Updated: January 29, 2016




By Tony McClean, Editor-In-Chief Emeritus



EDITOR’S NOTE: With Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California approaching, we here at BASN will be commemorating the upcoming event with our own special flavor. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be bringing you little tidbits and other insights about Carolina’s dynamic field general Cam Newton leading up to his team’s showdown with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on February 7th.


Today: Cam Year One.



NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN) — When one thinks of the kind of rookie season that Cam Newton had when he made his debut in 2011, two words instantly come to mind — sudden impact. The Panthers were a dreadful 2-14 (the second worst record in team history) the year before Newton arrived.



Even the early expansion years had been kinder to the Panthers. Many of the key players from their NFC title squad (i.e., DE Julius Peppers, QB Jake Delhoumme, WR Muhsin Muhammad) of 2004 were either with other teams or out of the league completely.



While they finished 8-8 in 2009, the bottom finally dropped out a year later. Head coach John Fox and his entire staff were dismissed and within two years, GM Marty Hurney was shown the door as well.



Ron Rivera took over as head coach in 2011. While players like WR Steve Smith and Pro Bowl LB Jon Beason were stalwarts for the team, the biggest problem for the team was an obvious need for a quality quarterback.



Fox used three signal callers that year: second round pick Jimmy Clausen (1-9) as well as journeymen Matt Moore (1-4) and Brian St. Pierre (0-1). When Newton was drafted in April, he was all but handed the job from day one.



As we mentioned in Part Two of this series, the start of the 2011 NFL campaign was delayed by the owners’ lockout of the players. There wasn’t the usual mini-camp for draftees and free agents right after the draft that has become a staple for all teams.



Despite these obstacles, Newton was able to overcome all of that and not only thrive but put together the greatest season ever for an NFL rookie quarterback. Just a quick look at the marks No. 1 set that year were:


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— Most total yards by a rookie quarterback: 4,799.


— Most total touchdowns by a rookie NFL player: 35 (21 pass, 14 rush).


— First rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season.


— First rookie in NFL history to throw for 10 touchdowns and run for 10 touchdowns in a season.


— First rookie to throw for 400+ yards in his first career game.


— Second most passing yards by a rookie in a season: 4,051.


— Second most rushing yards by a rookie quarterback: 706.


— Second most passing yards by a rookie in a game: 432, on September 18, 2011 vs. Green Bay.


— First rookie in NFL history to pass for more than 400 yards in back to back games, September 11, 2011 vs.Arizona and September 18, 2011 vs.Green Bay.


— He and Andy Dalton were also the first pair of rookie quarterbacks to make the Pro Bowl.


As a team, the Panthers had the biggest year-to-year offensive improvement in their history: they were dead last in 2010, and moved up to 4th offensively in 2011.


They became the first team in NFL history to have three players with 700 or more yards rushing in the same season: running back DeAngelo Williams with 836, running back Jonathan Stewart with 761 and Cam Newton with 706.


Carolina also set the team record for net yards with 6,237 yards, breaking the record originally set by the 2004 team. Ironically, Carolina’s defense was ranked last in the league.


With Rivera trying implement a new scheme, they allowed the fifth-most total yards in the league on defense in 2011, and the sixth-most points.


Their pass defense gave up 7.6 yards per pass attempt (tied for worst in the league), and their 6.2 yards allowed per play was tied for third-worst in the league. Needless to say, things would change down the road for Rivera and the defense.


In short, Newton more than proved to his critics that he could make the transition from college to pro. In subsequent seasons when the team struggled, those same critics returned stating that Carolina made the wrong decision drafting Newton.


As Newton prepares for his first Super Bowl, the noise and scrutiny being heaped upon him still exists. Whether it’s complete ignorance or out-and-out racism, No. 1 seems to thrive on it.


In fact it fuels him in many ways on and off the field. While much has been made of his “swag” and “dabbing”, at the end of the day, Newton is rewriting the narrative on what a “real quarterback”

should be.


NEXT: Doing time in Gainesville.



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