Count me in for Cam Newton’s ascension and Peyton Manning’s farewell contest

Posted: 01/25/2016 in football
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You mean to tell me we get to see Cam Newton versus Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl?

I’m all for that. Sign me up.

Newton is on the verge of wrestling top NFL quarterback honors away from Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, while the 39-year-old Manning will likely be playing the final game of his long stellar career when Super Bowl 50 kicks off in Santa Clara on Feb. 7.

The two quarterbacks are separated by 13 years in age and probably 20 miles an hour in speed. Newton’s Carolina Panthers have been the best in the team in the NFL for most of the season while Manning’s Denver Broncos feature the best defensive unit.

Kind of interesting that Manning is now in the complimentary role but it is amazing he is even on the field after all the experts – and perhaps some people in the Denver organization – wrote him off in December. Foot injuries can be painful, you know.

Newton is the heir apparent to the Manning-Brady era. When we get to the middle of next decade, these are the people who will be universally discussed as the top quarterbacks in the NFL:

Cam Newton, Derek Carr and Andrew Luck. (Just be sure to check on me in Jan. 2026, OK?)

Russell Wilson, Jameis Winston and somebody currently not in the league may also figure in the equation.

But nobody in the NFL has all the skills of Newton – a top-notch thrower and fierce-runner in a linebacker’s body.

He also has that supreme level of confidence – some say he’s cocky or arrogant but you have to understand that today’s athlete has a different mentality than your father’s generation. Or your own.

Newton has been a polarizing figure since he first dashed into the public eye.

There were questions regarding how he ended up at Auburn and he was heavily scrutinized over persistent allegations of illegal payments.

He sidestepped all the off-field fuss in 2010 and led the Tigers to the national championship. He also won the Heisman Trophy.

Then he was the top overall pick by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL Draft and needed some time to grow. Not just as a quarterback but as a leader.

Newton was fortunate the Panthers hired Ron Rivera as head coach. I dealt with Rivera for two seasons when he was an assistant coach with the San Diego Chargers and he is one of true good people in the coaching profession.

Rivera was able to be patient with Newton’s development and also had the personality to deal with Newton’s theatrics. There are a lot of control-freak coaches who would have spent too much trying to rein in a guy that thrives on over-the-top enthusiasm because, you know, that’s not a how a franchise quarterback should behave.

Sunday’s postgame comments by Carolina veteran defensive end Jared Allen surely caught my eyes. Allen is in the twilight of his career and has witnessed the shift in mentality over the past 12 years.

“For so long, there’s been this cookie cutter type of what people expect franchise quarterbacks to be,” Allen said. “He wins football games and he does it in charismatic fashion. He elevates the play of his team, he’s a good leader.

“He just does everything you want a franchise quarterback to do. Maybe he just does it with a little different style.”

Needless to say, I fully agree with Allen’s opinion. Just vote NO on cookie cutters.

Newton has grown and should be on the verge of being named the NFL’s MVP. They let sports writers choose this award so I suppose there’s a chance he doesn’t win.

Arizona’s Carson Palmer has been mentioned as a possible MVP – the voting is already concluded – and he looked anything like a player of value in the NFC title game loss to the Panthers.

Palmer threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles as Arizona committed seven turnovers in an ugly performance. It is hard to believe the Cardinals will be able to get over the hump next season either with Palmer as their man.

The meeting between Newton and Palmer was the first in a conference title game between former Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks. And get this – Newton and Manning will be the first No. 1 overall picks to square off in the Super Bowl.

Manning may not have a lot left physically but he surely has enough in the tank for one more big game. I expect Super Bowl Sunday to be the last time we see Manning – and hear him shout “Omaha!”

You can view it as the end of an era with Manning’s career winding down and the beginning of Newton being fully entrenched as one of the NFL’s shining stars.

The Manning-Newton storyline is a great one for the lead-up to the Super Bowl.

Count me in as someone who can’t wait for it to unfold.

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