Found June 19, 2013 on Football and Futbol:
PLAYERS: Cam Newton
TEAMS: Carolina Panthers
The NFL has officially changed. The days of the stand in the pocket, immobile quarterback, are now over. Not saying that the Drew Brees’, Peyton and Eli Mannings and Tom Brady’s of the world, aren’t good anymore, because that isn’t the case. They’re still four of the best QB’s in the NFL. However, with the additions of the Russell Wilsons, RGIII, Cam Newton’s and Colin Kaepernicks of the world, the game has officially been changed. The knock on the running qb’s used to be, that they couldn’t succeed in the NFL because they were “system” Quarterbacks coming out of college and couldn’t adapt to the NFL game. Most college teams run the spread option. That spreads out the field and allows the quarterback the option of either passing, handing the ball to the RB, or running himself. This is a very simplistic offensive system designed for college QB’s who are athletically inclined, yet inexperienced passers. Usually the knock on the guys like Alex Smith and Michael Vick to an extent, was that they played in a system that allowed them to succeed with their athletic prowess as opposed to their true ability as a passer. And this was true. Usually the guys who came out of a spread, or read option system found it hard to find success in the NFL, or if they did, it took them longer to find success as an NFL Quarterback a la, Alex Smitty. But then something happened. The college game evolved, or in the NFL’s case, devolved. More and more teams made the switch to the spread option. They saw the success of Oregon, and Utah, and Florida (and now Ohio State under Urban Meyer) and Auburn. Quarterbacks got more athletic, more complete as passers, and as athletes. Guys like Heisman Trophy winners, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow burst onto the college football scene and took the country by storm. Big, strong, fast, athletic, with a HUGE arm (Sans the huge arm for Tebow). Two years ago, the Carolina Panthers took a relative risk on drafting Newton. He was the complete package some people said. How was it a risk then, if he was the complete package? Well, he was a system quarterback, whose game did not involve standing his ground in the pocket and making throws under pressure. In fact, the system he grew up in at Auburn was invented to protect against that. Newton was best on his feet, and making plays outside of the pocket. This, in the NFL, did work to a certain extent. Steve Young is an example of a mobile quarterback, a guy who could make plays with both his arm and his legs. The fifty yard run against the Vikings in ’92 comes to mind immediately. But Young’s game was to scramble when a play broke down, or when the pocket collapsed. He could also stand in the pocket and hit his receiver in the numbers under pressure too. Young was pass first, run second. Newton was the opposite. Newton’s game is run first, sit in the pocket second. This wasn’t how the NFL ran its offenses. They were distinctly pass first, scramble as the absolute last resort offenses. Designed either around short, accurate passing, like the West Coast Offense, or running the spread with QB’s who would throw the ball 60 yards and hit his receiver in the hands, in stride. The risk with Newton was that, while he had the ability to throw the ball down the field (and the team found out a little later that he was very accurate), he would not be comfortable standing in the pocket and throwing down field. His game was to rely on his athleticism to beat defenses, rather than his decision making and his accuracy. So, Carolina, one day, ingeniously, changed the game. They drafted Newton with the purpose of changing their offense to utilize Newton’s athleticism. They simplified it, taking out several passing packages, shortening the playbook to fit Cam’s creativity and allow him to make plays on his own, with his legs first, THEN his arm. It also helped that he had one of the best receivers in the NFL in Steve Smith (who doesn’t get enough credit, because he’s small, and plays on a bad team, but the guy is consistently one of the best receivers in the league). Cam came in and took the league by storm, defenses couldn’t catch up.  He won rookie of the year, unanimously, and had over 4,000 yards passing, 21 Passing TD’s and 700 yards rushing including fourteen, FOURTEEN! Rushing touchdowns, the most for any quarterback ever. Let alone a rookie. He paved the way for the read option in the NFL. Newton, not Vick* made NFL coaches realize that adding a QB who makes plays with his feet adds a new element to the offense. It’s like having a twelfth man on offense. The game changed that year. NFL offenses now became more aware of the athletic “rushing” Quarterback, and instead of changing the QB to fit the system, they changed the system to fit the QB. That’s why you saw last season the influx of guys who use their legs first to make plays. Guys like RGIII, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are now going to be the norm of the NFL, and the “pocket passer” will go by the wayside. There’s an offensive revolution happening right now in the National Football League, and we’re seeing happen before our eyes. It’s an exciting time for football today. Lets see if this can last.   *Note: Vick’s problem was that he was before his time as a QB. He is just as athletic, albeit smaller than Newton and Kap and RGIII and Luck, but he made some plays that not even those guys could make with his feet. Unfortunately, his size did him in, and the time he entered in the league did him in. He was forced to adjust to the Falcons system, rather than the Falcons (and later the Eagles) adjusting to HIM. The adjustment around the league has been made, and on a more micro scale, with the Eagles hiring of Chip Kelly could be great for Vick. But, unfortunately for him, it is too little too late. He is too banged up, and too old to really make a difference in the league.  

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