|CAM NEWTON : SUPERMAN ?|
Some were just plain 'ole flops--like Jimmy Clausen.
Some sparkled, but were in the twilight of their careers-- Frank Reich. Steve Beuerlein. Rodney Peete. and Vinny Testaverde.
Others were promising, but let us down-- Kerry Collins. Chris Weinke.
There's Jake Delhomme. Jake is a whole different story. For probably the first time in the Panthers' 20-year history, someone emerged as a real leader. Someone with raw skills and abilities, but also leadership and charisma. And yet-- still-- in the end, Jake was Jake. He was great on some days, and mediocre on others. He threaded the needle on one Sunday, and threw five interceptions other Sundays. He led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in '03, but then personally committed six turnovers in an embarrassing playoff loss to Arizona in '08.
And then there's CAM NEWTON. Cam is a beast of an athlete.. at 6'5" and 245 lbs., he is fast enough to evade tacklers, and strong enough to run over them. After being our first round draft choice in 2011, he has put together five solid seasons as our team leader. He has broken numerous passing and rushing records. But even with Cam, I've had my doubts. Last season, playing the Seattle Seahawks in a divisional playoff game that could have propelled the Panthers into the Super Bowl, Cam drove our team down the field, threatening to score and make a tough game close. But focusing in on a receiver, the defensive back read him and jumped out to make an interception and run it back for a decisive touchdown. I'm glad at that point, the Panthers staff did NOT give up on Cam Newton. I'm glad that somehow they weren't thinking the same thoughts as I was at the time. I was ready to call it quits on another Carolina Panthers quarterback. Haul him off-- release him-- and go out spelunking for another one.
Cam has come out this year in an entirely different mindset. Carolina players and coaches believe that besides his obvious maturity and growth over the last five years, WR Kelvin Benjamin's injury during training camp has affected him in a positive (yes, good) way. He has been forced to NOT be a go-to-one-man kind of a quarterback. He's reading defenses better, and spreading the ball out over more receivers. During the final drive in the last two minutes this past week against the Seahawks, Newton completed a perfect 6-of-6 passes to six different receivers ! This obviously kept the Seahawks secondary guessing, and might have helped TE Greg Olsen get open for a game-winning touchdown.
Just how good is Cam Newton? And is he able to lead us to the "Promised Land"-- the Super Bowl ? Well-- no one really knows for sure. There are plenty of great quarterbacks who never won the big one, including Fran Tarkenton of the Vikings, and Dan Marino of the Dolphins. But I believe that Cam has the raw skills to get it done, and he definitely is only getting better.
I wouldn't say that Cam is a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning --just yet. He may never pass as well as a Johnny Unitas or be as great a leader as Joe Montana. But he's a great one.. and getting better. And can he take us to the Super Bowl? Absolutely. Is he Superman? Maybe--maybe not. But-- one things certain-- he's good enough.
What's even better than that ? The Panthers are looking good enough too.