Don’t give Cam Newton the MVP just yet. Carson Palmer has been better

Neil Hornsby explains why his friend Peter King is wrong about this year's MVP race. Carson Palmer has been most deserving so far.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

(AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Don’t give Cam Newton the MVP just yet. Carson Palmer has been better


It’s important that I preface this article by saying that Peter King is a very good friend of mine. I rarely ever take issue what something he writes, but that wasn’t the case today with his argument in MMQB.com that Cam Newton should win the MVP:

“Not sure it’s arguable now. Newton is playing so exquisitely that he’s leaving no room for any of the other quarterbacks having great years (Brady, Palmer, Roethlisberger, Wilson, Dalton) to nudge him aside. In the past month, Newton has played five games, won them all, had the only three five-touchdown-pass games of his career, and has an 18-to-1 touchdown-to-pick ratio. One other thing about Newton’s play: When the season started, there’s a good chance his receivers, one through four, were 32nd out of 32 teams in the league: Philly Brown and Ted Ginn Jr. the starters to open the season, and Jerricho Cotchery and rookie Devin Funchess at three and four.”

I just couldn’t let that one lie. Look, I know that Cam Newton will win the MVP this year. I disagree with the idea that he should, but just as I understood that Alabama running back Derrick Henry would win the Heisman this year (unfairly, in my view, over Christian McCaffrey), it’s already a done deal. Why? Because even smart, influential guys like Peter have said he’s “not sure it’s arguable now.”

Let me take a shot at making the argument against it.

1. While everyone wants to talk about what Newton doesn’t have (receivers), nobody mentions what he DOES have.

It’s fair to question the talent level of Carolina’s wide receivers. But the reality is that Newton has one of the better overall supporting casts in the NFL.

Greg Olsen has graded out as the best receiving tight end in the league this season outside of the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski – so much so that when you include him in the group of Carolina pass-catchers, they rank as one of the NFL’s better units.

Newton has received some of the best pass protection in the league, and far better than the two passers whom we have ranked ahead of Newton all year – Arizona’s Carson Palmer and New England’s Tom Brady. The Panthers also have a great ground game, including one of the best running backs in the league this year in Jonathan Stewart. And their defense ranks third in our PFF grades:

MVP candidate Tight end
receiving
Pass protection RB rushing Defense
Newton 2nd 4th 8th 3rd
Brady 1st 31st 4th 2nd
Palmer 16th 30th 30th 16th

Bottom line: The Panthers are far from the one-man show that Peter and others would have you believe.

2. There is one very important stat that isn’t on Newton’s side.

The fact that the Panthers have had such good pass protection is critical, because Newton hasn’t fared well when he has been under pressure this season. Just check out these numbers:

–When Newton is given a clean pocket, his passer rating is 114.9 – 16.1 points ABOVE the NFL average.

–When Newton is pressured, his passer rating is 57.9 – 13.7 points BELOW the NFL average.

In contrast, Palmer is under pressure on 42.2 percent of snaps (Newton is pressured on just 34.2 percent of snaps), the third-worst figure in the league. How do you think Newton would fare if asked to play behind Arizona’s offensive line.

This isn’t meant to be a criticism of Newton, as there is no questioning the fact that he has been brilliant at many times this season and put together a great campaign overall. But in my opinion, Palmer has been even better – and at a minimum, to try and close the debate with two weeks still to play is a disservice to him.

| PFF Founder

Neil founded PFF in 2006 and is currently responsible for the service to the company's 22 NFL team customers. He is constantly developing new insights into the game and player performance.

  • unc54

    Everyone wants to talk about what Newton doesn’t have because the most important positions to a QB is his receivers, of which the Cardinals receiving trio are easily top 3. Newton did what Palmer couldn’t do: Make Ted Ginn a respectable receiver.

    • ChuckNice

      Couldn’t have said it better myself unc54!

    • Cody

      That’s a joke, why waste the time to make Ginn a respectable receiver when the Cardinals have so much better talent?

    • The Mysteries of Bob
      • Joshua Leo Outland

        10 TDs? Yea…. he does.

    • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

      The only thing “respectable” about Ginn is his volume of targets. His .457 catch rate and 7.8 yards/target are both well below average. At best, he’s been a top…40 receiver this year. And that’s being generous.

    • Mike Buford

      Look, cam has merrits. We know them. He is a huge run threat and can deliver the ball well, at least when he gets protection. Whether his relievers actually catch the ball is another issue.

      But the OP has a good point. Cam has an all star supporting cast. A top tier defense that keeps his opponents at bay and him on the field a ton. If the panthers were always behind cause of a bad defense, the run game wouldn’t be effective cause of the clock. His #1 threat is him running right, while jonathan stewart runs left, with a giant greg olsen in the center, and the best o-line in the league making big holes and good blocks. It spreads the defense really thin and creates missmatches cause all the threats are big and hard to tackle.

      I don’t think he is mvp. I think his team is stacked and compliments its strengths very well. He stands on the shoulders of giants that put him in the perfect position to use his best skillset, which is his run threat.

      A true MVP for the season? Carson Palmer or Russel Wilson. Unlike Cam, wilson had arguably the worst o-line in the league, most of which were tight ends that had to be thrown in. Through sheer skill and evasiveness he kept his offense going despite the odds. Not sure a single QB in the league could pull off what he did with what he had to work with.

      Palmer also skyrocketed his teams level of play. His contribution was huge for the cards.

      The biggest problem is that cam talks about how great he is. How “lebron is the Cam of the nba” and crap. The mvp of the panthers is the offensive coordinator and the GM for assembling a stacked team that caters to its players strengths. Cam is just a piece of that, but he doesn’t seem to have the humility to recognize that.

  • Lenny

    Ted is not respectable. He gets 6-7 deep targets a game and completes 1-2. In AZ he couldn’t get on the field and would get one target if lucky. Carolina gets to take that many shots cause he throws deep on second and short and then runs for a first down on third. Rinse and repeat.

    To say the only factor in “support” for a QB is relievers is a joke.

    I guess if you agree that AZ has a better line, run game and D then you could say Cam does not have as good of a supporting cast. But you won’t say that. Can’t have it both ways.

  • JudoPrince

    Oh wow, where to start? I see they have the Panthers pass protection rated as 4th in the league. Yet when you actually look at the individual grades from the tackles, starting with Oher, they don’t grade high at all. Turner at guard and Khalil at center are the only reliable every down lineman. So how is the line graded so well? A lot of it has to do with Cam Newton. The Panther’s offense relies heavily on the read option and Cam’s rushing ability which innately slows down the pass rush. Yet another area to give Newton credit although it does not show up on the stat sheets.

    And where is the chart that shows wide receiver production? All of Carson Palmer’s production is dependent on wide receiver play — considering how immobile he is — and he has one the best cores in the league, if not the best. I see the article focuses on how Palmer is above average when facing pressure. Isn’t it much easier to get rid of the ball quickly when you have elite level receivers getting open and making plays against single coverage? Can’t take anything away from Palmer, he’s been great making plays downfield the last two years. Just keep in mind that Newton not only has the incredible passing numbers but also nearly 600 yards rushing with 7 TD’s. He’s as close to a one man show as you will ever see in this league. Oh yea, not to mention the undefeated record.

    • Johnny U.

      newton has been better

    • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

      Offensive tackle grades include run blocking, which has been poor in Carolina. Pass protection grades, umm, do not.

      • Johnathan Sanders

        cam newton has been the mvp

        • WISFAR

          Joke!!

          • Rick Kennedy

            Joke’s on you. Not only is Cam the MVP, he also won Offensive Player of the Year. Maybe you should shut up now.

          • WISFAR

            Maybe you should get your politically-correct head out of Cam’s azz. What a friggin’ joke. The most ridiculous MVP in my lifetime. Chosen for political correctness. Surely not for production.

  • enai D

    Who cares if Carson Palmer has been better? Last time I checked Cam Newton is the only one whose team is still undefeated. Better luck next time, Carson.

    • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

      Yes, Newton’s definitely the reason the Panthers won games like Houston, Jacksonville, Philly, and Tampa when he was throwing for 170 yards on 5 YPA and 50% completions.

      • Tim Collie

        Panthers have most wins over winning teams in NFL

        • WISFAR

          Other than the Packers, who had a winning record when they played them? Wasn’t Seattle 2-3? Explain yourself. Cards have beaten GB, MN and a few others with winning records.

      • enai D

        (not to mention adding 35-75 yards and often a score by rushing in those games)

      • WISFAR

        Entropic, above, calls that “meaningless data!!” Unbelievable!

  • Neil-Is-A-Shitty-Writer

    Neil Horsby is a shitty writer and is pro-white players just read his articles, especially this one.

    • Guy-above-me-plays-race-card

      Race Card comes out on the river.

  • Ross Gould

    Ginn didn’t even see the field last year in Arizona as a WR Cam lost his #1 target in training camp. His rushing stats alone make him an MVP Candidate. Not to mention, he is Undefeated and didn’t lose a home game to the Rams. They also lost to Landry Jones…

  • bigtrip

    I think the grading of each individual position really misses the point of a players individual value and this is one of those cases. When a team has to worry about Newton keeping the ball on a running play that makes the the Carolina running backs better, that’s not a concern when Palmer is handing the ball off. When teams are rushing the passer against Newton, they must keep containment or he will run, they can’t just rush the passer all out, that’s not an issue against Palmer, this make the Carolina O’line appear better. In fact, the goal for many teams is to just keep Newton in the pocket and not pressure him another positive for the Carolina O’line.

  • relaximapro

    What a one sided biased article. Every point you made for Palmer here you could just as easily go the other side and make twice as many for Cam… but no, for whatever reason this place always tries to constantly look like the smartest person in the room and overthink every single thing while constantly playing the contrarian.

    How about mention the fact that among Cam’s amazing supporting cast, his #1 WR is Ted Ginn… a guy who wasn’t even good enough to see the field in Arizona and Palmer wouldn’t even throw his way because he saw him as a liability. So they cut him after 1 season. That’s been Cam’s #1 WR all year.

    Or the fact the article didn’t even mentioned that Stewart, who is heavily aided by the read option and run threat that Cam provides and attention he receives from defenses, hasn’t even played the last 1.75 games. Cam just put up 300 passing yards, 100 rushing yards, and 5 TDs without his #1 WR and #1 RB.

    Cam’s unique talents as a power running QB and the formations he’s able to switch out of also completely freezes defenses and makes his line look much better than they have any reason to.

    You could go on and on about Cam’s MVP supremacy over Palmer, but this article doesn’t feel the need to highlight any of them when, as experts, they should no better. Propaganda at its finest.

  • wes

    Its a landslide. Cam is just as good as palmer throwing. Then throw in the 500 rushing and 7 rushing td’s…end of discussion. This isnt even an arguement. Id be embarrassed to write this article.

    • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

      You spelled “nowhere close to” as good wrong.

      • Chris

        Look up the stats…

        • WISFAR

          Just what are the stats? None of this “in-the-weeds” krap about O-line, receivers, etc. The bottom line is that Newton is 2nd from last in completion %, 16th in total yards and 8th in passer rating. He’s got the 2nd best TE in the league and has played a ridiculously easy schedule. Compare to Brady, who lost his best OL early, lost all of his possession receivers for most/all year and plays a much tougher schedule.

          Let’s just cut through the bull. The Eastern/LA sports media have been pushing the black QB thing for about 15 years now. So, its Newton and Newton only. Really ridiculous.

    • WISFAR

      I’d be embarrassed to write that summary if I were you.

  • José

    Lol, the running game is a function of Cam’s ability, similar to how Alfred Morris’ production peaked w/ a healthy QB. Whoever wrote this is a joke, to say Palmer deserves the MVP isn’t a terrible statement, but to say Cam doesn’t is idiotic.

  • Alex

    I can’t just let this one lie.

    You single out RB rushing grade to make it seem like Cam is propped up by the running game while Palmer has nothing to work with, but Carolina’s running backs average less than 4 yards per carry while Arizona’s backs collectively average 4.6 yards per carry. I don’t know how the individual grades break down, but you clearly got the causation way wrong on this one. Carolina’s running game is good because of Newton, not the other way around.

    You single out TE receiving so that you can show Palmer again far worse off than Newton, but as many have noted, Arizona’s receivers are so much better than Carolina’s that Carolina’s top receiver couldn’t even see the field last year. So who do you think has better support, the guy with the better tight end or the guy with three better receivers?

    You point to pass protection and percent of snaps under pressure while ignoring that Carolina runs a bunch of seven-man protections. This naturally leads to a lower rate of pressure but also leaves Newton with fewer places to go with the football and might entirely explain the stats you trot out.

    You ask how Newton would fare in Arizona, but how would Palmer fare in Carolina? What happens to Carolina’s running game when defenses don’t have to account for the quarterback anymore? Do you really think that team would lead the league in scoring?

    • MXL

      Preach.

  • Arnav Gupta

    I’d put Brady at the top because, his supporting cast has been decimated by injuries and he has carried them through all of that. Notice how in the table in reason #1 he doesn’t include WRs which are a huge part of supporting cast. That’s because ARZ has great WRs, and at the moment NE does not. (I’m referring to the injuries, when WRs are healthy they are very good) Also, before the injuries started piling up, Brady was the best in the league, post injuries he is still performing at a high level. Palmer and Newton have had great years, but I still think Brady is on top of them.

    • Joshua Leo Outland

      Brady lost his weapons and was on par with talent wise wit Cam and responded with 2 losses. Cam has been doing it all year this year and last year too. Less weapons, more TDs, more wins. No argument can be made that is good enough for Cam to not get it.

      • WISFAR

        The easiest schedule for a division winner since they went to the current schedule process about 5 years ago.

    • Chris

      And he’s lost 2 games since they went out. Cam lost his best receiver in august..

  • Liam Mcknight

    Brady should be MVP over both of em

    • Rick Kennedy

      LOLOLOLOLOL

      Brady is great, but this was not his year. It is the year of Cam. With Palmer having a good year as well, but Palmer crapped out in the end. (Especially the playoffs)

      • WISFAR

        The disgusting thing is the left-wing sports media made it “Cam’s year” in week 3. There is absolutely NOTHING that immature idiot could have done to make the media reconsider. 30th in completion % with a top-notch OL. Gimme a break!!

  • Tony

    This is a poor article. The author literally just cherry picks state to make Palmer look better. The Cardinals offense is significantly more talented than the Panthers, as they’re incredibly deep at WR and RB. The Panthers are objectivley worse at running the football if you discount Newton’s rushing yards, with the Cardinals RBs averaging more yards per game at a higher YPC. Not to mention that any novice observer can tell you that a mobile QB positively impacts the running game.

    I also hate how PFF grades running backs, as their system seems to massively favor RBs who get yards after contact as opposed to RBs who get yards by avoiding contact. The fact that they rate the Cardinals “RB rushing” as 30th in the league means absolutely nothing. The Cardinals running game is one of the best in the league according to objective stats.

    This is a biased article. I get that it’s an opinion piece, but the argument was not constructed fairly.

  • mackthefinger

    so…cam newton shouldn’t be MVP because he has a good O line? i fail to see how that precludes him from getting MVP. really reaching for straws here.

    • WISFAR

      No, Cam Newton shouldn’t be the MVP because his numbers are pedestrian. You give a white QB those numbers and the left-wing sports media wouldn’t even look at him.

  • Rome LA

    The disrespect I see some giving Cam, let’s face the facts Cam deserve the MVP hands down. Everybody scratch the Panthers off saying that they where going to suck and he have no receivers saying they wouldn’t being playing at all on any other team now that there killing it and Undefeated… Yall use they excuse saying the pats lose key receivers well he surpose to be the best but he lost aswell…smh well panthers lost there receiver before the season and let’s not get on palmer he got hands down the best receiver crew in the league!!! And lost 2 games #STOPIT give Cam what He Deserves MVP

    • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

      The best receiving crew in the league, huh? How’d they do last year without Palmer, because it’s the same dudes.

      • Bruski

        Last I checked they made the playoffs

        • http://www.twitter.com/michaelprocton Michael Procton

          They did…based entirely on the work done by Palmer before his injury.

          • Bruski

            6 wins gets you into the playoffs? Hmm interesting

        • WISFAR

          They had already made the playoffs when he got hurt. And, they got destroyed in the first playoff game.

    • Birdgangforlife

      The Panthers have the easiest schedule in the league. That is why he doesn’t get the respect he should. GB and Sea would be the only two teams they played all year that would be considered good teams. Their division is one of the weakest in the league. There is plenty of reasons for people to doubt how good this team is and Cam’s MVP status. Although I’m a Cards fan and Palmer has played lights out this year…I still think Cam should win MVP.

  • Bruski

    How the hell do they have the cardinals at 30th in running?

    This article is pure garbage

  • Art White

    Your grading system is starting to look flawed PFF if it can’t account for the panthers QB overall Worth in running & passing stats, just saying. As a result it will continue to loses value & credibility along the way with credible football analyst of all walks. Reason being you’all can’t explain or quantify why through your grading system The panthers QB is about to get MVP? It staring to make you look bad & none reliable as a top football website, please work on your numbers and adjust your grading system to accommodate more accuracy, thanks.

    • WISFAR

      There is NOTHING “credible” about making the guy with the 2nd lowest completion % and 8th best QB rating the MVP. His running? His average TD run was 2 yards. Aaron Rodgers proved to be more mobile. Brady/Palmer much better passers. Newton’s only 26 so maybe someday he’ll be a marquee QB, but I don’t see it yet. The liberal media however see only the “black QB” thing.

  • Jason Cornett

    How on earth can you write an article discussing the merits of Palmer and Newton as MVP canidents and NOWHERE in the article factor in the ability of Newton as a runner? For a sight that supposedly has the best analysis b/c they consider ALL the factors, leaving out Newton’s running production and how that said running ability completely changes how opposing defenses have to defend his offense is inexcusable. It totally discredits the entire piece. Neil Hornsby does great work but he comes off as an amateurish and biased fan who doesn’t know what he is talking about. Very very disappointing

  • Entropic Decline

    This is the worst drivel that has ever been written on this site. Cam Newton is putting together one of the classic all-time seasons with no talent around him other than Greg Olsen. Palmer is not even on the same planet as Cam. This is the danger when “analysts” write articles based on meaningless data without looking at the game tape!

    • WISFAR

      Yeh, thought it was just a matter of time before you idiots blamed any dissent on racism. That’s just asinine.
      “Classic all-time seasons!!” LOL!! 30th in completion %, 8th in passer rating, 15th of yards and all this despite the 2nd easiest schedule in the league. Yep, that sure is “classic.”
      Only a “gotta push the black QB” tool would call actual passing statistics “meaningless data!”

    • WISFAR

      30th in completion %. Right, that’s “classic” all right!!

  • Tim Collie

    580 rushing. 7 rush td for Cameron. 14-0.
    That’s a lot of time of poss he eats up.
    Also more ppg.
    Cam is mvp

  • CR

    You are a moron and should never write again. Cam is the 100% MVP. His team is 14-0, poised to possibly go 16-0. He has NO one to throw to but Olsen and makes Tedd Ginn look like a actual NFL WR. lol. Wow. Carson isn’t even 2nd in this race. Tom Brady whom I despise is. Mainly because of all of the injuries. Drop the pen, and find a new job. Also, the run game. Cam did not have his horse last week and ran for 100 yards. Yup, the QB ran for 100 yards when the team needed him most. Cam is MVP.

    • WISFAR

      Cleary the dumbest post I’ve read here for some time. Do you even know what a football looks like IDIOT? Well, they ain’t gonna be 16-0 you sheep. And, man, he sure looked good against the….ahem….Falcons. Who does Brady have to throw to other than Gronkowski? Are you really that ignorant that you would compare the NE running game to Carolina? Aren’t the Pats on about their 4th RB? And….funny how you avoid those darn inconvenient stats.

      There’s job at ESPN for you, doofus!!

      • Rick Kennedy

        What an ass clown. Cam won the MVP by a FUCKING LANDSLIDE. 48 for Cam, 1 for Brady, 1 for Palmer. Palmer and Brady will be watching the Super Bowl while Cam plays in it. Brady has been a great QB, but not this year.

        Who does Brady have to throw to? Amendola, Edelman, Gronk… that is more than Cam has had.

        • WISFAR

          You stupid-azz sheep! Jesus, he was 30th…FUKING 30th in completion % and 8th in QB rating. He’s got the best O-line in the league and a top-ten running game. Were you in the band zhithead??!! Also, you idiot, Brady’s receivers were hurt pretty much all year. Edelman played in 5 games. Gronk…in 10.
          Way to join the other sheep who made this 4-year old the MVP in week 3. What a fuching joke!!

        • WISFAR

          Hey Zhit for Brains. How’d that Cam thing work out for you today. Not only was that the worst QB performance I’ve ever seen in a Super Bowl, but that lazy 4 year old refused to try to recover his own fumble at a crucial point in the game. And, then there’s his post-game presser.

          Do you even realize how that zhithead is wrecking the game of football. Is that the future face of our stars? The NFL will end up like the NBA…you know….nobody watching.

  • WISFAR

    Political correctness rears it’s ugly head again in the form of the ESPN-led Eastern/LA media plugging the black QB. Newton has no business even being considered. He is currently 15th in passing yards and 7th in QB rating. He has the 23rd worst passing completion rating among starters, despite having a top-notch running game and a top-5 TE.

    I won’t even get into his childish antics….like ripping up a GB Packers fan’s sign before the game.

  • Dual Bag

    The black quarterback MUST get it.

  • True Grit

    Carson says Cam Newton is taking “stuff”….yet it’s the Panther defense that has him on “0”. Carson Palmer is pathetic. He can’t take an honest butt kicking without defamation and slander.

  • truth_cutz

    Palmer looked line an MVP…..

  • shootemdown

    What a reach. Many reaches, actually. When did we start penalizing a guy for having a good offensive line in front of him? This isn’t part of the criteria used when voters vote. The Panthers went 15-1, were picked by everyone to finish around .500, lost Kelvin Martin at the start of the season and used journeymen at the position. Olsen has always been a good tight end. However, Cam puts the ball right on his hands and is making him a better player than he actually is. What if Cam had Gronk to throw to? What would his numbers look like then? This is a straw man’s argument, clearly the work of someone who simply doesn’t like the football player, for whatever reason, who was clearly the best in the NFL. It’s so empty and void of substance that his pay should be withheld.

  • Dan Josselyn-Creighton

    Brady beats them both. No other QB had to deal with as many O line changes or injuries and he still put up MVP worthy numbers and led his team to the AFC Championship game and a lucky break or two away from beating Denver. #TB12GOAT