Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say. But nothing comes out when they move their lips. Just a bunch of gibberish. And [mofos] act like they forgot about Dre." That's the chorus Eminem rapped with venom in Dr. Dre's 1999 hit song "Forgot About Dre." Dre, who'd experienced a resurgence in the music industry after signing Eminem and executive producing Em's massive-selling debut album released earlier that year, wanted to remind us that he's still one of the best in the game. I wouldn't be surprised if Cam Newton played "Forgot About Dre" on repeat throughout last spring and summer. I'm almost certain that he had the same attitude coming into this season: to remind us that he's still one of the best in the game.

Cam amazed the sports world during his rookie season in 2011 for the Carolina Panthers, in which he broke several NFL records on his way to passing for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns along with rushing for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns, and making the Pro Bowl. While the Panthers still finished with a losing record at 6-10, it was a great improvement from the 2-14 season the year before Mr. Yes We Cam arrived. And it was fun and exciting to watch the Panthers play again (it used to be agonizing). Expectations were high for Cam and the Panthers for the 2012 season.

Because of Cam's rookie year performance, many NFL teams now believed they should take a chance on drafting college quarterbacks who were both a threat passing and running the ball. And instead of 2012 being a season that saw Cam's career continue to rise, it ended up being the year of the young quarterback--for other guys. Rookie QBs Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Robert Griffin III (Washington _________), and Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks), plus second-year player Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers), who barely played and only attempted five passes his rookie season, all put up stellar numbers.

Cam's second-year stats were actually close to his first-year numbers, and on par with the numbers for the 2012 rookies except in the most important category: Wins. He led the Panthers to a 7-9 record, missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season--second in a row under his tutelage. Meanwhile, the 2012 young QB class of Andrew, RGIII, Russell, and Colin each led their teams to winning records and the playoffs, including the 49ers making it to the Super Bowl.

After just one year, mofos had forgotten about Cam. Coming into the 2013 season, most of the (non-Peyton Manning) quarterback buzz was about those four new guys. Cam's name was only mentioned in passing, but not mentioned for passing and rushing. (Get it?)

People in the sports world, just like in the real world, can be extremely fickle. Praise you one day; forget about you the next. Starting off the 2013 season, Cam didn't help his plight for relevancy again, though. The team lost its first two games, and three out of the first four. Things were looking bad, fast. But since then, the Panthers have won three in a row, by an average margin of victory of 19 points. Not only has the defense been playing incredible, but Cam has played great by, most importantly, eliminating the mistakes that would often cost them the game.

At 4-3, by no means is it time to celebrate the Panthers' season. It will still be a battle to make the playoffs. The Panthers' remaining schedule includes games against the 49ers, Patriots, and Saints (twice), each of which have only one or two losses so far. But as we approach the midway point of this season, I thought I'd compare where Cam is statistically against the four quarterbacks who took all of the attention away from him. Of the five of these age-25-and-younger star QBs, only Russell has a higher passer rating than Cam (the two of them rank seventh and eight among all NFL quarterbacks). The number of yards and touchdowns for each of the five guys are pretty much within the same range.

It should be noted that the Seahawks and 49ers have played eight games at this point, while the Panthers, Colts, and Washington have each played seven (because they've had bye weeks already).

Through week eight of the 2013 NFL season
Statistics according to NFL.com.

Russell Wilson Age: 24 (turns 25 on Nov. 29)
Eight games played.
Passing yards: 1,628
Touchdowns (passing): 13
Interceptions: 4
Passer rating: 99.0
Rushing yards: 339
Touchdowns (rushing): 0

Cam Newton Age: 24
Seven games played.
Passing yards: 1,552
Touchdowns (passing): 12
Interceptions: 5
Passer rating: 97.6
Rushing yards: 229
Touchdowns (rushing): 3

Andrew Luck Age: 24
Seven games played.
Passing yards: 1,574
Touchdowns (passing): 10
Interceptions: 3
Passer rating: 91.3
Rushing yards: 183
Touchdowns (rushing): 3

Colin Kaepernick Age: 25 (turns 26 on Nov. 3)
Eight games played.
Passing yards: 1,584
Touchdowns (passing): 9
Interceptions: 5
Passer rating: 87.6
Rushing yards: 294
Touchdowns (rushing): 3

Robert Griffin III Age: 23
Seven games played.
Passing yards: 1,878
Touchdowns (passing): 9
Interceptions: 8
Passer rating: 79.2
Rushing yards: 240
Touchdowns (rushing): 0


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