"Is Cam Newton the type of quarterback you can build around?" At the end of the curiosity now referred to as the "pregnant pause", new Panthers GM David Gettleman answered the obvious yes to this question. Yet the team's actions over the past three seasons have said the opposite. It's similar to a man telling a young lady that he loves her, then spending his time, energy, and resources in other places.
In the three years since drafting Cam Newton, the Panthers have done a poor job drafting around him.The premise of "Cam need's weapons" is slung around so carelessly by the usually poorly informed national pundits, it is easy for us as Panthers fans to dismiss it. Yet when you look around the league, the disturbing fact is that nearly all of the other teams with young quarterbacks have made significant efforts to surround those QBs with talent.
I'm going to look at what other teams have done to build around their young QB's. Specifically, over the past three years since acquiring their franchise QB. My focus will be on offensive draft picks in rounds 1-3 (the building blocks which generally produces a team's starters), and on key offensive free agents. For QB's only starting their second season, I will only look at what has been done over the past two seasons.
Young QB's Who Have Made the Playoffs in the Past 3 Seasons:
Young QB's Still Looking to Prove Themselves:
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Most GM's understand that they will only go as far as their QB takes them. Early years are stepping stone years for the QB and the team. Adding complimentary pieces around your young QB allows them a chance to grow together, and peak at the right time. Yes some of those above pieces turned out to be duds, but still it shows a clear effort to commit to the quarterback. The Panthers are placing themselves in a situation where they will be going through an offensive rebuild, right when Cam is hitting his prime fourth and fifth years in the league. The opposite could be said for a team like the Colts, who will have several key offensive pieces hitting their prime around Andrew Luck at the same time.
Out of all the teams listed above, the Panthers have done the poorest job of adding talent to surround their young QB with. This is while Cam Newton arguably has one of the highest ceilings out of the QB's listed above. And this does not soley refer to skilled positions, but to protection as well.
Why are we so worried about the right side of the offensive line? Because the right side of our offensive line consists of TWO former UDFA's (key word here being undrafted). Then how do you fill those holes with the gaping chasm that will open on the left side with Jordan Gross's pending retirement? Our back-up left tackles right now? The same UDFA who is up-and-down on the right side and a guy who was a DT last year. Even though Bruce Campbell is out, he was not an answer. Remember he was a guy the RAIDERS decided they did not need, and he missed a block that got Derek Anderson crushed during the Bears preseason game.
While we have threads with hundreds of comments arguing over who will win the third wide receiver job between Armanti Edwards, Ted Ginn, Jr, and Dominik Hixon; it is terrifying that none of these guys are good enough to even remotely challenge Brandon LaFell for the #2 wideout spot. And LaFell is a guy who after three years, still has fans hoping for a breakout season. Heck, it was contending teams in need of wideouts that dropped Hixon and Ginn, which should temper our expectations some. If what we have done for the offensive line and at wideout is considered building around a QB, that building is in serious need of inspection before it eventually caves in.
Due to circumstances and missteps, the Panthers have not had all of their draft picks in the first three rounds of a draft since drafting Newton. Additionally, fate would have it that for the past two years, the best players available for the Panthers' first round pick were defensive players. And due to salary cap issues, the team has been reluctant to sign high-end, or even above-average offensive free agents.
Gettleman did not account for these concerns when he put it on Cam to win now. He could have talked about putting a winning defense in place as his initial focus. But he answered affirmatively to the question of building around Cam. So with his newly created salary cap space and a pick in each of the first three rounds of the 2014 draft, Gettleman has some significant promises to keep.