The real surprise would have been if Newton had not won the award. But that didn’t even come close to happening. Newton received 47 of the 50 votes. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton received the other three votes.
In many other years, Dalton’s season would have been enough to earn him the honor. But Newton had no ordinary season.
Although the Panthers only won six games, you could make the argument Newton had the best rookie season ever by a quarterback. He set a new rookie record for passing yards and became the first player in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 500 yards in the same season. Newton also set an NFL record for rushing touchdowns (14) by a quarterback.
Despite the losing record, Newton brought hope to a franchise that had been very down. Carolina went 2-14 in 2010 and coach John Fox wasn’t retained. He was replaced by Ron Rivera, who joined with general manager Marty Hurney in making what many viewed as a risky decision to use the first overall draft pick on Newton.
A lot of skeptics wondered if Newton would be able to run an NFL offense after running what those same skeptics said was a very simple offense at Auburn. Although the lockout prevented Newton from working with coaches until the start of training camp, it didn’t take him long to grasp the offense.
He earned the starting job in training camp and opened his career in spectacular fashion, passing for more than 400 yards in each of his first two games.
Although Carolina’s defense was decimated by injuries, Newton and the offense continued to improve as the season went on.
During the season, Newton talked frequently about how the losing bothered him. If Carolina can just improve its defense a bit, Newton’s not going to have to endure many more losing seasons.