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Cam Newton’s greatness is being overshadowed by a lot of needless criticism

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Pick up a football preview magazine, or click on a Carolina Panthers team preview online, you're likely to see some variation of the same report on Cam Newton.

Immature. Disappointing second season. Didn't develop as hoped. Needs to turn his career back around this season.

Newton is one of the best players in the NFL, and could be on the verge of a special career. It's just a bit strange that the narrative surrounding him has gone in an entirely different direction.

Was Newton, who had arguably the best rookie season of all time in 2011, bad in 2012? Well, let's compare him to a couple of the NFL's brightest stars and find out:

Player A: 3,869 yards, 19 TD, 12 INT, 57.7 completion percentage, 8.0 yards per attempt, 86.2 rating
Player B: 4,374 yards, 23 TD, 18 INT, 54.1 completion percentage, 7.0 yards per attempt, 76.5 rating

Player A is obviously Newton. Player B is Andrew Luck, who has gotten a lot more pats on the back this offseason than Newton. Luck (who is great is his own right) had 142 more passing attempts, but Newton was much more efficient throwing the ball.

Newton is more than just a passer. So let's take a look at this rushing comparison:

Player A: 127 attempts, 741 yards, eight touchdowns
Player B: 120 attempts, 815 yards, seven touchdowns

Player B might have been a touch better, but it's pretty close. Player A is Cam Newton, Player B is Robert Griffin III. And we all know which of those two is getting more praise this offseason.

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(USA Today Sports Images)

So last season Newton threw it better than Luck, was almost as productive running it as Griffin, and we're supposed to believe he took a major step back. Luck and Griffin took their teams to the playoffs, but as we already know, it's foolish to judge a quarterback simply on his record (and, the Panthers weren't that far off anyway, going a terribly unlucky 1-7 in games decided by less than a touchdown).

Does Newton need more work on his accuracy, and overall game? Sure. Here's the list of quarterbacks who needed a good amount of work after two NFL seasons: Every quarterback who has ever played. Newton is 24. He'll get better.

Newton did struggle for a bit last season, but if you think he had a bad 2012 you tuned out after seven Panthers games. Here's what he did his last nine games, and how that prorates out to a 16-game season:

Last nine games: 2,168 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT, 159-for-273 (58.2 percent), 94.7 rating, 76 rushes, 431 rushing yards, 5 rushing TD
Prorated for a full season: 3.854.2 yards, 24.9 TD, 7.1 INT, 135.1 rushes, 766.2 rushing yards, 8.9 rushing TD

That would be a heck of a season, especially for a 23-year-old second-year quarterback. The Panthers were 6-3 in those final nine games, for those interested in such things.

So Newton had what amounts to a seven-game sophomore slump. In the last nine games he had a better quarterback rating than players like Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford had in 2012. Newton was a better passer over his last nine games than Flacco was last season, and Flacco just got a $120 million extension. And over the season Newton rushed for more touchdowns than Jamaal Charles, C.J. Spiller, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy and many, many others.

So, so disappointing.

Instead of the talk focusing on Newton's phenomenal first two seasons, we hear about how he's not a captain yet and how he needs better body language. He seems to rub people the wrong way, going all the way back to the NCAA investigation into his recruitment at Auburn. It's overshadowing his greatness.

The way people view Newton will change, and very soon. He's way too good for everyone to continue to nitpick on things like him smiling too much before games and his touchdowns celebrations. Don't miss out.

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