Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Newton faced same draft digs as Manziel
By David Newton
Questions about his ability to adjust to a more traditional pro game and work under center. Questions about his character. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them. Has an enormous ego and carries a sense of entitlement. Not a leader by example.
All of those descriptors were things said and written about Auburn quarterback Cam Newton prior to the 2011 NFL draft in which the Carolina Panthers made him the top pick.
These are also the same things being said about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel heading into the 2014 draft.
Newton has proven most of his naysayers wrong, going to the Pro Bowl in two of his first three seasons and leading the Panthers to a 12-4 record and NFC South title this past season.
Stay tuned on Manziel.
Manziel also has to overcome something else Newton did -- the recent stigma that Heisman Trophy quarterbacks don't translate into successful NFL quarterbacks.
There have been 15 Heisman quarterbacks over the past 25 years. They have compiled a record of 159-203 (.439) during that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information. None has started in the Super Bowl and there have been only five Pro Bowl appearances among the three -- Newton (2010 Heisman) 2, Carson Palmer (2002) 2 and Robert Griffin III (2011) 1.
The average length of their careers is 3.8 years. Palmer is the only Heisman quarterback during this span to play 10 years. Seven have played three or less, although Newton and Griffin are on pace to surpass that.
The Panthers understand. They selected 2000 Heisman winner Chris Weinke in the fourth round of the 2001 draft. The former Florida State quarterback went 1-14 as a rookie starter and 2-18 as a starter during his NFL career.
Maybe Newton's success is why Manziel, the 2012 Heisman winner, consulted him several times during the NFL offseason and a few times prior to that.
"Being another Heisman Trophy winner I got a chance to really reach out to him probably in the spring, this summer, sometime through there," Manziel told reporters at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. "I probably had a two-hour conversation just getting to talk about everything, just about the people he has around him, what has made him so successful.
"Very fun-loving, fun-natured guy. I'm really thankful to be able to pick up the phone and call him if I ever did need anything."
Manziel has his critics, and Newton certainly had his prior to the draft. ESPN.com columnist Gene Wojciechowski wrote this after the Panthers picked Newton:
"If you can take a flier with the No. 1 selection, the Panthers just did it. Gush all you want about Newton's athletic measurables (jaw-dropping) and his college football body of work (two national titles, a Heisman Trophy), but I wouldn't have touched him at No. 1 with a goalpost.
"Newton is a walking red flag. I question his ability to make the transition from Auburn's 'Please-Cam-Make-Something-Happen' spread offense to a sophisticated pro playbook. I question his past. I question his future.
"Newton has a history of proving skeptics wrong and his trophy case right. But the Panthers overreached Thursday night. They just don't know it yet."
Manziel will face similar criticisms if selected in the first round, particularly if Houston takes a flier on him with the No. 1 pick. He can only hope to overcome them as quickly as Newton has.
It didn't take long for Wojciechowski to change his mind. After watching Newton pass for 422 yards in his NFL debut, he wrote:
"It wasn't a debut, but a revelation. It was the kind of game -- even though his team lost -- that made you think, He can't make it look that easy, can he?
"Cam Newton can, and did. He wore his 2011 draft status on his jersey (No. 1), but didn't play like a rookie making his first-ever NFL regular-season start. He played like he's been in the league for years, not months."
Newton has proven that what is said about a player on draft day doesn't have to be a precursor for the future.
That will be Manziel's challenge.