. It is manifestly apparent though, that Cam has only gotten better in his rookie year and any commenter pointing to a sophomore slump this year can be safely disregarded as uninformed.

In 2012 Cam has improved as a passer especially with his decision making. His propensity for big plays has been there since day one and only gotten better while throwing far fewer interceptions. This is absolutely a recipe for success as an NFL quarterback and his strong play is only further illuminated when Cam is compared to other elite NFL quarterbacks in their first two years. Take for example NFC pro bowler Matt Ryan.

Year

Y/A+

NY/A+

AY/A+

Cmp%+

TD%+

Int%+

Sack%+

Rate+

2008

119

121

114

100

96

107

116

106

2009

90

97

95

91

109

98

115

97

Ryan’s sophomore year was generally a disaster. His rate number plummeted almost across the board and he was a below average passer in almost all respects. In Ryan’s fifth season he is a pro bowler and fringe MVP candidate. Expecting similar results from Cam in the near future seems reasonable considering how much better he is in his second year than Ryan was.

Perhaps picking on Ryan is unfair though. As someone who believes Cam’s ceiling is a winner of MVP awards let’s compare Cam to the guy with the most MVP’s in NFL history and 2012’s leading candidate Peyton Manning.

Year

Y/A+

NY/A+

AY/A+

Cmp%+

TD%+

Int%+

Sack%+

Rate+

2008

95

105

90

100

105

77

120

92

2009

116

124

115

118

109

107

126

115

Again these numbers show Cam in a very positive light. Cam was a much better passer as a rookie than Peyton was obliterating Manning in yards per attempt and interception percentage. Manning made huge strides in his second season and was overall a slightly better passer than Cam in his second season. However, Manning only has the slightest edge as a passer in his second year and the fact that Cam has rushed for over 700 yards and 8 touchdowns this year gives him an added dimension that Manning has never had. Overall in their first two years Cam was a more productive quarterback than Manning. This bodes very well for his future.

Other pro bowlers Aaron Rodgers and Matt Schaub both were full time backups in their first two NFL seasons so it’s not possible to compare them to Cam. Robert Griffin III is a pro bowler as a rookie and his advanced rookie numbers are better than Cam’s. Time will tell if he maintains those numbers but he is already a great NFL QB. Cam also compares very favorable to Tom Brady in his first two years in the NFL. Brady’s numbers in his first two years are across the board excellent.

Year

Y/A+

NY/A+

AY/A+

Cmp%+

TD%+

Int%+

Sack%+

Rate+

2001

103

99

105

117

106

105

86

111

2002

90

96

102

110

111

115

111

110

Brady in his first two years made big plays at a lesser rate than Cam while being more careful with the ball throwing fewer interceptions and completing a higher percentage of his passes. Brady managed the game better while Cam made bigger plays. Again Cam comes out looking quite good when compared to one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history who like Manning did not make plays with his legs. These comparisons could go on. Cam’s first two years comically dwarf the first two years of Super Bowl winners like Eli Manning and Drew Brees. Andrew Luck doesn’t meet the league average in any category and his rookie year has been much less productive than Cam’s.

Just for fun let’s compare Cam to someone that the media loves to compare Cam to, Vince Young. The narrative in many quarters has been that Young was great early in his career but could not sustain his success and that Cam’s career is on a similar trajectory. The numbers show this premise as absurd on its face.

Year

Y/A+

NY/A+

AY/A+

Cmp%+

TD%+

Int%+

Sack%+

Rate+

2006

87

90

87

71

93

92

99

81

2007

95

96

84

106

81

78

100

85

The comparisons between Cam and Young are laughable. Young in his first two years which are supposedly his best was not anywhere close to a league average passer. Cam is 17 percent above league average in yards per attempt this year while in his second year Young was 5 percent below average. Cam throws touchdowns at a much higher rate, throws interceptions at a much lower rate and makes bigger plays more regularly. Any comparison made between their careers is clearly based solely on the fact that they are both black quarterbacks as they have nothing else in common as players. The comparisons are absurd and need to stop.

The numbers through Cam’s first two years show he has much more in common with Manning and Brady as a passer than he does Young. Cam is one of the best 23 year old passers in NFL history who has also rushed for 22 touchdowns in 31 games. The future is hard to predict but all the statistical evidence available, suggests Cam can be expected to be an MVP level quarterback very soon, for years to come.

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