It's undoubtedly no secret at this point around here that I would personally rather see the Vikings upgrade O-line first and QB second. I've also mentioned a few times, in a few comments, that I would personally prefer Jake Locker over Cam Newton- originally, I was going for Ryan Mallett, but these drug allegations, and his handling of them, have seriously cooled me to that prospect. I've also come to grips that my view is extremely unlikely to be shared by the FO- in all likelihood, should a QB be available that they believe in, so goes the first round draft pick.
All that said, fair is fair, and Cam Newton deserves some praise. First, I will list the reasons I think we need to give him credit, and then why it matters to the Minnesota Vikings.
Originally, I agreed with the assessment that Newton's decision to participate in the combine was a great one, and far more importantly, a great SIGN of what he can become. I was a little uncertain as to the reasons for his media-only practice- but his decision to completely participate in the combine, despite the decision of a lot of top-rated QBs to not do so, put a lot of my doubts in that matter to rest.
Furthermore, I believe it showed Newton has a willingness to show who he is, and that he is working on at least the technical errors that might arise should he be shoved into an NFL offense. He deserves nothing less than a ton of credit for that- even if it is based off of arrogance, as some have claimed. The truth is an NFL quarterback better be a little arrogant. You need to believe you are the best to be the best. Peyton Manning may come off as a humble guy, and I'm sure deep down he is, but don't tell me for a second anything other than that he believes he is the best and will work darn hard to show you just that.
Even bigger is the fact that Newton is willing to put himself on the line to show that. There are two very different forms of arrogance: arrogance based off of self-belief, and arrogance based off of a perception that you want to show, but personally have doubts about. The first one is good in a competitive sport like the NFL. The second leads to JaMarcus Russel. And if nothing else, Newton showed he has the first and better quality.
Now, my main concern with Newton isn't so much his mechanics (who is perfect out there in that right now anyways?) so much as his attitude. He still comes off at times like a prima donna, and I won't lie- the play to pay scandal still weighs heavily on me. Now, I will not get into any matter of the father-son relationship here; that's off limits as far as I am concerned. But truth be told, as much as I am a believer in 'innocent until proven guilty'- and he was not proven guilty- I still wonder at the concept that he had no knowledge of the matter. On top of it, he received the biggest endorsement deal an incoming rookie has ever gotten, and that probably won't help a potentially dangerous ego.
But, again, let's go back to giving credit to where credit is due. I might not be sold on his attitude, but the manner in which he handles tough questions for the media (which, face it, is a fair indicator also of how one handles pressure) completely out-shined Ryan Mallett today.
This is in reference to the following article: http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news;_ylt=An0HIArceXjH1yRsGSlI2.xDubYF?slug=jc-newtonmallettinterviews022611, click for the full details. But here is the gist of it.
Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that Newton and Mallett's responses to the various allegations of misconduct and character concerns couldn't have been more different. Cole's article lists one of Mallett's responses as such:
Then there was this cocky gem of an answer to questions about his decision-making on the field. Many around the NFL have been troubled by Mallett’s propensity for big mistakes in critical moments. When asked how he answers those concerns, Mallett said: "Seven thousand-plus yards and 60 touchdowns in two seasons. That’s how I respond to that."
And that was after much batting around the very critical issue of drug use. (Just say no if it's not true, Mr. Mallet- at this point, any other reply will indicate to the majority that yes, you are guilty as charged.) Whereas, Newton, aware his "player, icon, and entertainer" comment had caused some additional controversy, replied with a prepared statement as such:
"First and foremost, I understand that my obligation is to be the best possible football player that I can be," Newton said. "I know and believe that. The recent comments were made during the announcement of my new endorsement partnership. I was making the point that I want to be the best possible ambassador for them, just like I want to be the best possible ambassador for whatever team I’m lucky enough to play for.
"I’m excited to compete this week and you will see me doing everything possible to be the best possible player that I can be. And first and foremost I’m blessed to be in this whole situation and I couldn’t be in a better place than I am right now."
Darn near perfect way to handle it, if you ask me. Great original quote? Not so much. Great response to said quote? Yeah, well done.
So what does this mean for the Vikings? Well, it may mean a lot, and it may mean absolutely nothing. Carolina is indicating interest in Newton. If this is true, well- Newton means bumpkiss to the greatest franchise in the NFL. We can package every single draft pick we've got, and if the Panthers are genuinely interested in Newton as a franchise guy, well, we're not getting that #1 spot. But what if the Panthers decide against it? They do have Jimmy Clausen- granted, he's no star gem like Sam Bradford, but maybe they're willing to put another year into his development and draft for another need (because if it's any team with as many needs as the Vikings, it's the Panthers), and that chance to draft anyone they want for any position will be tempting. In that case, up next is the Denver Broncos. Having committed to Kyle Orton as their starter, and with project QB Tim Tebow already on the roster, they might be less interested in QB as we are. If we feel that QB is something we absolutely, must, without a doubt need to draft, and of course furthermore, if Newton ends up being the QB that we absolutely, must, without a doubt need for that spot, could the Vikings pull it off? Could we swap first rounders in exchange for, say, a package of second, fourth, and one of our fifth rounders? Just as importantly- with all of our needs and no third rounder already (and in this scenario zero chance of getting it back), would that be the right move?
My opinion on that matter is probably known already to the majority here, but I am curious as to how the rest of you feel about it. If (and we're going back to several big IFs here) Newton is going to be the first QB taken, and if that's the guy we need at the position we need, there's no way he will get past both the Panthers AND the Bills- snatching #2 away from the Broncos is the only way this will get done. Is that what the Vikings need to do this offseason to begin getting back on track?