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Can Cam Newton Win NFL MVP Despite Pedestrian Passing Statistics

Published by Bleacher Report on Tue, 08 Dec 2015

Football is the ultimate team game, and in 2015, quarterbacks are the ultimate team leaders. So it's no surprise that the man in charge of quarterbacking the NFL's only unbeaten team is widely viewed as the leading candidate for MVP.Football is also a nuanced game, and we know by now that statistics rarely tell the whole story. Nobody will deny that Newton is the heart and soul of the league's best team and has often carried the Carolina Panthers in ways that aren't measurable or calculable.But when votes are cast for individual awards at the end of the regular season, numbers still factor insometimes quite a lot. And Newton's case is hurt by the fact he ranks 29th among 32 qualified quarterbacks with a completion percentage of 58.3 and 15th with a passer rating of 93.0.Pro Football Focus ranks eight quarterbacks ahead of Newton, while Football Outsiders places him 18th in terms of DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), 17th in terms of DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) and 20th in terms of QBR.It's not as though Newton's been terrible on paper. He still has 25 touchdown passes to only 10 interceptions and has scored seven rushing touchdowns (his all-purpose touchdown total of 32 ranks second to only Tom Brady).In fact, he leads all NFL quarterbacks with 476 rushing yardsa total that actually places him 29th in all of football.He's also been a home run hitter. On passes thrown beyond 20 yards, Newton has seven touchdowns, only one pick and an accuracy rating of 47.3, which,according to PFF, ties him with Brady for seventh in the NFL.And you have to consider what Newton's been working with. Steve Smith is long gone, and presumed top 2015 wideout Kelvin Benjamin was lost to a season-ending knee injury in the summertime. Tight end Greg Olsen and running back Jonathan Stewart are stellar, but Carolina's top four wide receivers are Ted Ginn Jr., Philly Brown,Devin Funchess andJerricho Cotchery. In a combined 24 NFL seasons, those guys have zero Pro Bowl nods and one 1,000-yard campaign.And among 83 qualified receivers at PFF, Ginn and Funchess have two of the four highest drop rates in the NFL.With such a scarcity of weapons, it's probably fair to forgive Newton for his mediocre completion percentage and middle-of-the-pack passer rating. But will MVP voters grant him a pass for that'History indicates they won't. During the Super Bowl era, 35 quarterbacks have won the MVP award. All 35 were ranked among the top 11 passers, and only one wasn't ranked among the top 11 in terms of completion percentage.In fact, every MVP-winning quarterback exceptBoomer Esiason in 1988 and John Elway in 1987 ranked inside the top 10 in completion percentage, and every one except Elway ranked inside the top seven in passer rating.But Esiason was still the league's highest-rated passer in '88, so the only real exception to the rule is Elway, who ranked outside of the top 10 in both categories but still won MVP thanks in part to his 304 rushing yards and four rushing touchdown in '87.He carried a first-place team that had just two other Pro Bowlers, so there's definitely a resemblance here. But Newton will be joined by quite a few teammates in the Pro Bowl, and he currently ranks much lower than even Elway did in both categories.MVP voters should also at least prioritize statistics, taking factors like support into account while also considering what a guy like Newton has done with both his arm and legs as well as in clutch spots.Not only that, but there's also the "What have you done for me lately'" factor, which indicates Newton is becoming even more dominant as we approach January. In the last five weeks, only Russell Wilson of the Seahawks has put up better numbers than No. 1.If Newton can keep rolling that way, his broad passing numbers should improve to such an extent that they can no longer be used against him in the court of public opinion. But even if he comes back to earth a touch and the Panthers keep winning, Newton has already done enough to earn MVP consideration regardless of his lackluster completion percentage and/or passer rating.Even if precedents indicate he'll have trouble winning it.Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow @Brad_Gagnon
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