Monday, April 25, 2011

The Caution of Cam

The 2011 NFL Draft is upon us and the hype machine is back in full effect.  As usual the glamor position is getting the attention.  Last year it was Sam Bradford, the year before that it was Matthew Stafford.  The list goes on and on of the draft day delights that await to ride behind center.  This year is no different.  When Andrew Luck decided to stay behind in Stanford the attention shifted... to Cam Newton.

The media hype has somewhat understandably gone behind Newton.  He's a physical freak.  At 6'5" and around 248 lbs. he's practically grown into his body, giving him an advantage over other college players.  He dominated the SEC and college football this season, using his arm and legs to work his magic.  The result?  2854 yards passing, 1409 yards rushing, 30 touchdowns from the air and 20 touchdowns on the ground.  It didn't end there.

An undefeated season was followed by the 56-17 destruction of South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game in which he just got stronger as the game went on and finally leading the charge for the winning field goal over the Oregon Ducks in the BCS National Championship Game.  He was a champion and had owned the field like Tim Tebow and his reward?  The Heisman Trophy.

The season wasn't all shine and glitter.  There were accusations that his father, Cecil, took money from schools in exchange for Cam's attendance.  This is on top of his getting kicked out of Florida for stealing a laptop.  Ignoring the questions about Cam Newton's character made be harder for some to do but for this discussion they don't matter.

The caution of Cam lies in his production.  His numbers are stellar and the way he owned the field was impressive, and therein lies the caution.  Cam Newton was a physical freak on a field with a handful of other gifted players and some average players who will end their careers doing something other than lacing up every Sunday in the fall.

The comparisons are generally towards other big men who could throw reasonably well and were mobile.  Ben Roethlisberger is a popular refrain.  The height and weight are practically identical.  The difference lies in the mobility.  In his college career Ben never rushed for all of seven touchdowns in his three years started at Miami of Ohio.  Cam Newton accomplished this in a three game stretch over the middle of last season.  Oh, and one of those games he was held without a touchdown.

The most logical comparison is to whom he was the understudy for in a year at Florida: Tim Tebow.  Both were dominant with their arm and legs.  Both won the Heisman trophy.  Both lead undefeated SEC teams to the national championship.  Most importantly, both ran an spread-option based system, something that is completely foreign to what you find in the NFL.

The rumor mill is running that, days before the Draft, the Carolina Panthers with the number one pick will be choosing Cam Newton.  It should be asked why Cam Newton is different from Tim Tebow.  Why Tim Tebow, with near identical skill set and ability in the SEC, is only considered a place holder at quarterback at best.

Does the answer lie within the machismo that Newton possesses that Tebow in his upbringing has never displayed, with his "aw shucks" attitude and his humble mindset that never wavers?  Is it the three inch difference in size between Newton and Tebow?  Is it the more natural throwing motion of Newton?  Or is it something unseen by those who just "don't get it"?

If Cam Newton is taken first over all on Thursday, the concern should be for the Panthers.  Having taken Jimmy Clausen last year, what does Newton have that Clausen lacks?  The biggest difference in the two seems to be one thing: hype.  Clausen and Tebow stayed in college a year too long.  Newton?  He's getting out at just the right time.

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