Cam Newton: The Second Coming of…

This season Cam Newton has played like the second coming of…Vince Young, David Carr, Jamarcus Russell, Akili Smith and yes, Ryan Leaf.  Right now, you may be asking how the reigning Heisman winner who has yet to play his final college game has been added to this illustrious group.  The answer is really quite simple – he will be a huge NFL bust just like all the others

No doubt many team’s are looking at Newton’s “evolutionary skills” and thinking about how great he would look in their uniform, especially now that it appears Andrew Luck will return to the college ranks for another season.  The only problem is that Newton has all the markings of a one-year wonder NFL bust. 

One year wonder NFL bust?

Yes a bust and remember you heard it here first when Newton falls flat on his face in the pros.  Has he had a remarkable season against one of the toughest schedules in the nation?  Absolutely – but when it comes to making a pro football quarterback that is not the only indication of a sure thing. 

Journey with me, if you will, back to 1999.  Three quarterbacks were about to be selected 1, 2, 3 in the draft.  One of them, Tim Couch, was a dink and dunk, noodle-armed player who in hindsight never really had a chance in the pros.  The second was a strong armed one year wonder from Oregon.  The third was Donovan McNabb. 

Only one of them was entering with the perfect combination necessary for NFL success – McNabb.  For a couple of years he had been a solid player for Syracuse and had all the tools necessary for success in the big leagues. 

Naturally he is the only one who had any semblence of a career out of the three men.  Smith (who some, like SI touted as a potential top pick) fell to the Bengals with the third pick in the draft.  However, the warning signs for his eventual NFL failure in the pros were evident even before his name was called.  How does this bear on Newton, the one year wonder de jour?

1) Appeared from nowhere to rise to the top of the Collegiete ranks – Like Akili Smith, no one gave Cam Newton any publicity for the Heisman this season.  No one gave Auburn a national title shot.  Some left them completely out of the top 25.  One of the reasons was that Newton came into the season an unknown who transferred out of juco and Florida.  Yet, at the end of the season he stood on the podium hoisting the trophy amidst allegations his father recieved money from schools and that he recieved academic “help” while at Florida.  (Auburn naturally ignored the fact that this was happening since they were winning football games for the first time in the last five years)  Akili Smith, David Carr, Jamarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf all had similiar leaps into the front of the national stage.  With each of their miraculous seasons they jumped to the top of draft boards despite their shaky and non-existent long-term histories.  (Exception to the rule: Vince Young who had a great career at Texas and went into the draft on the high of his National Title victory…a la Cam Newton?)

2) A Prototype NFL QB…or an “Evolutionary” One – Some scouts stated Jamarcus Russell had the best arm any of them had ever seen.  While he could throw it a long way, unfortunately he could not hit the broad side of a barn at the best of times.  Ditto David Carr…ditto Akili Smith…ditto Ryan Leaf…Newton on the other hand appears to be a semi-accurate college QB, completing 67% of his throws this season.  However, that does not always translate to the pros.  David Carr could throw accurately at times too.  Guys like Newton, Young and Smith draw in GM’s with tantalizing potential that they can never live up to.  Vince Young never had the right attitude to become an NFL quarterback, Jamarcus Russell never had the drive (because he was paid 40 million dollars before playing a snap), David Carr never had the right situation or the body to hold up, Smith and Leaf were just downright terrible.  Teams have often played up “the prototype” and in some cases the guys they draft in the sixth round (Tom Brady) live up to it a lot more than the first round players.

3) Lack of an overall great college career – Jamarcus Russell did well enough at LSU to secure himself the number one selection overall thanks to his monster arm.  He was a “can’t miss” prospect.  He missed…badly.  Philip Rivers completed 73% of his passes while at NC State and people felt he would be hit or miss.  Which one of them is playing in the Pro Bowl?  Not Russell.  Vince Young rode a wave of glory in the Rose Bowl to declare for the draft.  He went third and is mired in an ugly divorce with the Titans due to the fact that he is downright terrible.  While college success does not always indicate a good pro prospect (see Tebow, Tim) at times it can be a solid way to make a pick.  Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford were great in college (but avoided the unreachable-tantalizing-potential problem) and have become all-stars and franchise players in the NFL.  One of the major problems with players whose potential exceeds their limitations is that teams never quite know what they are getting themselves into since they enter the league a bundle of raw talent.  With Vince Young, Alex Smith or Jamarcus Russell their knowledge of intricate pro-style offenses was extremely limited.  They could run and throw but they never understood the progression of recievers; they either threw short or long.  Another thing that doomed them was the limitations of the pro system as running became less and less of an option against fast, tough NFL linebackers and safeties just waiting to knock them clean out of the game.   

The best example of how it may turn out for Newton lies with the improbable return of Michael Vick.  In Atlanta he admits he had no idea how to run a pro-style offense.  His physical gifts were unlike any the NFL had ever seen and yet he barely scratched the surface of his abilities (for one he had the best arm in the league and chose to throw randomly all over the field).  Only now, after he has been incredibly humbled, has Vick begun to play to his potential.  He is patient and uses his running ability to keep defenses honest while he surgically dismantles them with his powerful arm. 

While Newton (character issues!  character issues!  Lazy?)  has potential to go either way, it is my firm belief he will ultimately be an NFL bust due to the fact he will struggle with pro offenses and will not work hard enough to improve.  He will be coast by on his natural abilities and believe they can move him through the rough patches and frighteningly fast defences.  Unfortunately, none of his “evolutionary skills” will carry him very far in the pros without an equal amount of dedication and hard work; thus his career may be similiar to Russell’s or Smith’s or, more likely, Vince Young’s. 

Then again – he will be getting paid, and we all know how hard he plays for a good payday

Attention BCS – The College Football Gods Have Spoken

Attention BCS,

It seems that the Gods of College Football have spoken this season and they will not rest until you rightfully award Boise State with their well-deserved number one ranking. 

I know, I know, that makes you feel like you are being punched in the stomach but they deserve it!   In the preseason, you were nice enough to give them the number three ranking, figuring perhaps  neither Alabama or Ohio State (their overratedness could be an entire column) would lose this year.  Unfortunately: they did.  The gods had spoken and their message could not have been clearer –

Boise State is number one.

But what did you go and do?  You chose to jump Boise with several undeserving/overrated teams that went on to get beaten and then, despite all the evidence to the contrary you continued to deny them the number one slot! 

Is it that you fear a Marlo-esque “My name is my name” outburst (from The Wire) by the SEC? 

Even if that is true why do you continue to deny Boise?  You clearly rode an emotional victory by Auburn to give them the number one ranking, and given the way Oregon is throwing people around you made them two.  Boise?  They unfairly remain stuck where they began the season at number 3. 

Here are a couple of reasons they deserve a shot at number one:

1) While they do not play the toughest of schedules they have quite literally beaten all challengers including highly ranked teams.  Last year: Oregon and TCU.  This year: Virginia Tech and Oregon State and ? (in the Fiesta Bowl?)  Plus, who can forget their epic win over Oklahoma in what may be the greatest college football game of all time?  Boise showed something in those games, and proved they will and can win on any given day.  Against Oklahoma they countered a strong defense with more tricks than the circus.  Plus they went for it!  With a tie on the line in OT, they went for two with the most perfectly executed Statue of Liberty play in history.  This is the team you want to keep out of the title game?

2) Give them a chance!  Would they go undefeated in the SEC?  Probably not, but (as’s Stewart Mandel pointed out) neither did Alabama or LSU.  What do you lose from giving Boise a shot at number one other then the most anticipated title game in history?  Boise has one of the best quarterbacks in the country and the best overall defense.  They have beaten an “allegedly better” Oregon team than the one fielded this year and can shut down duel-threat quarterbacks like Auburn’s Cam Newton (See: VT’s Tyrod Taylor).  If you deny College Football viewers the chance to see them on the biggest stage it is for shame.  This is the year you cannot duck them like you always have: they are simply too good to be denied a seat at the table.

The only question left: will you give them the shot they truly deserve? 

Best Regards (and do not even think of screwing this up),

College Football Faithful

Denard Robinson Joins a Select List

When Michigan’s sensational sophomore quarterback, Denard Robinson, put up 502 total yards in a huge win against Notre Dame he joined a select list – the greatest single game performances I have ever seen

The others on this list may not have made the same statistical impact Robinson did against Notre Dame, but they affected the outcome of the game in one way or another.  Robinson’s performance was so jaw-dropping, simply because you could not believe what you were watching.  It became the norm to believe he was going to do something incredible, and he came through again and again.  Check out his 87 yard touchdown run:

How will the rest of the season play out for the young Heisman hopeful? 

Given that in his performance against UMASS last week he cut back significantly on his rushing attempts (17) in return for a “season low” 104 yards on the ground (while throwing for 241 and 2tds) it appears he will begin to rely less on his legs and more on his arm.  Let’s imagine his final stats this season looking something like this:

65% completion pct; 2500 yards passing; 1425 yards rushing; 6.8 yards per carry; 22 tds passing / 20 tds rushing.

Are those numbers enough to win the Heisman even if his team loses several games?  The short answer: maybe.  During his Heisman year Tim Tebow posted similar (but less gaudy) stats and it worked out for him despite a few losses.  Robinson will have to keep posting big numbers the rest of the way (and beat Ohio State?) to have a real shot.  It may be difficult given Michigan’s suspect defense and given that Robinson is undersized for a mobile quarterback (6’0 188) who carries the ball more than 20 times per game.  Time will tell if he hoists the Heisman this year, but until then he can be satisfied with his inclusion on this list of the Best Individual Performances in a Game.  Welcome Denard, for what may not be your only trip. 

1) Ron Artest vs. Duke

No one knew who Artest was when this game happened.  In fact, this game was set during Duke’s string of incredible, title winning teams so not many people remember an in-season game.  That said, everyone knew who Artest was after this game (which catapulted him into the Draft Lottery).  Quite simply, Ron Artest took the consesus number one team in the country to double overtime…by himself.  Every time Duke took the lead, Artest would improbably hit a three at the buzzer or score in some other ridiculous way.  He finished with more than 40 points and so dominated the game that I still remember it to this day.  This is the moment for Ron Artest that I choose to rememeber: a bull of a small forward refusing to let his team die – as opposed to the crazy person whom NBA fame destroyed.  Ironically enough he recaptured some of his big game mojo by dominating game seven against the Celtics. 

2) Curt Schilling 2004 ALCS Game Six against the Yankees

As a Yankee fan, this one hurts.  However, you simply cannot ignore the fact that this is one of the greatest pitching performances in playoff history.  This was more epic than Schilling’s earlier playoff performances in the World Series against the Yankees when he played for Arizona (A very underrated tag team effort by Schilling and Randy Johnson in which they carried the team to the title).  As’s Bill Simmons wrote about the performance:

“What can you say?  What can you say about Curt Schilling?  How many words are enough?  This wasn’t just an ankle sprain.  His right sock was covered in blood, thanks to three sutures (?!?!?!?!?!) holding together his dislocated ankle tendon…This time it was leaking blood.  He didn’t care.  The team needed him.  So Schilling kept pitching.” 

 Could not have said it better myself.  An epic playoff performance that numbers cannot fully justify.  He put the team on his back and inspired them to finish their comeback from being down 3-0 to their hated rivals. 

3) Michael Jordan’s final game as a Chicago Bull vs. The Utah Jazz

What else can be written about this performance?  It was one of the greatest singular moments in sports history.  Jordan did not have the best game of his career…but there was no way in hell he was losing this game.  He did whatever he had to do.  He got the foul line 20 times; he made a ridiculous steal to set up his game winning jumper; he made the game winning jumper and sealed the fate of Karl Malone’s titleless career.  Indomitable and unforgettable.

4) Mike Vick vs. Florida State

No, not “the State of Florida” but Florida State for the  NCAA Championship.  Vick, as a freshman, had carried his team to the title game and then improbably gave them the lead against the undisputed number 1 team in the nation.  Alas, they could not hold on for the win (Peter Warrick decided he was not going to lose to anyone and that he was way better than the VT corners, reeling off something like 12 tds in five minutes) but there has never been a more electrifying performance in a title game than this one.  Vick cemented his tag as the qb of the future here, until his…well you know…although he has seemingly returned to form this year. 

5) George Mason vs Everyone

The one true shocker in NCAA Tournament History, and probably the most unlikely Final Four Team ever.  They played like a team with nothing to lose and knocked off programs whose fans were going into cardiac arrest with every shot.  George Mason fought through several nail biters during their improbable run and remain a true March Madness classic in every sense. 

6) Denard Robinson vs Notre Dame

What else can be said about this one? 

What did I miss (because there are dozens of other performances surely)? 

Let me know in the comments.

Welcome to The Cover Corner – Why I Love Sports

Welcome Sports Fans (or Fans in general) to The Cover Corner where we cover all sports while examing them through multiple facets in order to entertain and enlighten readers on the elements that make sports great.  

Why do I think sports are great?  Let me count the ways:

1) Sports have the unique ability to unite unlike any other medium in the world – What else has this ability?  The G20 Summit?  Not quite, thanks again Anarchists.  Nothing.  The collective love of a team can literally stop war.  Exhibit A: the World Cup

2) You never know what you are going to get year to year – Your team can start 0-5 and make the playoffs.  They can go 5-0 and miss the show.  They can run the table at the end of the year or lose out and blow the box.  Nothing else is as consistently solid and entertaining as sports.  Yes, we have to watch young, (at times) spoiled multi-millionaires act out our fantasies of playing a game for a living but…it is entertaining. 

3) Any given night, any given team can win – And they can celebrate…  Take Boise State vs. Oklahoma from the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. 

No one gave the Boise Broncos a chance against the all mighty Oklahoma Sooners  – and they ended up with one of the greatest and most shocking performances in the history of sport.  Unbeliveable, their were more trick plays than a pee-wee game.  We want these “I cannot believe that” moment and sports is the only thing that gives it to us constantly.  If you are craving a mind-blowing experience, sports is the perfect place to get your fix. 

4) The Options – Pick a league, any league and you will find something to watch.  (Except the WNBA – seriously how has this league possibly survived?)  Trust me on this one…there is always a game on somewhere.  Additionally, there are always people ready to sit down at the bar and share a pitcher (and their opinions) while the game is on. 

5) The Playoffs – What else causes more unshaved men at any one time? 

Sports is a unique experience and we are all the better for it.