When you simply glance at the headline, you might think Smith is selling rookie Cam Newton short. Smith says Newton is No. 3 on his list.
But when you read Smith’s words and think about them, this one is not difficult to understand. Although all indications are that Newton and Smith have developed a very strong chemistry, Newton hasn’t been in the league for a full season.
He’s fared very well through the first 11 games. If Newton keeps doing what he’s been doing and Smith, who is under contract through 2012, stays healthy, the rankings could change. There already is no doubt Newton is the most physically talented quarterback the Panthers have had.
But Smith has a good memory, and that’s why he ranks Jake Delhomme at No. 1. I know a lot of Carolina fans were down on Delhomme as he left at the end of the 2009 season. But Delhomme had a nice overall career in Carolina and he had a strong bond with Smith.
The two were teammates from 2003 through 2009, and they shared a lot of big moments. But Smith’s pick at No. 2 is somewhat surprising, again on first glance.
Smith went with Vinny Testaverde. Although Testaverde was with the Panthers for a little more than half of the 2007 season, he was at a point in his career where he had a big impact on Smith.
When Delhomme went down with an elbow injury that season, backup David Carr didn’t work out. The Panthers lured Testaverde out of retirement and he quickly brought a strong presence and leadership skills to the locker room. At that point, Testaverde was more than willing to share the wisdom he had collected through the years.
Smith said he learned a lot from Testavrede, and still uses many of those lessons.
So, after you really think about it, it’s not all that surprising Smith ranked Newton third on his list. Smith was with Delhomme for a long time. Smith also benefitted greatly simply by being around Testaverde. Newton hasn’t been around long enough to have a lasting impact on Smith. At least not yet.
Plus, Smith is a pretty smart guy. Although he’s given Newton plenty of praise this season, it would be out of character and not a great idea for Smith to go ahead and put a rookie at No. 1.
Newton’s off to a very nice start, but there still is a lot of work to be done.