Newton was named the league's Most Valuable Player at NFL Honors on Saturday night, winning 48 of the 50 possible votes from The Associated Press. Tom Brady and Carson Palmer each earned one vote, but their closing arguments in Week 17 of the regular season diminished any chance to steal votes. Newton didn't leave much room for debate, closing out his season with 26 total touchdowns and one interception in his last eight regular season games.
The votes were taken before the wild-card round of the playoffs, but Newton's performance in the postseason only confirmed his spot at the pinnacle of NFL quarterbacks. He is one of the best short-yardage and red-zone runners in the league. The threat of his running helps make Carolina the most diverse running game in the NFL. Newton's rushing ability (636 yards and 10 scores on the ground) puts him over the top, but that's not why he was the game's best player this season. Newton's development as a passer is what made him nearly impossible to stop.
"I would also like to thank (Panthers owner Jerry Richardson) for the opportunity to be the face of an organization when a lot of people didn't approve of his decision," Newton said in video message recorded before the show. "I would also like to thank every person that has doubted me because you made me better. Dab."
We have often heard over the last few months that there's never been a player quite like Newton. His ability to become more like many other great quarterbacks, however, lifted his game to another level. He improved his decision making. He looked off safeties more than ever and became more decisive by reading defenses before the snap. His accuracy, always streaky, rarely wavered for long. And he threw the ball with great anticipation, in sync with a group of unheralded receivers.
The surrounding talent in Carolina has often been an issue for Newton -- who also won Offensive Player of the Year honors -- but this season he became the type of player who lifted teammates to another level. Suddenly Ted Ginn is the closest thing to a No. 1 wideout on a team favored in the Super Bowl. Jerricho Cotchery's career has enjoyed new life, and Devin Funchess has adapted to the pro game well. Carolina's excellent pass protection, offensive coordinator Mike Shula and running back Jonathan Stewart deserve assists in this award, but let's be clear: This is the Cam Newton offense. They are just along for the ride.
It feels like Cam owned the entire 2015 season, and we were just along for the ride. He just needs one more big game and he will reach a status few football players ever achieve.