Image: Ben Templesmith, Flickr Creative Commons
I'm a pretty astute amateur observer when it comes to football. It's a shame I didn't play in high school and college. I think I really could have made a decent career at being a scout or position coach. For example, I was incredibly pumped when Atlanta signed running back Michael Turner a few years ago. He was a lightly used backup for Ladanian Tomlinson, but I could tell he was going to be great. I was right. (By the way, I expect Turner to last a little longer than some experts expect entirely because he was so lightly abused in his four years in the league.) I knew Matt Schaub was going to be a great passing quarterback when he left Atlanta. The guy has been crazy productive in Houston.
I thought Matt Ryan was going to be a good quarterback in the NFL, although I did disapprove of Atlanta's drafting of him. At the time I knew the team was too weak in other areas to be able to allow a rookie QB to succeed. Turns out that the relatively new front office at the time was much more competent than Falcons fans were used to. I now know to give General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and Coach Mike Smith the benefit of the doubt.
I knew Calvin Johnson was going to be a beast. He has been.
I even predicted that Detroit and Buffalo would both have winning records this year, although I admit I would not have guessed the Bills would overcome a 21-0 deficit to beat the New England Patriots, who had been playing incredibly well until that point. How is it that I was the only person on earth who seemed to realize that Ryan Fitzpatrick, a Harvard alum quarterbacking for Buffalo, was a perfectly competent starting quarterback before the season started?
Despite all of this evidence of my genius, I have to admit that I was completely wrong about Cam Newton. The guy was incredible in college, although he always seemed awkward when attempting a pass. I thought there was a chance the guy could succeed in the NFL, but no way would he be any good as a rookie on a team as bad as the Carolina Panthers. His physical talents wouldn't dominate NFL defenders the way they did in college. In the pre-season and even now, the guy still looks funny trying to throw the ball, but the ball always seems to go to the right place at the right time. He did throw three picks in his second game, but I'm willing to give a first-year quarterback a little slack when he's doing everything else right. His physical talent doesn't carry him as far as it did in college, but a relatively tiny defensive back trying to bring him down in the open field during a planned keeper or a scramble is a pretty funny mismatch.
I had thought I was being vindicated yesterday when Newton only threw for 158 yards after he threw for 422 and 432 yards in his first two games. Then I looked more closely at his numbers. The guy may have only thrown for 158 yards, but he threw one touchdown and didn't have a single interception or fumble in a game where part of the stands flooded during the game from the torrential rain. That's not bad. He wasn't being asked to throw the ball as much as he did in the first two games because of the conditions and score, but he didn't screw up, and there's a lot to be said for that.
Just don't be surprised if the guy ends the season having been exposed as a flop. Like I said, I'm not always right.