As I read these opinions it is becoming more and more apparent that these two players are being judged unfairly and improperly. It seems that a few of the more boisterous characters base their opinion on witch player won more games or took their teams to playoff berth. This claim is made valid by both teams having similar records when they drafted their respective Qb’s. While this does hold some validity a true tell would be to examine the year that lead up to the 2-14 seasons to begin with.
The 2011 Colts were a 2-14 team. They were 30th in the league in yards gained, 27th in passing yards, 29th in receiving yards, 28th in scoring, and 28th in total touchdowns. Truly stated the offense was offensive in every sense of the word. Defensively they allowed 71.2% completion on pass attempts. The bright spot being the play of their two pro bowl ends in Freeney and Mathis. As bad as the team was they actually were in many of the games they lost, losing by 10 or less in 9 of their losses. It became clear that their ineptitude was obviously at the Qb position.
We must remember that this is the Colts organization that was the first franchise to make 9 straight playoff appearances. The year before they were 4th in yards gained 1st in passing yards, 4th in receiving yards, and 2nd in scoring. A deep analysis shows that 2011 is an anomaly from what was otherwise a great offense. Of course the major factor was that Peyton Manning was no longer manning the helm but no one expected the team to show so poorly without him. Maybe it was the lack of training camp due to the lockout but the offense as a whole was out of sync.
The 2010 Panthers were a 2-14 team. But they got there in a totally different way. I’m not sure anyone was surprised at the result. It was widely known to be the last year John Fox would coach the panthers. The Panthers were seemingly preparing for a long lockout by giving their coaches one year deals and showing many of their vets the door during a season with no Cap. This became known among Panther faithful as "The Purge." The Panthers were bad, very bad. They lost every game but two by 14 points or more. The team was 32nd in points scored (a total of 15 touchdowns), 32nd in passing yards, 32nd in receiving yards.
The season before they Panthers were an 8-8 team and marked the 3rd year in a row the team did not have a first round pick. This was one year after the worst showing of a Qb in a playoff game by Jake Delhomme. And this was also the year that Delhomme needed Tommy John’s surgery that no Qb had ever returned from. The team was on an obvious downward spiral.
The 2011 Panthers scored 240 more points than the 2010 team, Cam Newton Scored 245 points. 6 of 10 losses were by less than 10 points, playing 6 playoff teams in 8 games. While 4 of 6 wins were by more than 10 points. The 2011 Panthers won 4 more games; Cam Newton had 4 Game winning touchdowns. The Panthers rushed for 558 more yards, Cam Newton had 706 rushing yards. Cam Newton committed 22 turnovers and only had 5 games without a turnover, all wins. Cam Newton accounted for a rookie record 4,784 yards, the team total was 6,237, a total of 76% of offensive yardage for Carolina.
In fact the 2011 Panthers offense ranked better than all but one of their previous seasons. Cam Newton was only 400 yards away from the single season franchise record in passing.
The 2012 Colts won 8 of its 11 games by less than 7 points, 9 of 11 by 10, while only playing two playoff teams in 3 games, one 59-24 blowout by the Patriots and a split with division rival Texans. The Colts scored 84 more points, Andrew Luck scored 168 of them, and Andrew Luck had 3 game winning touch downs. Andrew Luck committed 28 turnovers and only had 3 games without a turnover all wins. Andrew Luck accounted for 4,629 yards, the team total was 5,799. That was 80% of the total offensive yardage for the Colts.
This comparison proves that not only is the Qb the most important player for a team, but also that both of these young players are key pieces to their teams future. Both of the 2-14 teams were missing a quality player at Qb due to poor front office planning, however one team was two years removed from a super bowl appearance the other was trying to rebuild three years after overachieving to the worst playoff loss in the super bowl era. It is through this assessment that is used to validate the belief that Cam Newton is the better player due to the effect he had on a statically consistently bad team. The difference is a great team that lost its Qb and replaced him with an above average rookie, and a terrible team that replace a terrible rookie Qb in Jimmy Clausen with a Championship Heisman winning rookie Qb.