Is Cam Newton the player RGIII should have been?

at FedExField on November 4, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.

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Robert Griffin III will make headlines and trend on social media whenever his name is brought up. After the initial questions of “What does this mean?” after signing his two-year $15m deal with the Cleveland Browns it brought about a period of reflection.

 

The 2015 season – one in which we saw RGIII slip into the abyss – was perhaps the most intriguing for all kinds of reasons. One of which was watching Cam Newton take that next step and blossom into a top five quarterback and crowned MVP in a season where he had no number one wide receiver and the expectation was that would catch up with them eventually. Perhaps that ‘eventually’ came in the Super Bowl.

 

When looking back at Newton’s MVP season and reflecting upon the entirety of RGIII’s gut wrenching rollercoaster in Washington a stark hypothesis was formed: is Cam Newton the player we all hoped RGIII would become?

 

This is in no way to suggest that Newton would not develop into the player he has become – He’s too good not to, but when looking at their 2012 and, in some aspects, their 2013 seasons they were both on around the same pace in every statistical category as well as what they needed to work on mechanics wise.

 

Their physical build may be chalk and cheese but their but they have more similarities than differences. While Newton terrified linebackers with his defensive lineman-like size when scrambling or on a designed run, Griffin was simply too fast – two completely different ways of playing yet both styles achieved great results.

Newton’s biggest knock as a rookie in 2011 and his sophomore year thereafter in 2012 was his mechanics. Newton always missed high – very high in fact – Carolina fixed that by building a basketball team around him with Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. It was not too long ago that Newton was widely regarded as having the worst footwork of an quarterback when in the pocket.

 

RGIII has also had mechanical issues often not setting his feet, unable to go through his reads and his biggest one of all – being unable to protect himself. The Browns signal caller was forever getting lit up in and out of the pocket lacking basic awareness and the inexplicable inability to slide when running in the open field.

 

For their first two years it appeared as though both master of the ‘dab’ and RGIII succeeded in spite of themselves and could only get better if they developed as hoped. One did and one did not it is quite that simple.

 

But when watching back over some of Newton’s games last season a realisation hit me that: everything Newton did in 2015, the stats, the Fantasy Football darling, league MVP and so on. Weren’t all these expectations that Griffin III was expected to reach? In fact when it was clear Griffin was no longer the same QB football fans, and Washington fans especially, almost felt cheated. This was not the quarterback they all raved about.

 

Although Newton has been in the NFL one year longer Griffin was seen as a once in a generation QB – that is some statement. Both won Rookie of the Year honours – Cam in 2011 and Griffin III the following year. Their 2012 seasons were almost identical:

 

Robert Griffin III   Cam Newton
3,200 Passing yards 3,869
20 Passing TDs 19
815 Rushing yards 741
7 Rushing TDs 8
5 INTs 12
213.3 Passing Yds/G 241.8

 

Newton has always been regarded as a freak of nature. High hopes have always placed upon him since he was the number one overall pick in 2011 and whenever you are the number one pick it’s more expectations than hopes that are high. Cam has done what he was drafted to do: become a franchise QB and take the Carolina Panthers to the next level. He did that in every department in 2015 and rightly won the MVP award while torching every defense he stepped up against.

What made RGIII so intriguing was the amount of picks the Washington Redskins gave up to move up to the number two spot and snag him. If the heat was not already on at being the number two pick then it surely was on now after seeing what Washington had to sacrifice for him. The 2012 Rookie of the Year was seen as a generational player, the best of the bunch when talking about Newton, Andrew Luck – who was the number one pick in 2012 – Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. So both had huge expectations and both met them – although while Cam proceeded to meet the ever loftier ones, perhaps even exceed them, Griffin simply broke NFL fan’s hearts as he was never the same player after his knee injury against Seattle Seahawks in the wildcard round of his rookie campaign.

 

Both men possess, or at least possessed, a lot of similar qualities. However Newton has left Griffin, and many other quarterbacks for that matter, in his wake. It’s hard to watch the Panthers powerhouse pick apart defenses without thinking that the former Redskins read-option specialist could have been at the same level – if not better.

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