Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Jan 2016

Film Room: Cam Newton

by Cian Fahey

For five years, the perception of Cam Newton as a person has mattered more than the reality of Cam Newton as a player.

Newton entered the NFL amid a storm of character concerns that stemmed from draft evaluators attempting to act as psychoanalysts and a handful of (relatively minor off-field incidents from his past. Since the Carolina Panthers selected Newton with the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, the quarterback has done nothing to suggest he has character issues (unless nearly dying in a car accident that wasn't his fault counts as a character issue). Instead, he has continually improved as a player on the field.

Newton's development from his first year in the NFL to this season has truly been a thing of beauty. It's the kind of development that teams dream of when they select a physically talented quarterback. It was fair to call Newton an athlete playing quarterback when he was a rookie. He threw for more than 400 yards in each of his first two games, but he wasn't showing refined technical ability or discipline as a passer. He finished his rookie season scoring 35 total touchdowns, including 14 as a runner. Newton had the ability to find receivers downfield with his arm talent, and he had enough awareness to run a relatively simple offense. He was a very talented and impressive rookie, but he was still a typical rookie in that he repeatedly made mistakes that smart quarterbacks don't make.

Over the next couple of seasons, Newton would begin to show flashes of what he could become.

He went from primarily focusing on one receiver, to consistently making half-field reads, to finding the comfort required to read coverages from sideline to sideline. The more he did it, the quicker and smarter he became. His instinct to run the ball remained, but it began to slowly dissolve as well. Instead of panicking when the pass rush closes in on him or rushing his throw, Newton now shows the kind of poise that has allowed quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to sustain their success for more than a decade. When Newton does move his feet, he does so subtly to reset in the pocket or escape from a free defender to extend the passing play -- the passing play, not the play. Newton extends plays to throw the ball downfield. He keeps his eyes up while on the move and only runs when running is the best option. This maximizes the potential gain of each play.

Newton's development has been such that it will be an injustice if he doesn't win the MVP this season. Sure, there are many players who have played well in 2015 -- Carson Palmer particularly stands out -- but nobody has done as much as Newton. The quarterback's consistency over 16 weeks, his performances while playing with a limited supporting cast in an offense that puts a huge amount of stress on the quarterback, and his ability to perform in big moments at the end of games have separated him. Nobody else stacks up. Nobody else could even run the offense that the Panthers ask Newton to run. That's not just about athleticism; the rookie version of Newton would have had no chance of playing well in this offense.

In 16 games this year, Newton threw for 3,837 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, while rushing 132 times for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns. He completed just 59.8 percent of his passes, but he wasn't an inaccurate passer. Newton's low completion percentage can be attributed to the quality of his receivers and the system in which he plays. While most of the NFL has become fascinated with efficiency, the Panthers have focused on finding big plays.

As the above chart shows, the Panthers have been extremely aggressive in pushing the ball downfield this year. Newton didn't have a single throw that landed further than 50 yards away from the line of scrimmage, but he did have 15 that landed 40 or more yards from where the ball was originally snapped. With Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery, and Devin Funchess as his primary targets, the Panthers weren't built to be a short-passing offense. They couldn't rely on their receivers to run precise routes or consistently catch the ball to incrementally move down the field. Instead of trying to force them into an offense that would make the quarterback's job easier, they put the onus on Newton to complete downfield throws.

Furthermore, he had to do it while throwing to players with limited catch radii and without a great offensive line to give him time and space. The Panthers were so concerned about their offensive line that they regularly used seven-man pass protections to tip the coverage numbers further in favor of the defense.

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On this play against the Indianapolis Colts in overtime, Newton throws what should have been a walk-off touchdown to Ted Ginn. He does everything perfectly, but Ginn watches the ball bounce off of his hands. It's something that happened with great regularity for Newton this season. This drop cost him a momentous play because it would have led directly to a victory, but it didn't take away from how impressive Newton's actions were. His pass protection broke down immediately, allowing a defender to run clean through the middle of the pocket. Interior pressure rattles most quarterbacks, but Newton shows poise to hold the ball just long enough so he can release it cleanly downfield.

While releasing the ball with that defender in his face, Newton throws a perfect pass to Ginn. The velocity stands out, but so does the placement, as the pass could not have arrived in a better way for his receiver to simply run through the ball and into the end zone. Ginn's drop was completely a result of his own poor hands and concentration.

For most quarterbacks, this play would easily have been one of their best for the whole season. For Newton, it's just one that he was expected to make on a regular basis. Newton completed just 60 percent of his passes, but his accuracy rate was 77.1 percent. And a 77.1 percent accuracy rate while throwing the ball downfield under pressure isn't logical.

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This play comes from the fourth quarter of the Dallas Cowboys game. Newton and the offense are facing a second-and-19, but down-and-distance is less important to an offense that can consistently get chunks of yardage. On this play, Newton recognizes that the defense is in Cover-3 and uses his eyes to hold the deep safety to the wide side of the field. Newton knows that he is coming back to Greg Olsen on the back side of the play, but he has to hold the ball to give his tight end a chance to get downfield. The offensive line doesn't blow a protection completely this time, but the left guard is beaten quickly so there is a defender in Newton's face as he releases the ball.

Newton knows where the window he wants to hit is, and he is able to fit the ball in perfectly to Olsen despite the defender in his face. Olsen catches the ball at the first down marker, so this throw travels more than 20 yards when you consider the angle and where Newton releases the ball from.

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Of all of Newton's throws from this season, many of which could be argued as his best, this one against the Atlanta Falcons was probably his toughest. The quarterback had another throw from this game, a touchdown to Ed Dickson, that drew a lot of attention and was also extremely impressive, but the precision required on this pass while facing pressure should have been overwhelming. Newton put the ball in a spot where only his receiver could get it and pushed it away from the defender recovering from the outside. The Falcons were playing Cover-3 on this play and Corey Brown ran a corner route from the slot. The cornerback outside played his coverage perfectly, covering the shallow receiver while reading Newton's actions, turning to close on the corner route as Newton began his throwing motion.

Because Newton can control the ball with such velocity and still control the trajectory and accuracy, he could beat the cornerback's coverage. Newton's pass should not have been able to get to its final spot before the defensive back, but it did. Your typical starting quarterback in the NFL is forced to take a sack on this play or attempt to check the ball down to a covered receiver.

While these throws are the foundation of the Panthers' passing game they alone are not what has made Newton so impressive this season. They are a big part of it, but if the quarterback wasn't also playing with intelligence and precision in everything else he does, he would be limiting the output of the offense more than he was elevating it.

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The structure of the Panthers' offense means that Newton does not always have to diagnose coverages at the snap to get rid of the ball instantly. Because they so often prioritize keeping eligible receivers in to block, Newton's job is often about finding a way to get the ball to a specific receiver rather than finding the open receiver. This means he has to be very smart in how he attacks coverages, sometimes fitting the ball into tight windows with anticipation and other times manipulating the coverage with his actions in the pocket. On this play against the New York Giants, Newton has just three receivers running routes downfield while seven blockers stay in to protect him. The Giants don't blitz, so it's three receivers against seven defenders downfield.

Newton knows that he will have time, but he also knows that his receivers' routes are going to play into the thick of the Giants' coverage. The Giants showed Cover-3 before the snap. Corey Brown, lined up to the right of the field, is the receiver Newton focuses on from the beginning of the play. Brown is either running an option route or a double-move. Either way, Newton has to set up his route with a hard pump fake to impact the defensive back to his side of the field. His pump fake is perfectly timed with the receiver's break to bait the defender into jumping forward.

This play was all about Newton's intelligence. The throw was made much easier by his arm talent, but Newton had created a huge amount of separation for the receiver outside.

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Patience has been a huge part of Newton's success this season. He knows when to get rid of the ball, but the structure of the offense requires that he doesn't rush his throws. On this play against the New Orleans Saints, Newton drops back in the pocket behind a seven-man protection. His receivers downfield are well covered, so the quarterback has to hold the ball. His protection doesn't hold up despite the numbers advantage. Newton shows off impressive awareness and athleticism to evade the pass rusher who comes off the right side of the offense. Once Newton evades that sack, he is in position to threaten the line of scrimmage as a runner.

In previous years, Newton likely would have attempted to run through the two defenders converging on him. With his extra experience and comfort, he understands that his tight end who had initially stayed in to block has now leaked out as a receiver. Newton threatens the line of scrimmage to draw the defenders further towards him before throwing the ball outside. Ed Dickson is the tight end that catches the ball. He has a simple task of turning upfield to run down the sideline unopposed.

On a play where the Saints defense covered the Panthers receivers and got pressure in the pocket, Newton created a 20-yard gain.

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Athletic quarterbacks who are reluctant runners are extremely difficult to defend. Not only do they force defensive backs and linebackers to stay in coverage for longer than expected, they also change the point of attack and threaten the line of scrimmage while staying aware of options downfield. When that quarterback is smart enough to understand situational football, he can become impossible to defend. On this play against the Giants, Newton should be sacked, but he is able to use his awareness and athleticism to escape the pocket. It's notable how he keeps his eyes up from the moment he escapes into the flat.

Newton keeps his eyes up because he knows he won't immediately have a chance to run for a first down. He understands the coverage from when he surveyed it in the pocket. He understands that the defense is in zone, waiting to react to him when he scrambles. Had he dropped his eyes to run once he left the pocket, the Panthers would likely have forced a fourth down. Instead, he locates an uncovered Jerricho Cotchery on the sideline for a first down.

Ron Rivera and Dave Gettleman deserve a lot of credit for turning the Panthers into a team capable of winning 15 of 16 regular season games. It may not be the greatest year for the NFL in terms of quality across the board, but that is still a significant achievement for any team. What makes it fascinating is the team wasn't really built to be this consistent.

When the New England Patriots went 16-0 in 2007, it wasn't necessarily expected, but it wasn't a complete surprise either. The Patriots had quality throughout their whole team. Every position could point to a quality player or two to contribute positively to victories on a regular basis. The Panthers aren't built like that. The Panthers are a team that is reliant on using their areas of great strength to elevate their areas of weakness. It's much tougher for teams that are built like that to be consistent over a full season because a handful of players have to play extremely well every single week or they have no chance of winning. It's not rational to expect any player to consistently play to that level for more than a couple of weeks at a time. Along with Luke Kuechly, Kawann Short, Thomas Davis, and Josh Norman, Newton has managed to sustain that level of play for the whole season.

Newton stands out more than his teammates on the defensive side of the ball though. He is the only superstar-level player the offense boasts. He was tasked with the toughest assignments of anyone on the roster because of this. He was immediately able to elevate his teammates from the start of the season. That wasn't surprising, but it was surprising that he was able to sustain that ability. It was shocking when he began to elevate his own play further over the second half of the season.

We can compare his efficiency numbers to the other quarterbacks in the league. The quarterbacks who thrive from completely clean pockets. The quarterbacks who have ball-winning receivers who erase the need for accuracy. The quarterbacks who throw to dynamic, creative runners who can create yards after the catch on screens and other simple throws. Or we can be realistic. We can actually assess how rare a talent the Panthers passer is. We can actually acknowledge how high his performance level has been each week. We can appreciate how important he has been to his team's 15 victories this season without feeling compelled to diminish it by pointing to Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman.

Maybe it's inconvenient for some, but Cam Newton is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL now. He was the best in 2015.

Posted by: Cian Fahey on 07 Jan 2016

89 comments, Last at 12 Jan 2016, 11:13am by tuluse

Comments

1
by panthersnbraves :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 1:17pm

It appears your graph jibes my contention that this year that Cam's low completion percentage is that he just doesn't bother with the short passes. If the pre-snap read isn't there for something deep, it would seem that he'll check to a run instead. I read somewhere that Cam had the 3rd highest yards per completion? If true, who are 1 and 2? Are similar completion charts available for other QB's?

Thanks for taking the time to do all this research.

6
by pablohoney :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 3:01pm

Pro-football-reference.com includes yards per completion (Y/C) in their standard QB stats and is sortable (their site is awesome):
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2015/passing.htm

Carson Palmer is #1 and Jameis Winston is #2. I'm a little surprised to see Andy Dalton all the way at #4 and Roethlisberger "only" at #7.

10
by jacobk :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 4:21pm

Carson Palmer has more yards per completion than Cam. He has a higher completion percentage than Cam. His passer rating and ANY/A blow Cam's out of the water. He's played a tougher slate of games. His team's passing offense has an 18% DVOA lead on Cam's. His team won its division and finished slightly behind Carolina. But Cam's the unanimous MVP?

I mean, we could throw together a bunch of gifs of great throws Palmer's made, if that would sway people.

11
by panthersnbraves :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 4:38pm

Yes, but the thing is, Cam is doing it with players who can't even make the Cardinals roster! You can't have Ginn back, but let's do a thought experiment. let's swap Bersin for Fitzgerald - do you think Palmer would drop more that 3 places?

19
by jacobk :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 6:29pm

Is the MVP for the player who had the best year, or for the guy who would have had the best year if only his teammates were better? Bersin for the year has 9 catches on 11 targets. If you want to swap him with Jaron Brown, I don't think the Cardinals miss a beat.

How far do we go with this grading on a curve stuff? Russell Wilson has been running an offense that takes up very little cap space and in three wide receiver formations for the bulk of the year represented the following draft investment: One first round pick, one second round pick, one third round pick, one fifth round pick, one seventh round pick, and five UDFAs. He also led the NFL in passer rating, led the #2 offense by DVOA, threw for 4000 yards, and had a team passing DVOA more than 20 points better than Cam's team.

How about Brady, playing with a semi-healthy Gronk and whoever Belichick can find in the parking lot each week?

Instead of imagining what Cam might have done I think the best way to give the award is to look at what actual players actually did and give the award to the guy who played the best. Newton's performance isn't on the same planet as Palmer's, and he's lapped easily by Wilson and Brady.

23
by panthersnbraves :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 7:49pm

In the end it comes down to how you personally define "Most Valuable." There are those who might think that is is sad that JJ Watt is pretty much locked out on two counts - mediocre team and his position... What we are discussing here is what demonstrates more value - taking Hall of Fame level receivers and putting up the best passing numbers in the league vs using your legs and a receiving corp built of average Joes to come within a touchdown of having a perfect regular season?

Everything after that is finding evidence to back your position. Palmer had a great year, but he had a great set of tools. Wilson came on late, but had a bunch of losses and some of the wins were against weaker teams. Brady started strong, but ran out of band-aids (note that the Pat's also played the NFCE and AFCS like the Panthers). Cam went MacGyver and turned a paper clip, some string, and a piece of gum wrapper into a magical run (yes, that includes two wins against the historical Saints Defense...).

Since I am a rags-to-riches, InVinceAble, Blue Collar kind of guy (and coincidentally happen to follow the Panthers), I choose CaMVP.. You are welcome to your choice.

24
by WeaponX :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 7:59pm

You don't have to grade on a curve to see Cam is the MVP, you just have to open your eyes and watch football.

Sometimes I even trip myself out.

25
by jacobk :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 8:35pm

You watched every snap by Carson Palmer this year and found him wanting? And your personal eye test is able to adjust for level of competition?

26
by WeaponX :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 8:50pm

So you're advocating adjusting for context of performance?

Sometimes I even trip myself out.

29
by jacobk :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 11:12pm

Carson Palmer has been the best quarterback in the NFL this year by most metrics. He's been way better than Cam by every metric. If you want to make the case that your gut and/or eye test say Cam should win, then give me a reason to believe your gut and eye. I mean, if you want to persuade anybody.

30
by WeaponX :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 11:18pm

Enjoy your opinion and go ahead and get comfy with the reality of CAMVP :)
Sometimes I even trip myself out.

31
by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 12:00am

Lol...its replies like these that you know its pointless arguing back.

34
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 2:10am

I see that enough in my Twitter mentions. We don't need it here. I'd still vote Palmer for MVP. I can't ignore how disappointing the Seattle offense was for the first nine games this season. I can't ignore how unimpressive Newton's season was before Week 9. Palmer was the best over 16 games, but he lacked the hype and had to play Seattle twice instead of New Orleans. Perception wins out.

37
by panthersnbraves :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 10:02am

last two thoughts:
1. Palmer threw about 50 yards more per game, with the same TD count and one more INT than Cam, but Cam makes up the yardage difference in Rushing, and then has 10 more Touchdowns.
2. I know we Cam supporters point to the supporting cast, but we've been programmed by Hollywood to celebrate the ragtag bunch lead by the charismatic, fun-loving, anti-establishment hero:
Little Giants
Necessary Roughness
Down Periscope
Black Sheep Squadron
A-Team
It should not be a surprise that Cam's 'Play' is what we 'Value' the 'Most.'

13
by techvet :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 5:20pm

Michael Floyd. John Brown. Larry Fitzgerald. David Johnson. I think Cam would love to have one or two of those. This is not for most outstanding player or best team - it's for the MVP and when a washed-up ex-Jets receiver is getting passes, something is going right and I say that as a Packers fan.

65
by sewells1951 :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:07pm

You do realize that the people vote for the MVP don't you? The person who gets the most votes is the MVP. All the rest is hot air. If they wanted to devise a statistical algorithm and have that decide the MVP then that is what they would do. It seems there are still many competencies where human judgement is superior in ineluctable ways to mechanistic algorithmic decision making. If they vote Carson Palmer the MVP then he will be the MVP. If they don't, then he won't. Same deal with Cam Newton or anyone else. The person who gets the votes is the MVP.

2
by D :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 2:03pm

Newton's development has been such that it will be an injustice if he doesn't win the MVP this season. Sure, there are many players who have played well in 2015 -- Carson Palmer particularly stands out -- but nobody has done as much as Newton. The quarterback's consistency over 16 weeks, his performances while playing with a limited supporting cast in an offense that puts a huge amount of stress on the quarterback, and his ability to perform in big moments at the end of games have separated him. Nobody else stacks up. Nobody else could even run the offense that the Panthers ask Newton to run. That's not just about athleticism; the rookie version of Newton would have had no chance of playing well in this offense.

I have to disagree. Yes, Newton had a limited supporting cast, but he also faced the weakest schedule of opposing defenses of any QB in the NFL and while someone like Palmer probably could not run the type of offense the Panthers run, I doubt Newton would be successful running the Cardinals' offense.

4
by VagusNC :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 2:30pm

Against common opponents with Arizona, Newton performed admirably. I find the latter argument not a very strong point. Montana likely could not have run the Cardinals' offense successfully. All quarterbacks are system QBs to a degree. There is no real way of knowing whether or not Cam could run that system successfully. He has demonstrated the arm strength, accuracy, and awareness to do so.

7
by D :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 3:26pm

All quarterbacks are system QBs to a degree. There is no real way of knowing whether or not Cam could run that system successfully. He has demonstrated the arm strength, accuracy, and awareness to do so.

But that's part of my point; the article argues that no one else could have run the Panther's offense, but we don't know if Newton could have run any other offense either.

58
by sewells1951 :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 5:42pm

Did it occur to you how much of that "weakness" came from losing to the Panthers? Most of those "weak" teams would have been not so weak at all had they beat the Panthers. Panthers scored the most points in the NFL and gave up the sixth fewest points.

59
by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 6:03pm

They played the nfc east and the afc south. No amount of panthers brownie pts will convince ppl that those divisions didnt royally suck this year.

67
by WeaponX :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:10pm

Let's not forget those divisions had to play NE and Tom Terrific *genuflect* too!
Sometimes I even trip myself out.

3
by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 2:05pm

Newton's actually second in yards per completion, about a hundredth of a yard ahead of Jameis Winston--only Carson Palmer has more.

Another reason for his relatively low stats are drops, like you can see in the first GIF; Newton's receivers do NOT lead the league in drops, but a significant proportion of them came deep down field. No one in football lost more yards from drops than Newton did this year.

5
by RickD :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 2:34pm

"No one in football lost more yards from drops than Newton did this year."

Not even Brandon LaFell?

(zing)

8
by MustafaSmith :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 3:57pm

While some of Newton's low completion percentage can be explained by pass distance, the majority is due to Newton's low accuracy. Comparing him to Ben Roethlisberger, another downfield slinger, you can see that Newton has a significantly lower completion percentage at every depth than Roethlisberger. I'll also throw Carson Palmer into the mix, as he's another downfield gunner who is Cam's direct competition for MVP.

Completion percentage by distance, per ESPN "splits" tab:

Distance in the air Cam Carson Ben
Behind LOS 76% 79% 89%
1-10 yards 64% 69% 75%
11-20 yards 54% 64% 59%
21-30 yards 33% 37% 39%
31-40 yards 32% 39% 38%
41+ yards 36% 15% 42%

(note that 41+ yard passes represent an extremely small sample size - less than 3% of attempts for all 3 of these vertical QBs)

Some of that can be explained by receiver quality, where Newton is in sharp contrast to the other two. However, Newton's completion % by depth is not significantly different this year than it has been in each of the past 4 seasons, so if his low completion percentage were due solely to receiver quality then you would need to argue that he's been held back by poor receivers every year. Having watched only a few of Cam's games throughout his career, I would also note that throwing a 90mph rocket at a receiver's chest does not automatically make it an accurate throw - part of the QB's job is to throw a catchable ball, and from casual observation of Cam it seems he has a tendency to over rely on his fastball.

I'm not anti-Cam, I'm just sick of the excuse parade that this year's MVP race has become. It seems like this year's MVP is all about "coulda, woulda". Newton's mediocre conventional stats (outside TD% and running) are excused by his "poor supporting cast". Brady's MVP argument is centered around overcoming so many injuries to other players. MVP should be about who did the most - instead, it's become an exercise in imagining what X player could have done if only Y had occurred. So when we get yet another excuse about Cam this year - this time, his completion % - it riles me up a little bit. Yeah, Palmer's weapons were mostly healthy, but he put up some fantastic numbers. Stop with the coulda woulda when we've got a guy who actually pulled through with what he was given.

9
by tuluse :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 4:17pm

Until they change the name of the award to Most Productive Player, context should be considered.

12
by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 4:50pm

if his low completion percentage were due solely to receiver quality then you would need to argue that he's been held back by poor receivers every year

This is absolutely true. By receptions, the leading Carolina wideouts of the Cam Newton era are:

* Steven Smith (who left two years ago)
* Brandon LaFell (currently shouldering a chunk of the blame for New England's late-season collapse)
* Jerricho Cotchery (joined Carolina in 2014 after three years as Pittsburgh's third- or fourth-best WR)
* Ted Ginn (changed teams four times in four years because nobody thought he was worth retaining)

And this year Smith and LaFell (and Kelvin Benjamin) are gone and it's down to just Ginn and Cotchery. People don't appreciate how truly terrible the Panthers wideouts are this year.

For god's sake, Cam Newton's best wideout this year (Ginn) was Palmer's fifth-best guy last year.

14
by MustafaSmith :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 5:43pm

So we should just close our eyes and imagine how good Cam would have performed this year if he had an all star cast of receivers, and hold our nose at the good but not great stats he put up?

Since 1999, there have been 13 winners of the MVP award who were QBs (6 unique winners - Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Warner, Mcnair, Gannon). If Cam were to win MVP this year, here's how his season would stack up:

1. 8 of the 13 winners were the league leaders in ANY/A in their respective seasons. Of the 5 remaining, 3 came in #2. Newton is #6 this year.

2. Newton would have the lowest completion percentage among all 14 MVP winners and would be the only MVP QB since 1997 to win MVP with a completion pct lower than 60%. In 1997, MVP Brett Favre's 59.3% completion pct was 6th best in the league. Cam is 28th.

3. 13 of the 14 MVPs had more passing yards than Newton did this year. The 14th was a co-MVP.

Since we're on a site that values DYAR, here are the 14 MVP seasons since 1999, ranked by DYAR (Palmer and Newton 2015 seasons included, for effect):

Name Year - DYAR (league rank)
1. Brady 2007 - 2674 (#1)
2. Manning 2013 - 2475 (#1)
3. Manning 2004 - 2434 (#1)
4. Rodgers 2011 - 2059 (#2)
5. Brady 2010 - 1918 (#1)
6. Manning 2003 - 1891 (#1)
7. Warner 2001 - 1805 (#1)
8. Manning 2009 - 1771 (#3)
9. Palmer 2015 - 1702 (#1)
10. Warner 1999 - 1586 (#1)
11. Rodgers 2014 - 1564 (#2)
12. Manning 2008 - 1554 (#2)
13. Gannon 2002 - 1470 (#1)
14. McNair 2003 - 1344 (#3)
15. Newton 2015 - 763 (#10)

The median MVP winner has 1771 DYAR and is ranked #1 in the league. Newton's DYAR is just 43% of that amount, and he is ranked 10th.

17
by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 5:50pm

Nobody is arguing that Cam has great numbers. We are arguing that his numbers don't reflect how great he has been, and then giving context that explains why.

18
by D :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 6:15pm

Yes, but you are ignoring other important context, most notably that Newton faced the weakest slate of opposing defenses of any QB in the NFL.

62
by sewells1951 :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 6:46pm

Did you actually calculate this or is it simply your impression that the Panthers faced the weakest slate of opposing defenses? If you calculate the average rating of opponents defenses it works out to 19.625. 16 - 17 would presumably be average. If you calculate the Cardinals figures, they played defenses that averaged 16.81 ranked. Not that much different than the Panthers and since they lost two more games than did the Panthers, that would seem to indicate a rough parity between the two teams to me.

You have to remember that part of why the defenses the Cardinals and Panthers played looked bad is because those defenses played the Cardinals and the Panthers and for the most part got their heads handed to back to them.

76
by D :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 9:58pm

I'm pretty sure you are a troll, but I'll just point out that according to DVOA the Panthers' opponents had a collective DVOA of 4.9% (remember positive is bad for defense) which is the worst figure in the league by a decent margin. The Cardinals' opponents averaged 0.4% DVOA, the 19th toughest schedule in the league.

20
by panthersnbraves :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 6:29pm

Item 2 - may I point out that he is ONE reception below 60%? and we already discussed how many open-field drops his receivers have had... any one would have negated this magical number...

35
by BJR :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 9:15am

And we conveniently limit the list to wideouts ,and don't mention multiple Pro-Bowl Tight End Greg Olsen. Or is he only putting up great numbers because of Newton?

16
by CincySaint :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 5:45pm

Distance in the air Cam Carson Ben
Behind LOS 76% 79% 89%
1-10 yards 64% 69% 75%
11-20 yards 54% 64% 59%
21-30 yards 33% 37% 39%
31-40 yards 32% 39% 38%
41+ yards 36% 15% 42%

Source? Not that I'm doubting you, just because I'd like to tinker with some of those numbers, too.

15
by CincySaint :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 5:44pm

Deleted

21
by themothership :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 6:40pm

Hypothetical question I have to think about----how would you rank the QBs going into 2016? If the premise is, which QB do you think will play the best in 2016 how would you go about it?

The reason I ask this is because you have someone like Newton who has been the best this year but who before last year would have been miles behind guys like Rodgers and Brady. You have Carson Palmer in a similar spot. And then you have who would have been everybody's unanimous pick Aaron Rodgers playing nowhere near at that type of level this year. So how much basically does this one recent season change your view of QB hierarchy in the grand scheme of things where it was clearly Rodgers>>>>>>>Newton and Palmer before this year from 2011-14?

And then you have the older QBs like Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Phillip Rivers still playing well but aging every year. And you have some solid up and coming QBs like Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, and Teddy Bridgewater. Then there are guys like Russell Wilson whom Im still trying to figure out if there recent top notch play is going to be more representative of what we see from them going forward or will it be more what we saw from late 2013-mid Nov 2015?

If I had to go about it here is how I might.
1) Aaron Rodgers
2) Cameron Newton
3) Tom Brady
4) Ben Roethlisberger
5) Phillip Rivers
6) Carson Palmer
7) Russell Wilson
8) Tony Romo
9) Andrew Luck
10) Drew Brees
11) Jameis Winston
12) Matt Ryan
13) Marcus Mariota
14) Derek Carr
15) Eli Manning
16) Teddy Bridgewater
17) Jay Cutler
18) Andy Dalton
19) Matthew Stafford
20) Ryan Tannehill

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by panthersnbraves :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 7:26pm

Here's something we did over the Summer - we kept getting caught up in the whole "No, he's 8th, not 10th!" mess depending on which stat you personally feel is more important, and so decided to put this together as a group project. I would note that we had Palmer in kind of a holding pattern, since we couldn't know back then how he was going to do after the injury...

http://www.catscratchreader.com/2015/5/22/8645747/ranking-nfl-quarterbac...

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by bpeterson464 :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 4:23pm

You're doubting Wilson but giving Rivers a pass? And you're not wondering if Cam is going to regress back to what he was, while not being sure about Wilson?

I'm personally much for skeptical of Newton, simply because of his history of inconsistency, which was put on display again this year. More than 1/3 of his games he went for under 200 yards, in nearly 2/3 he completed less than 60% of his passes, and in a quarter he threw for fewer than 6 Y/A. You can't blame all of those on his receivers, well, maybe you can for one of the games under 60%, but the rest were pretty much all on Cam.

Then you've got Wilson, who had one game for less than 200 yards (the last game against AZ, where he sat the last quarter), had only one game where he completed less than 60% of his passes, and only had two games under 7 Y/A, and none under 6.

Wilson also wasn't much worse in rushing, it was mostly just a difference of where they ran, in the redzone or between the 20s.

I'm not trying to say that Newton is bad, just that if you want consistent performance from a QB, and not something more sporadic, you should go with Wilson.

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by themothership :: Sat, 01/09/2016 - 7:32pm

There alot of posts since I made this I'll try to respond to the ones most relevant to mea nd what I said

I mean we are talking about Russell Wilson with this "newfound" level of play over a stretch of five games or so. And alot of them are against some weak defenses. And this comes after what was basically 2 years of mere solid but hardly spectacular play from late 2013 till about mid Nov 2015. So yes, there are still some questions about Russell Wilson. Absolutely dominating low level competition in teh regular season for 5-6 weeks doesnt mean all that much if come playoff time Wilson doesnt look so great. Cam Newton has been tearing it up all year long, a 17 week showing vs Wilson's strong 5 week output against largely suspect defenses. Cant really compare the two.

I dont really focus all that much on % completion percentages, particularly in an offense like Carolina where with that receiving core you cant necessairly build a dink and dunk offense around. As Cian mentioned this offense is really designed to push the ball down the field, completeion % isnt the measure that matters, it's overall success. And clearly Carolina's offense has been a resounding sucess this year. If we are going to pay to any one stat in particular(and Im not big on emphasizing one stat) yards/attempt is what I like to focus on. Cam was 6th this year. Wilson was 4th.

Im also not sure how I'm really giving Rivers a "pass" for this year. Individually there were some bad games but this was still another good showing by him considering the circumstances. Few if any QBs on a down to down basis are asked to do as much as Rivers and with as little help to boot. Look at the burden of responsiblity given to Rivers vs a guy like Russell Wilson on a play to play basis in their schemes; Rivers is just given alot more to do and overcome.

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by theslothook :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 10:41pm

Any argument you make about supporting casts, you can make about tom brady, yet strangely only newton seems to have that argument be used as bullet pt 1 on his mvp candidacy.

Furthermore...how far are we going to extend this supporting cast argument? Is palmer justifiable only if he throws for 5k yards and 50 tds? Wouldnt people just move the goal posts even more in that case?

Apparently, to justify an mvp these days, it seems you need to have a record breaking year combined with injuries to your o line and receivers.

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by panthersnbraves :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 12:18am

I conceded Brady has had WR issues of late, but he started with better, and now that his cast diminished, his performance fell further. Regarding counting stats, Carolina runs more than anyone and has a lot fewer attempts, and as noted above, those that ARE attempted tend to be riskier throws... so if you are in a high passing offense, I am going to expect your percentages and your yardage to be higher as a baseline, yes.

I don't think anyone here is going to "Most Value" a 'Captain Checkdown' kind of passer.

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 12:30am

I'm not opposed to using subjective assessments to decide who gets the mvp. Of course supporting casts are a big deal. I think they are important in close races. But, as others have mentioned, Carson dominates Cam across the board in stats - yet that gap gets completely(and conveniently) explained away by impossible to define - supporting casts- argument. "Put Cam on the cardinals, and he throws 40 TDS! OR maybe 50? Or hell, he probably sets the record!" We'll never know, but that's the beauty of the argument - it allows people to make any kind of claim and they are impossible to refute.

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by theslothook :: Thu, 01/07/2016 - 10:59pm

People should check out the seahawks blog field gulls and the article on why newton isn't the mvp. And its not written w an angle that it should be russel wilson(though i personally feel wilson's case is stronger than cam's)

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by Guest789 :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 9:38am

I clicked on this page leaning slightly Cam for MVP. After reading the article and all the comments, however, I have to say that if I had a vote, it would to Palmer. They're both fine candidates though, and I won't be upset either way.

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by thecatsmeow :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 11:28am

I feel like people advocating Carson Palmer are leaving out a key dynamic - Cam's rushing ability and ever-present threat. I (and it seems FO, as well) believe Cam's unique style is poorly served by the current analytics used here. They are wonderful and informative, but Cam falls into a crack with a numbers system based on the more conventional player.
Let's concede that in pure passing numbers that Palmer was top dog. Would it not to be fair to say that Cam was at worst 5th or 6th all things considered? Now, one does not win MVP by being the 5th or 6th best passer as a QB UNLESS....
that very same person is a top notch Running back as well! Newton was top 10 in YPA. Top 5 in rushing TDs and 1st downs. Those numbers aren't for QBs. He was that against everyone in the NFL, including running backs. To gauge that some, Russell Wilson was next best QB at 33rd.

Carson Palmer accounted for 4,695 total yards and 36 TDs. That accounted for 71.88% of the yards and 70.59% of the offensive TDs.
Cam Newton had 4,473 yds and 45 TDs. Or 76.19% of yardage and 83.33% of the offensive TDs.
That seems clear that he was more VALUABLE. Carson had a very good season but Cam was transcendent in what he meant to his team. He has finally earned legit top 10 passing QB discussion but pairing that with the fact that he is the single greatest rushing QB in the history of the game it is foolish for anyone to be anything closer than a distant second. His combination of size, power, speed, field vision to go with legitimate passing ability has finally matured. Only Steve Young came close to showing that type of combination of skill sets and Cam just tied Young's 15 year career rushing TD records in week 17 of his 5th season!!

Lastly, I would like to address the complaint that Cam has had such a weak schedule. First off when a team goes 15-1 the numbers are going to reflect poorly on your opponents win loss record.
Carolina SOS was .441. The opponents were 113-143. If one removes Carolina playing them it is a 112-128 record and still a mediocre .467.
Arizona mind you was only .477. Opponents going 122-134. Removing their games equals 119-121. That is a whooping difference of 7 games out of the 240 (256 if you want to factor back in the games each team played). Not really the monumental advantage that many anti-Carolina/anti-Cam commenters have been portraying. The defensive rank of Carolina opponents were 19.625. Arizona's were 18.5.

Quick related note: Since Palmer was completely a passer without the rushing dynamic, let's look at the passing defenses he faced - NOR 31st, Pitt 30th, Philly 28th, SF 27th (twice), STL 23rd (twice), Cleveland 22nd and Cincy 20th. So there were 9 chances for Palmer to pad some of those pretty passing stats against weaker opponents to say the least.

Anyone trying to use the quality of competition, defensively or otherwise, against Newton is equally tearing down the argument in favor of Palmer.

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by BJR :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 1:59pm

You may well be getting somewhere with your argument about Cam's rushing value, and its inability to be measured fully and accurately by advanced stats.

However, if you are going to argue on this site, you need to do better than using W-L records and raw yardage when it comes to referencing strength of schedule. According to DVOA Arizona's average opponent was 5.3% better on defense than Carolina's, a small but significant difference over the course of a whole season. And St Louis are ranked 8th in DVOA pass defense (not 23rd), Cincinnati 10th (not 20th) and Philly 15th (not 28th). There is no way around the fact that Cam played an easier slate of defenses than Palmer (or anyone).

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by thecatsmeow :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:21pm

Fair point. I suspect that AZ faced slightly better defense than Carolina. But I would argue that each of those teams got a, as you say small but not insignificant, boost by playing and/or beating AZ whereas the skill of Cam may have played a role in diminishing the defensive ranking of his opponents.
Said differently, (and I admit it becomes a circular argument), if Cam Newton was the MVP and so unique this year his performance had a larger impact on his defensive opponents than any other single player and thus make their quality and DVOA numbers look worse for the experience and is a large percentage of that "5.3% better on defense" crux of your argument. Just a thought and I hope that didn't sound dickish, it wasn't my intent.

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by jacobk :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 1:23pm

Fun fact: Football Outsiders measures the value of a QB's running plays as well as a QB's passing plays. They even use the same units to do so (DYAR) so they can conveniently be combined together.

Let's look at a few guys' Pass DYAR + Rush DYAR:
Palmer (1702 + -10) = 1692

Wilson (1192 + 122) = 1312

Newton (621 + 142) = 763

By far the majority of a quarterback's job is passing. When a guy is really really really good at passing he's going to be more valuable than a guy who is just really good is passing, even if the latter is also a good runner.

Let me just anticipate the next argument: Newton's abilities as a runner open up holes for other runners because the defense has to account for Newton on every play. Where would that show up? How does it compare to the value of a proficient passer in un-stacking the box? Let's just give Newton the credit for the whole offense. How does his team stack up against the offense run by Russell Wilson, or the offense that has to deal with the burden of a non-running QB like Carson Palmer?

SEA Offense: 18.5% DVOA
ARI Offense: 15.8% DVOA
CAR Offense: 9.9% DVOA

As to the "does it alone" argument: how did the Arizona offense look just last year with Drew Stanton or Ryan Lindley? How does it look now with Palmer? Can you name a non-Wilson player responsible for Seattle's offensive performance this year?

I like Cam. I felt he was underrated coming into the year. But he's not the most valuable player in the NFL.

40
by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 1:45pm

I really like doug baldwin

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by BJR :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 2:21pm

It seems to me that DYAR does a poor job of measuring a QB's rushing value. If we are to take DYAR literally (which I believe we are supposed to?) it suggests a replacement level QB would have rushed for ~500 yards in Carolina's offence, which really doesn't pass the smell test. The baseline for QB rushing is obviously skewed by the fact that only the good rushing QBs are likely to attempt rushes in the first place.

Still, your numbers do a good job of illustrating the deficit Newton has to overcome from his passing in order to get close to Palmer. Even if we give Newton credit in the calculation for all his rushing yards he's still a good way short.

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by tuluse :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 2:31pm

It means a QB with replacement level rushing abilities, but facing the exact same situations would produce about 500 yards. Which means a QB who has Cam's passing abilities, but not his rushing.

It also means probably a few more fumbles or missed TDs and not always more yards. Cam had 10 rushing TDs which means at least 10 rushes where he probably could have got more yards had the end zone not been there. It's hard to account for that sort of thing.

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:01pm

Exactly - its not assuming a replacement level passer is inserted into Cam's offense. I'm not sure who is a good replacement level rushing qb...maybe the current mike vick?

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by tuluse :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:08pm

Looking at the QB rushing table, Andy Dalton is pretty close to a replacement level QB rusher. He has 150 yards on 42 rushes, so if he had 119 rushes like Newton, that would be about 450 yards.

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by BJR :: Tue, 01/12/2016 - 9:37am

There's obviously no way to prove this, but I have to believe that if a player like Dalton was to scale up his rushing attempts by a factor of three, the results would be disastrous in terms of fumbles/injuries. The value of Newton being able to sustain such a rushing workload, whilst remaining productive, does not seem to be adequately captured by DYAR.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 01/12/2016 - 11:13am

Well I don't think anyone has ever claimed DYAR measures injury likelihood.

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by thecatsmeow :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:09pm

I must disagree that you can easily combine the Pass DYAR and Rush DYAR to get the combined value. RB DYAR is never going to be able to compete with the Passing because the average yards gained are so wildly different.
I could go into all the minutia about what the average yardage per play for a RB is and percentiles but I think I can show you one example using the FO stats that will make it crystal clear instead.
Adrian Peterson was beastly in 2012. over 2000 rushing yards and had the #1 DYAR by nearly 100 points over the 2nd best RB. But his DYAR was a "mere" 458.
This year, Alex Smith DYAR was 467. Jameis Winston was 469. There is no intelligent person that would say Smith or Winston were better at quarterbacking in 2015 than Adrian Peterson was at running the ball in 2012. So it clearly is not an apples to apples comparison.

And I would argue Cam is far more instrumental in opening holes for other runners. Moreso, I would argue that Cam does deserve even more partial credit for performing as a lead or downfield blocker more often than Palmer or Russell ever do so.
DYAR is a useful and wonderful tool. But it is merely one tool and even if it is the most useful tool in your toolbox it is poorly suited to the unique talents and usage of a player like Cam Newton. It's like using your adjustible wrench as a hammer - IT may work in a pinch but it will bend a lot of nails and possibly break your good wrench.

And I would add other arguments:

I have seen many say "Palmer beats Cam in every metric". Yet at the biggest moments of games Cam trounced Palmer statistically. In the 4th quarter of games within 7 points Cam had a 110.8 rating. Palmer a respectable but lesser 101.5. Far more drastic was how each performed in the final 2 minutes of every half. Cam had 7 passing TDs and 1 INT - 109.7 passer rating. Palmer was an abysmal 3 scores with 3 turnovers for a 69.0 rating. Isn't that largely what we grade QBs on, How do they perform in the clutch with the clock and the scoreboard looming large?
And speaking of pressure situations Cam was leading a team that was 5-0, then 8-0 then 10-0, then 14-0. That is a whole another level of mental stress to deal with both internally and from outside influences. That should count for something. I am willing to hear the debate but to play, hell improve, while having that additional weight for over a month that no other MVP contender had must count for something.

Cam was much better in the redzone (43-70, 24 TDs, 0 INTs 112.7 rating) even if you never bring up his 10 TDs that he rushed in. Carson in the redzone - 43 of 79, 25 TDs, 1 INT 100.7 rating.

And versus the blitz:
Cam 106-187, 19 TD, 3 INT, 109.1 rating.
Carson 118-185, 11 TD, 5 INT, 101.9 rating.

So in every pressure situation we commonly assess quarterbacks in, 4th quarter, 2 minute drill, being blitzed, when trailing, in the endzone, Cam Newton has metrically surpassed Carson Palmer and by significant amounts.

I have also seen it claimed that Carolina beat Seattle when they sucked. I find this to be a suspicious, if not outright false narrative. Seattle lost to STL to start the season (but they lost by almost the identical score in week 16 when they are magically called a stud. So maybe STL just matches up well with them). Then they lost to GB. Then they trounced Chicago 26-0 and beat Detroit. Then they lost to a very good Cincinnati team in Cinncinati by 3 points and to Carolina. That looks like a team that may never of had a low in the season but instead just had 3 top notch opponents and a Rams team that has their number. Or at least it is just as plausible. Also as plausible is they had righted the ship week 3 or 4 but then had the misfortune to face better or slightly luckier teams.

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by tuluse :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:17pm

"Isn't that largely what we grade QBs on, How do they perform in the clutch with the clock and the scoreboard looming large?"

No.

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by thecatsmeow :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:26pm

I highly disagree but to each his own. Many do assess those moments more. I would say most do so because that is where the mental aspect of the game becomes most revealing. Where determination, heart, mental strength of will is best exposed.

I know it has been different for me when in contests and it seems that every single professional player and Hall of Famer says otherwise than your take. But I am sure you are right and not just trying to be clever and snarky for your side of the argument instead of having a valid debate.

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by tuluse :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:30pm

What would you prefer: a QB who plays so well there is no clutch time because the score is so lopsided, or a qb who plays average for 50 minutes and good for 10?

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:38pm

For the upteenth time - if clutch really did exist, it would show up in the data. And in all major sports, time after time, it never does.

More broadly, isn't it clutch to score early and often to force the other team to play from behind? Isn't it clutch to bludgeon your opponents so that the game isn't left to be decided in the last few minutes where a blown call, turnover or missed kick might decide the game?

If we took your logic seriously, any qb who blew out every team he faced couldn't be the mvp because he didn't lead teams to 4th quarter wins or game winning drives.

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by tuluse :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:42pm

Are you arguing with me or agreeing?

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:45pm

Srry, that was meant for the guy you were replying to.

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by thecatsmeow :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 6:12pm

You would be right except for one thing. Cam had his teams with a more lobsided score more often and with a greater lead and point differential AND he performed better in the few times that the game was still close and someone needed to close things out. So whichever side you prefer Cam outperformed Carson in 2015.

If you are asking yourself how that is possible you may want to review Carson having three losses and The Panthers having the largest point differential and the #1 scoring team in the NFL.

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by tuluse :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 6:15pm

I was not making a point about any specific player, but I was answering your question. No, I do not largely rate QBs by ignoring the majority of the time they're on the field.

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by thecatsmeow :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:11pm

Sorry if I was unclear. I was not asking you to ignore any portion. But certain portions are more important. That is why we don't catalog preseason games and why the playoffs separate the great from the super great.
I concede that Palmer was better for the full time as a passer this season. But we are not talking about the best passer award. We are talking about the most valuable player award.
Cam's rushing closes that gap, in my opinion.
Cam's blocking and facilitating covers any discrepancy that may still be in some minds.
Cam's 10+% better performance in his teams offensive output over Palmer's personal credit places Cam well out front.
And lastly, Cam's overwhelming superiority in a more pressured, scrutinized, less supported and clutch times than Palmer came close to having to deal with (and faltered more often in those cases) make it a silly argument for him to be anything but a vastly distant 2nd place.
If you want to pepper in that Cam had broke/tied HOF players records (Peyton Manning and Steve Young twice) while leading his team to a rarified air (4th team ever to go 14-0; 7th ever to be 15-1) while accounting for over 80% of their offense (also a record) and it seems like mere contrarianism to argue against what he has done in 2015 and his deserving the MVP award.

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by thecatsmeow :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 6:54pm

Allow me to quantify my statement. At the end of 3 quarters:

Carolina had a +196 differential. Or otherwise a average of +12.25 points more than their opponents. And finished with a +193 differential. So clearly their were less moments to be clutch as you wish to define it.

AZ had a +158 following 3 quarters (+9.875) and ended games with +176.

So your characterization that Cam was coasting for 5/6ths of the game and excelling (getting lucky) at the end is not right and a mischaracterization of the information I shared with you.

And, in case you are wondering, that was not because of a couple of extreme games that skewed results.

Carolina/Newton trailed entering the 4th quarter twice. Arizona/Palmer 3 times.

Carolina/Newton led by/or less than one score (8 points) 6 times. Arizona/Palmer 3 times.

Both teams led by 20 or more points 5 times each.

Even if we removed the complete disaster of Arizona's and Palmer,s final game versus Seattle (-30 points) Carolina would still beat them in the differentials

Cam had his team more in command in the time frame you are insinuating is more important than Carson Palmer. The reasons are because of the reasons I pointed out that you distorted. Cam far exceeded Palmers performance against the blitz and he put his team in a vastly superior position at half time with numerous successful two minute drills. Also he capitalized more often when he got his team into the redzone. Those are three "clutch", higher pressure moments that do not entail a final 10 minutes heroics nor condemn him to lesser play in the first 50 minutes.

If you have not deduced it already...
That also shows, since Cam had his team with a greater average 3rd quarter lead and beat Palmer in every aspect of close and 4th quarter situations yet Carolina saw a -3 points in the 4th while AZ increased by +18, that the defense on Carolina faltered often in the fourth quarter and Cam was called upon repeatedly to salt away victories he had already given his team.

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:08pm

I am just curious - do you think Cam plays like a B+ qb in the first quarter and then elevates his play late in the 4th? if you do, do you think that sort of trend continues year after year?

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by thecatsmeow :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:22pm

I had never thought of that. The numbers would say Cam does play like a B+ QB in the first quarter. Maybe even worse sometimes.

Although i would argue 90% of players take a few snaps to warm up and I'm not sure this is a Cam thing as much as a human nature thing.

I have always felt that Cam's performance improves after he gets a run or 4 under him, successful or not. He seems to feed on the running back mentality of the game. Many QBs get rattled by being hit. Cam seems to get centered.

I was not a fan of Cam being a #1 pick. I was clearly wrong on that.

I had concerns his first couple of years. When so many wanted to gripe about the towel on his head my issue was why the hell isn't he with the OC looking at the pictures to prepare for the next series, towel or not?

He took a few years to trust his teammates (He would often hand fight with his RBs when playing the option) and he has a propensity to try to do to much (his attempts to avoid a 5 yard sack by running backwards to get free resulting in an 18 yard sack still show up from time to time).

But I feel like I have gone on a tangent and drifted from your question. I think Cam, like most players, takes some time to get into the game. I think he has wisened up that he can't just win it at the end and has learned better to get a lead and play the field position game and how to read defenses (an early career weakness). But I think he still like the playground idea of being down 6 points and needing to get a TD with 1:30 left and that he perks up in the final 2 minutes of either half. That may just be my imagination but his recent performance seem to support that.

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:51pm

The reason I ask is, Aaron and others have done research to see if players really do improve quarter by quarter...and the answer is no. Eventually, everything evens out.

I probably won't convince you, but most things people interpret as "clutch" are either the result of small sample size or believing too hard in narratives. As I mentioned above, there has never been any conclusive evidence in any of the major sports to show a player being clutch. Great players play great in the first quarter and the 4th quarter alike.

Now to Cam - again, nearly all of the standard statistics show that Palmer is better, when adjusting for opponents. If you want to throw in things like offensive line and wide receives - qbr attempts to do that and still comes out with Palmer ahead. If you want to argue Cam's impact on the offense itself is better, well, Palmer has a better offensive dvoa too.

I just feel like the Cam mvp talk is basically driven by them going 15-1 and the supporting cast narrative. Tangible numbers show Palmer had a better season

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by thecatsmeow :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 9:29pm

I appreciate the numbers. I really do very very much. But you are right, due to my history personally and my history watching sports, I cannot agree their is nothing such as clutch. I would say it is not going to be perfect and it may be difficult or impossible to quantify but it is clear and their are many examples of people and players that improve in more stressful situations. More importantly their are many examples of people that crumple. Some are self destructive and others thrive on the pressure.
Even if you disagree with the idea that Player A may better handle or improve in a stressful or "clutch" moment (be it time restraint, trailing, big game, job on the line, or what have you) certainly you do not disagree that some moments are bigger and more stressful, right?
And we generally know which moments are the more important and stressful. Cam was superior in each one whereas Carson faltered often. You can argue it was just chance that Palmer played his worst in the biggest moments while Cam shined. But you cannot refute the fact that Cam did perform in those more crucial moments whether you believe it is repeatable in the future or not. Hell, it may even be in Cams favor to argue that it is not repeatable yet he accomplished it over the 2015 season. My point is whether you want to believe that some people step up at bigger moments or that it is happenstance you cannot refute that Cam was better, this year, during those bigger moments and it had a marked value to his team, their playoff aspirations and their #1 seeding. You also cannot refute that Palmer was markedly less successful at those crucial juncture.
So we return to Cam being more valuable this year. If you want to call it Luck. I call it being clutch. But the name is irrelevant for this. We could probably find a couple of dozen near interceptions or dropped balls or tipped passes that turned out "lucky" for every single past MVP winner or great performance.
Again, I greatly appreciate the research being done. It should lead to great insights. But it appears greatly flawed by the thousands of human experiences on this planet. David Hume and other empiricists did intellectual research and found cause and effect and reality does not exist. Their endeavors broadened thought and advanced science but was largely incorrect and disproven and no one decided to stand under a boulder and kick the stick holding it up because they said it wouldn't "necessarily" fall. Far dumber people than David Hume knew that the sun would rise tomorrow and they better plan ahead.

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 11:42pm

I get all of the intuitive appeal of clutch, I think my general skepticism is this: if it were so clear and so present, it would show up in the data. To that end - I fail to see why Cam can't reproduce the same quality throughout the rest of the game that he seems to save for the 4th quarter. Is he not trying as hard. Does he really need three quarters of play and only in a close game for those factors to emerge?

Its the same arguments I've heard for Terry Bradshaw and why his numbers aren't that great overall.

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by thecatsmeow :: Sat, 01/09/2016 - 3:10pm

Let me first address that I think clutch may be a bad word. Granted semantics but when having a convo like this semantics are actually very important. "Clutch" as i used it may be less than what others mean. Many will equate 4th quarter comebacks. Although that can be a clutch moment, as I mean it, it can also indicate that a QB has failed to gain the lead or maximize his team over the majority of the game as he could have (See: Romo and Ryan who are tops among 4th quarter comebacks and who are two of the most well paid choke artist, as well).
But I think we all know there is a real thing as pressure (And maybe I should instead have said "Pressure Situations"). I don't think I need a slide rule and advance calculus for everyone to know some moments are bigger or more pressurized. Be it taking a final exam versus a pop quiz. Or driving in good weather versus bad. Or on a country Road versus on a country road and a bloodhound runs out from behind the high brush. And i would say some people lock in and do better under the pressure. Others lose their composure. And this can be to varying degrees.
So let's look at the moments I referenced as "Clutch" and should have called "Pressurized":
1. Final two minutes of a half, 1st or 2nd. This may simply be that CAm is wildly more built for these scenarios. With a time restraint, especially if trailing, the running game often has to be shelved. With Cam though even if he is exclusively calling a pass play he is a top notch runner, thus defenses cannot cheat and cover 4 WRs with 7 guys because CAm will be able to gain 10-20 yards, still get out of bounds in the time the passing play would have taken. OR they continue to cover him which facilitate more completions and fewer INTs.
2. Versus the Blitz. Cam is larger, harder to tackle, more mobile
3. With the pressure of an undefeated season or going into week 17. Cam had to deal with the greater and greater weight of "Undefeated". This is not just having some data for the end game or merely 4th quarter. Not even just during the game. But day in and day out. This is dealing with 5 times the reporters and interviewers. The constant mental struggle to not overinflate yourself and to keep your teammates as the leader and captain in check. In week 17 Palmer and Cam were seen as the two frontrunners. We saw how each handled the task! Cam looked great all day, all game. Palmer looked the very opposite.

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:51pm

The reason I ask is, Aaron and others have done research to see if players really do improve quarter by quarter...and the answer is no. Eventually, everything evens out.

I probably won't convince you, but most things people interpret as "clutch" are either the result of small sample size or believing too hard in narratives. As I mentioned above, there has never been any conclusive evidence in any of the major sports to show a player being clutch. Great players play great in the first quarter and the 4th quarter alike.

Now to Cam - again, nearly all of the standard statistics show that Palmer is better, when adjusting for opponents. If you want to throw in things like offensive line and wide receives - qbr attempts to do that and still comes out with Palmer ahead. If you want to argue Cam's impact on the offense itself is better, well, Palmer has a better offensive dvoa too.

I just feel like the Cam mvp talk is basically driven by them going 15-1 and the supporting cast narrative. Tangible numbers show Palmer had a better season

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by sewells1951 :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:01pm

deleted

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by njwelch75 :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:44pm

The running backs on the Panthers totaled 88 dyar (89 if you take out Artis-Payne). Cam had 142 dyar by himself. He accounted for more than half of their running game, ignoring the higher baseline for QB runs vs RB runs. The offense ranked 8th in dvoa almost entirely because of Cam.

Can you name a non-Wilson player responsible for Seattle's offensive performance this year?

Wilson had Thomas Rawls, who led the league in rushing dyar. He also had Doug Baldwin, who is very good. He had Jimmy Graham, who didn't have a great year. Cam had Olsen and not much else.

As far as Palmer, I'm fine with Palmer as MVP. He had a fantastic year. But so many people act like Cam even being considered for it is absurd, and that clearly isn't the case.

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by theslothook :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:46pm

Its more reactionary to Cian's comment. Cam's a fine candidate - but its not 2013 PM, 2011 Rodgers, 2007 Brady, etc etc.

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by njwelch75 :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 3:56pm

Even as a Panther fan, I agree with that. This year it basically boils down to Newton, Palmer, and an alternate universe Roethlisberger who plays a full year. Brady and Wilson have played well. I'm not seeing them as MVP, but I wouldn't be upset about it.

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by Edstein :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:26pm

There is an NFL offense which leads the league in scoring drive efficiency (scores/drives), and which also ranks first in points per drive, touchdowns per drive, points per play, and requires the fewest yards per point (stated inversely, most points per yard). This offense also scores the most points per red zone appearance. Rather impressive across-the-board points efficiency, wouldn't you say? Do you think points efficiency or yards efficiency contributes more to wins?

If not knowing who this team is for the moment, would you think the QB for this most points-effective offense deserves heavy consideration for MVP, or nah? What if this QB accounts for 83% of the touchdowns for this offense (which, again, leads in every scoring efficiency metric, incl. passing TD%), would you consider it a gross injustice if he were to in fact win the MVP, or nah?

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by jacobk :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:58pm

A high points per yard ratio strongly suggests a team that has good field position thanks to a good defense and special teams. Sound like any team you know?

Football outsiders' stats have had a lot of effort put into them in order to adjust for context. The stats say that Cam has been good this year, but that Cam is well behind Brady and Wilson who are in turn well behind Palmer. It's not particularly close.

It's possible that all of the effort was a smoke screen intended to disguise an anti-Cam bias, but it seems unlikely.

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by Edstein :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 9:50pm

Defense DVOA rank; CAR: 2); ARI: 3); SEA: 4)

ST DVOA rank; SEA: 3); CAR: 23); ARI: 29)

Yeah, well; overwhelming advantage to Carolina there, huh?

The red zone stat is per appearance, not number of appearances. The Panthers had four 80 yard touchdown drives against Seattle's 4) DVOA defense, at their stadium, and numerous other such drives this season, so I think it's safe to say that the Panthers offense is not exactly dependent on good field position for scoring.

In any case, isn't your argument similar to saying Palmer should have imaginary points deducted because his receivers are so good? (No one actually says that, but some counter-arguments to Cam's consideration strawman that into the discussion.)

And this: " ... behind Brady and Wilson who are in turn well behind Palmer." Palmer, Brady, and Wilson are 1) 2) 3) in DYAR. That's "well behind"?

This site doesn't claim their analysis to be the end-all and be-all evaluation, just that it assembles stats in a way to give another perspective. They state quite openly in the "About" section that it's not perfect, and why. Like all other analyses I've come across, it seems to be a tad over-weighted in yards and accompanying derivative stats and a bit under-weighted in points and their derivative stats. And there isn't a single analytic approach I've seen that doesn't involve a significant level of judgement, ergo objectivity. That's because it's unavoidable when selectively combining two or more stats into another metric.

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by jacobk :: Fri, 01/08/2016 - 11:03pm

Congratulations on finding the DYAR rankings! In talking about an individual award it does make sense to worry about individual statistics instead of team stats, and DYAR represents the best effort I know of to create a single counting stat that accounts for individual success and the context of individual performance.

Now, this is going to get a little complicated, so bear with me. You have identified the DYAR rankings. That's good! If you move your eyes a bit to the right you will see that there is also a DYAR total number. DYAR isn't just an ordering of players, it also quantifies their performance. Amazing!

So how much DYAR have the players in question accumulated? The passing table tells us:
Palmer: 1702
Brady: 1311
Wilson: 1192
Newton: 621

Of course, Newton isn't just a passer, he's a runner too. We don't want to short him, so let's look at running stats:
Palmer: -10
Brady: 25
Wilson: 122
Newton: 142

Fortunately both metrics use the same unit, so we can combine them together using addition. Remember to add the ones column to the ones, the tens to the tens, and the hundreds to the hundreds. The resulting numbers are:
Palmer: 1692
Brady: 1326
Wilson: 1314
Newton: 763

Look at that! Wilson is 560 DYAR ahead of Newton, while Palmer is 378 DYAR ahead of Wilson. But what does that mean? Well, we have to do a little more math. This involves division, so you might want to go ahead and fire up the calculator on your computer. Ready?

I claimed earlier that Wilson was "well behind" Palmer. I apologize for the imprecision. I can tell that a mind like yours demands statistical rigor, so let's get to it. Palmer racked up 1.28 times the DYAR that Wilson did. In other words, he exceeded Wilson's output by 28%. Wilson would have needed four more games at his seasonal rate to match Palmer's output.

How does Wilson compare to Newton on this metric? He put up 1.72 times Newton's production. He exceeded Newton's results by 72%. Newton would have needed another 11.5 games to match Wilson's DYAR. Newton would then have needed another eight games to catch up to Palmer.

Newton had a good year. He greatly outperformed a replacement quarterback, and his total DYAR rank of 10 puts him solidly in the top third of the league. But once you adjust his performance for context he was not particularly close to being the highest performing quarterback in the NFL.

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by njwelch75 :: Sat, 01/09/2016 - 1:36am

Fortunately both metrics use the same unit, so we can combine them together using addition. Remember to add the ones column to the ones, the tens to the tens, and the hundreds to the hundreds.

You don't understand these numbers well enough to be this condescending. Dyar is useful, but it is not an accurate measure of individual performance. It is a measure of a player's output in a given system, with his teammates. FO's writers get this, you apparently do not.

So let's talk about those rushing numbers in the context of Carolina's rushing offense. As I mentioned above, 142 dyar comes from Cam Newton, 88 comes from the combined RBs (Artis-Payne has -1). In Russell Wilson's system, he is responsible for 122 dyar compared to 283 from his running backs (not counting C. Michael who played for 2 teams). Wilson adds value to his already good backs, but the entire Panthers running game functions because of Cam.

And really, lose the attitude.

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by theslothook :: Sat, 01/09/2016 - 1:54am

I feel compelled to point out - you start by arguing dyar is presenting the system, not the player(which I agree with); but then use dyar from rushing to isolate Wilson's contributions versus those from his running backs.

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by njwelch75 :: Sat, 01/09/2016 - 2:28am

I was trying to look at each QB's performance compared to players within their own system. Thinking about it further, I probably should have just thrown out that sentence. My basic point is that in terms of production, Cam accounted for a much higher portion of his teams rushing offense than Wilson did his.

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by theslothook :: Sat, 01/09/2016 - 2:46am

You know what? Cam is a fine candidate and its not a travesty if he wins the MVP. I don't have an ax to grind in either case. We can agree to disagree about how to interpret his play vs Carson Palmers, but either way, hes deserving and its fun to see new players win the award.

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by njwelch75 :: Sat, 01/09/2016 - 2:56am

Agreed.

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by Edstein :: Sat, 01/09/2016 - 5:29pm

Thanks for chiming in.

I rather doubt that the fellow above has any clue what a normal distribution or a standard deviation mean, much less how to assemble or calculate them, but he was so proud of himself for knowing about the ones column and the tens column that I would have hated to burst his bubble.

There was nowhere in my post where I claimed that Cam was the best QB in the NFL, so ... of course his response was that someone else is a better QB. Not too swift with comprehension skills either.

Perhaps I've been misinformed all these years (though I doubt it) but I thought that MVP was for the player who is the most responsible for his team's success (given a fairly high level of that success), whereas the Player of the Year is for the best player. But the gerbil running wheel keeps spinning at high RPM about how other QBs have better stats, or grade out better among an assortment of disparate and subjectively concocted rating schemes.

If any one of these rating methods were acknowledged among sports writers, coaches, etc. as being capable of telling the whole story about a player then there would be no argument; indeed, no reason to even require voting at all.

I also find it instructive (and amusing) that the majority of people arguing that quality of receivers should not be considered turn right around and say that quality of opposing defense - should - be considered. The logical disconnect escapes them.

But in any case, that's precisely how the DVOA and DYAR work: accounting for the one circumstance but not the other. There is no adjustment for "Difficulty of Own Teammates." The "About" section on this site explains that, and they say they are working on a way to factor out other players in their assessments (QBs and receivers from each other, RBs from O-Line, etc.), but it's difficult to accomplish (quite understandably!).

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by Ryan D. :: Sat, 01/09/2016 - 12:19pm

Based on everyone's comments here, I think Carson Palmer is a lock for NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

But, in terms of total value to his team, Cam Newton is easily the NFL's MVP. It's not just about raw efficiency.

Cam is the reason that the Panthers' running backs had open lanes, as the opposing defense always had to keep an extra man assigned to defend where Cam could run.

Cam's ability to avoid and shed tackles in the pocket is the reason that so many plays were extended, instead of ending in sacks or fumbles. He single-handedly turns a lot of should-be negative plays into better plays. As a Panthers fan, you can't appreciate this ability enough after watching Jimmy Clausen fall down and just give himself up time after time after time if a pass-rusher even got near him in the pocket. They are just polar opposites in terms of how they handle pressure in their face.

Cam's receivers dropped a LOT of passes. And it seemed like most of their drops were long passes that could have resulted in touchdowns (Ted Ginn and Corey "Philly" Brown come to mind). Does anyone have access to the stats that might indicate the number of catches/yards/touchdowns lost due to drops? I would love to know these numbers.

As said before above, Cam's best wide receiver this year, Ted Ginn, was Carson Palmer's 5th option in 2014. Arizona thought so much of Ginn that they released him with 2 years still left on his 3-year contract.

If someone told you after Kelvin Benjamin was injured, but before the season started, that Cam Newton was going to throw for 35 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions, and run for 10 more touchdowns while leading his team to a 15-1 record THIS season, most people would have asked "What team is he getting traded to?" before accepting this statement.