Before Cam Newton's early-season troubles gained a foothold, few questioned his trajectory as the NFL's next superstar.
Newton's rookie campaign was a revelation. The Carolina Panthers quarterback blazed into uncharted territory and left us with nobody to compare him to. He was Ace Boogie. He was The Dinosaur. He was Superman.
He was the next Vince Young?
That's the parallel SI.com's Don Banks drew Tuesday when weighing Newton's marvelous first-year campaign with his troubled second-season that's left the young passer looking more dud than deity. We don't agree.
Wrote Banks: "Consider the similarities: Both quarterbacks won hugely celebrated national titles in their final collegiate season, then entered the NFL to great fanfare and acclaim, becoming the first passers selected in their class and going on to win the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year award and earn a Pro Bowl trip."
"With their size, speed and blend of running and passing skills, both inspired breathless talk of 're-inventing the position' at the NFL level, taking by storm a league that's always on the lookout for the next big thing, especially at the game's glamor spot. But by year two in the pro game, questions and issues about their maturity level surfaced, and their response to the inevitable failures that come with life in the NFL started to provide a stark contrast with their ultra-successful collegiate careers. Their learning curves steepened, and opponents discovered, with study, new ways to defense their rare play-making skills."
Banks acknowledges where Newton and Young take a fork in the road. Cam was a far superior passer as a rookie and his ability on the ground is unprecedented. Cam's troubles in 2012 mirror what so many sophomore NFL passers endure. The league is catching up.
"Here's the bottom line," said ex-Colts general manager Bill Polian. "People have had a year to study him and study his skill set, and study how they built this offense around him," Polian told Banks. "And in doing so, they've figured out ways to counteract his unique skill set of being able to both throw and run the ball. So now he has to make sure he gets the help he needs and makes the appropriate adjustments."
If you're inclined to label Newton a bust-to-be, why compare him with anyone? Young and Newton are not prototypically similar players. Newton has no predecessor.
We know where V.Y. wound up, but Cam still has time to outgrow these comparisons and become his own player. It's premature to sing songs of his destruction.