This NFL season has been an inconsistent one to say the least. The Patriots seemed unstoppable for the first eleven weeks with a record of 10-0, but New England couldn’t remain unbeaten much longer. Injuries riddled the Pats and the remaining Pats limped along towards a first round bye entering the playoffs with only one offensive player to start every game. That player being none other than Tom Brady. In those first eleven weeks of the season, Brady was putting together what seemed to be a season for the ages, overcoming any challenges including an offensive line that was about as reliable as a weather forecast. Either way, Brady continued on despite doubts against his age, and his footballs.
Cam Newton on the other hand brought a Panthers team that wasn’t given much of a chance this season and led them to the Super Bowl, compiling a 17-1 record along the way. The Panthers have a fantastic defense along with the Broncos generational defense will make for a great Super Bowl. 17 wins are great but if you lose the last game of the season, it doesn’t matter.
A resurgence of a thought to be declining, injury prone, aging 36 year old quarterback done in Phoenix proved that the MVP race isn’t just a two horse race. Carson Palmer finished the season with a 104.6 passer rating, over 4,600 passing yards and 35 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions. Many people have written off Palmer’s accomplishments due to his WR corps, including Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Josh Brown on top of having the speedy and shift David Johnson in the backfield. It is great to have pieces surrounding you and it does take some of the degree of difficulty away but those WRs don’t just throw the ball to themselves.
Now let us get into the debate!
Whenever there’s a debate about who should win an MVP award, I always make a point to differentiate the word “valuable” with the word “best”. The two words don’t always coincide; just because one is the best player on a team doesn’t mean he is the most valuable to that team’s success. But in this case, Cam Newton is both. It’s easy to talk about his skill set, so I’ll avoid that. If you want his stats, read my previous post on #1. Let’s look at his supporting cast on offense…
Greg Olsen had 77 catches for over 1,100 yards, which both are among the best numbers in terms of tight ends. However, rarely does an offense run through a tight end. Save this member of the 7th Floor Crew at The U, Newton’s leading receiver was Ted Ginn Jr. with 44 catches (albeit, with 10 touchdowns). Ginn has never had a 1,000-yard season, and this number proves to be his second highest career total. Though the Panthers run the ball a lot, they did not have a 1,000-yard runner, which typically is one of the most important stats for an elite running back. Simply put, Cam Newton was the Panthers’ entire offense. Before the season, and especially after receiver Kelvin Benjamin got hurt, I had the Panthers at 9-7, a fourth seed in the NFC, and probably losers of their first playoff game (supposing Newton himself didn’t miss any time due to injury). Newton had a career year without a bona fide star at receiver or running back. Newton has the sexy numbers, but he also has that sense of being most valuable. Carson Palmer had nice numbers, but his receivers bailed him out all year long big-time. Tom Brady had another great year, but he had more weapons to work with offensively speaking all year long than Cam did. Both teams are over .500 if those players aren’t on the field (whether they’re contenders or not is a different story. But both have winning records). Take out #1 from the equation, and the Panthers don’t crack .500. It’s really just that simple, and it’s why Cam Newton would have my vote for MVP.
Cam Newton has been unstoppable this year. No team has been able to stop him as a rusher and passer. He has taken the Panthers to a whole new level. His numbers were great as he threw for 3,837 yards, 35 TDs and only 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 636 yards and 10 TDs. No one has ever thrown the ball and rushed it as effectively as Cam Newton has this year. He has excelled with targets like Philly Brown and Ted Ginn Jr, although he does have tight end Greg Olsen who has been the top target and a great security blanket. As Newton goes, the Panthers go with him. Newton is currently the leader and best player on a team that finds themselves in the Super Bowl and Super Bowl favorites at that. He has decimated defenses with his arm and legs at elite levels. You could make an argument for Cam being the most versatile player in the league on top of the MVP award.
Nobody gave this Panther team a shot to make the playoffs due to Kelvin Benjamin’s torn ACL. But Cam Newton had other ideas. Newton has established himself as the best offensive player in the NFL He can hurt you with his arms or legs and used his dual-threat ability to accumulate 45 total touchdowns, with 35 through the air, and 10 via the ground, while only throwing 10 picks. While Newton ranked 16th in the league in passing yards, look who he had to throw to. Greg Olsen was his best receiver, and he lined up at tight end. Devin Funchess was originally a tight end in college at Michigan and was transferring to receiver this whole season as a rookie. Ted Ginn Jr., who had never been much more than an elite return man and field stretcher, suddenly exploded for 10 receiving touchdowns after having just 11 in his first eight years in the league. More importantly, he’s led his team to a 15-1 regular season record, and has Carolina on the cusp of its first ever Super Bowl victory, an accomplishment I think they’ll achieve next Sunday. Cam Newton is a near mortal lock for the MVP. Trust me, I love Tom Brady. He’s still the Greatest of All Time, but I’m also realistic. His impact wasn’t as heavy as Newton’s. I know his team dealt with injuries, but he still had the most dominant receiver in football in Gronk, Edelman and Amendola for much of the year. His team couldn’t protect him or run the ball down the stretch, which really killed Brady’s MVP candidacy. I think MVP voters are swayed to look at numbers in the last month over the course of a whole season, and in the last five weeks, Newton had 18 TD’s (15 passing and three rushing) and one interception. Meanwhile, Brady had nine touchdowns (eight pass sign one on the ground) and three interceptions. Both players are certainly top three quarterbacks in the NFL, but Newton’s numbers were more impressive, with less weapons around him, and that’s why he’s the NFL’s league MVP.
Before I start, just one quick question… When do those “look who he had to throw to” guys with great seasons become household names? Julian Edelman began his career as a ‘poor-man’s Wes Welker’ and when Welker went down people said Brady wouldn’t be as effective without him. But Edelman thrived and to be honest has made a living off of people calling him one of those “look who he had to throw to” guys. I’m not discrediting the accomplishments of Cam Newton but obviously guys like Ginn, Funchess, and Olsen fit well into their program, style and offense, otherwise the Panthers wouldn’t be where they are. Every single receiver in the entire league is only as good as the guy throwing to them, look at Randy Moss in Oakland or Brandon Marshall in Miami. Certainly Cam makes his team better but does he make them better than Brady, hence being more ‘valuable’ than Tom Brady? No way.
Can we just throw away the, ‘they would be so much worse without them’ argument, it is a wash. Sure the Panthers would flirt with 0.500 but the Patriots very well could be worse… a 15 year dynasty built around one central piece and all of a sudden the Patriots are without him in the extremely competitive AFC East…. maybe a 6-10 team. And don’t use the 2008 season without Brady as a rebuttal, the current Pats don’t have the defense or offensive line that they had, not to mention Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Ben Watson and Jabar Gaffney. Yeah Gronk is a game changer and Edelman extremely dynamic but a lot of their successes are due to their chemistry with Brady.
Here is how their stats stack up (Brady being on the top):
It is worth noting that Newton had 10 rushing TDs bringing his total to 45 while Brady had 3 rushing TDs, 39 total TDs. Also Brady averaged 36 yards per reception which leads the league (maybe, probably).
People are making this award out to be Newton’s but although that may come true this weekend, it is a lot closer than people think. Cam and Tom do respect each other, and Cam has looked up to Brady. You can see the two in action for their Under Armour commercial shoot. Brady played extremely well along with Palmer. While Palmer seems to be nearing an end to his career, Newton and Brady seem to be just getting started. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter @N2KSports
Cover Photo via ESPN