What a Difference A Year Makes...

Thirteen months and three days ago the news broke that Stanford QB Andrew Luck would be returning to school for his final season rather than choosing to become a Carolina Panther. In the days following that decisions everyone had their opinion on why this was the case. Had Peyton Manning convinced the young signal caller to stay? Did the Panthers' bullish, presumptuous talk about selecting him scare him off? Or was it that he just wanted to close out school and be big man on campus for one more year?

Whatever the reason, it left the fanbase reeling. We've had scores of 'the sky is falling' moments, but it seemed like for the week after the Luck decision fans were broken; there was a sense that enduring the abysmal 2010 season was going to net us little for the pain, and we were stuck with a #1 pick that was by all accounts un-tradeable, even after a rookie contract friendly CBA.

Yours truly and others were way off the mark on Cam Newton, and I'll remember the 2011 season as a year where intangibles trumped tangibles, not only for Newton but Tim Tebow as well. The most exciting thing about Newton to me is that his rookie campaign was still flawed when we examine it through the lens of QB fundamentals and mechanics. If Cam could put up his numbers while throwing off the back foot at times and making poor decisions with the ball I can't even imagine what he'll be able to do when he puts it all together.

Now thirteen months and three days later another Heisman winning, spread offense QB is set to enter the NFL draft, but this time with much different hype.

More after the jump

I've said all along that the Carolina Panthers should not select Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick. I continue to believe that the questions about the offense Newton played in, the amount of work he needs as a passer and his intangibles make him too much of a risk.

- Todd McShay, 2011

At this point I think it's safe to say the spread offense argument is dead and buried. I admit, I bought into it for a while too as we saw the likes of Alex Smith enter the NFL and look unprepared, but it's now time to move away from the offense argument and look at each player individually. Brees, Bradford, Dalton, Newton... all came from the spread, and all showed an ability to transition into the NFL quickly.

I can't help but feel like Cam Newton was the nail in the coffin for this argument. In recent memory no QB was more heavily scrutinized for his spread-offense history than Newton, and yet he demolished the NFL. Is he an outlier? Absolutely... I don't know if we'll ever see another QB like Newton enter the league from a physical standpoint, but I do know that Robert Griffin III should be thanking Cam for tearing it up in 2011.

Imagine for a second if Cam had failed... People would still be willing to call RGIII 'Newton lite', but it would have a wholly negative connotation. Thankfully because of the success our QB had in year one I'm seeing concerns like height, durability and arm strength being levied against Griffin, not mechanics, smarts or the offense he ran.

RGIII is taking the fight to Andrew Luck for the #1 pick. By having his pro-day on the same day as Stanford he's forcing teams to send their big-wigs to one place, or the other. For thirteen months and three days Andrew Luck has been penciled in as the #1 pick in 2012, but it looks like the Colts may decide to reach for the eraser.

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