By PFC Panthers Blogger Jared Gatewood
Cam Newton’s first two years have been bittersweet. With the most passing yards by a quarterback in their first two years, and first to pass for more than 30 touchdowns and rush for more than 20 touchdowns, Newton has silenced the critics that believed his game could not translate to the NFL.
Newton’s first year created insurmountable expectations for him and the Panthers’ 2012 season (Ryan Kalil’s ad in the Charlotte Observer didn’t help) and I believe that Newton began to feel the pressure. Through the first eight games of the season Newton was clearly pressing, and it began to show off the field as well.
Newton’s proverbial suggestion box he presented to the media after yet another first half loss began a whirlwind of journalist and analysts questioning Newton’s ability to lead a franchise that has lacked a leader at that position the past four years. Here’s the thing, Newton is only 23. He has just finished his second year in the NFL. If you have any reservations about Newton and his ability to lead, just take a look at the second half of the Panthers season.
The Panthers were 1-6 during the first half of the season, but after the bye week, the Panthers finished the season 6-3 and Newton’s play complimented the record. Newton set a franchise record for consecutive passes without throwing an interception (179). He began to not always look for the big play, but elected to take the play that the defense gave him.
This is a mark of a quarterback maturing. On the sidelines you didn’t see him sulking in self-pity after a bad drive. He was walking up and down the sideline keeping his offense mentally checked in. Newton and the Panthers second half was different from second half of 2011. Something clicked with him this season. He’s becoming a franchise quarterback.
?2012 was the first time since high school in College Park, GA that Newton has been in a system for more than a year. The system of former Panthers offensive coordinator and current Cleveland Browns (good luck with that one) head coach, Rob Chudzinski, was catered to Newton’s ability to run and throw 50 year dimes.
The vertical attack is a system that the Panthers have never had. Dom Capers and John Fox were defensive minded which makes the offense run oriented. George Seifert was a Don Shula disciple which meant the short-intermediate throws of the West Coast offense. This offense put more fans in the seats even though the product on the field may not have been the best.
With Chudzinski leaving man wondered if this meant a new, less innovative system. Have no fear, Shula is here. Mike Shula has always been known as a quarterback-molding genius and now he gets his second shot at offensive coordinator. He was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers OC in the 1999 season where it finished 29th.
This is misleading being that he was working with rookie Shaun King for the majority of the season and the tandem of Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn in the backfield. Not to mention that their defense was so great that all the offense had to do was manage the game with a touchdown and three field goals and most of the time that was enough (No way a team finishes 13-3 with a 29th ranked offense without a stout defense). Shula now has a never before seen type of quarterback and knows his strengths and will cater to them.
The best OC’s adapt to the personnel given to them. Shula will maintain the overall philosophy of Chudzinski, but will add some ideas that he’s accumulated over the past two years. Things are looking up in Charlotte. Ron Rivera has proven to me that he’s learned how to coach in the NFL. Cam Newton is in the same system for the third year in a row and with the maturation of his game the Panthers will be a force to be reckoned with in the NFL in 2013.