Cam Newton is having a sophomore slump, right? Analysts far smarter than me have found this to be a trend that will emerge and wanted to get my thoughts in on the topic. The young quarterback has sulked and pouted and fumbled his way to a 1-3 start and has clearly been surpassed by other shiny young quarterbacks.
Wrong. It’s our perception that has changed, and perception is everything. A quarterback wins, and the F-Bomb-laced tirade is a sign of his fiery nature. He loses, and it’s a sign that he is a loose cannon and lacks leadership qualities. A player sits silently on the sideline after a loss, he’s not a leader. But God forbid he is caught carousing with his teammates down 20 with 3 minutes left on the sideline! Then, he’s not serious and doesn’t care enough.
Set aside all the psycho drama, though, and the only difference between Cam Newton this year and last year is that he has thrown it less frequently through four weeks. His completion percentage and yards per attempt is up. His interception rate is slightly up, but that’s the difference of one throw or one bounce at this point. He’s running the ball the same, and has accounted for almost exactly the same number of touchdowns and turnovers as the same point last year.
Here are the numbers through four games each of the last two years:
The one that sticks out is pass attempts. Through four games this year, Newton has thrown 56 fewer than at the same point last year. So far this year, the Panthers are running 11 fewer offensive plays than their opponents (57.25 to 68.25); last year, they had 15 more plays per game than their opponents through the first four games. This split is unsustainable. It can result from both positive and negative factors – turnovers and special teams errors giving opponent shorter field versus longer, third down rates, defense giving up big plays versus long drives, etc.
Yes, Newton fumbled at a key moment in the last game against Atlanta. Descriptively, we can say he is slumping, if that means anything. Predictively, his numbers look better. Interceptions are rare and volatile, and his rushing numbers, completion percentage, yards per attempt and touchdown rate are better than the same point last year. The difference is how we perceive him.
[photo via US Presswire]