Freakonomics and Freak Quarterbacks–Panthers Cam Newton

OK, I couldn’t resist . . . how many times will I ever get the chance to write about economics and football. Even better, this pertains to my favorite football team–the Carolina Panthers–and their new franchise quarterback–Cam Newton.

In the clip below, Stephen J. Dubner (co-writer of Freakonomics), discusses the probability of Cam Newton becoming a franchise quarterback. And what I like about the discussion is that, like economics, success often cannot be quantified. Despite the fact that prospective NFL players are endlessly measured, studied, and analyzed, those that succeed have one trait in common–the unquenchable desire to win.

Yet, how do you measure that desire? Talent evaluators can only go by their gut feeling on that one. The same is true of entrepreneurship. How do you measure entrepreneurship? If you lined up Steve Jobs or Bill Gates at age 15, would you have picked them out as the next multi-billionaires? So how do NFL teams find their franchise quarterback and not the next Ryan Leaf?

In hindsight, Cam Newton appears to be the rarest of NFL players with not only a unique set of physical skills, but also the burning desire to win. Yet, it was the desire that was most in question. Now we know the answer since Cam broke so many records in his rookie season that the stats almost seem gaudy:

  • Most passing yards in a season by a rookie (4,051)
  • First rookie to throw for 10 touchdowns and rush for 10 touchdowns
  • Most total touchdowns by a rookie (21 pass, 14 rush)
  • Most rushing yards by a rookie quarterback: 706
  • Most rushing touchdowns by any quarterback: 14

And I could go on, but you get the point. While the Panthers finished with a 6-10 record last year, I attribute that almost entirely to an injury-riddled defense. The defense, barring injuries, will be much improved this year. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Panthers will make the playoffs this year, though most likely as a wild-card. At the same time, Cam Newton and company will evolve into one of, if not the, premier offense in the NFL–“Are you ready for some football?”

Hat tip to Cat Scratch Reader 

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