But for the lawsuits and arrests, last week’s back-and-forth from players on franchises that used to be division rivals would have gotten a lot more interest and attention. Still, the comments from 49ers quarterback Alex Smith about the perceived reason for Panthers rookie Cam Newton’s uncanny stats in 2011 were noticed by key players from each team. Panthers linebacker Jon Beason verbally smacked Smith down, and 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis defended his quarterback.
The numbers seem to cut against Smith’s theory, according to Peter King of SI.com.
“I could absolutely care less on yards per game,” Smith said last week, to get the controversy rolling. “I think that is a totally overblown stat because if you’re losing games in the second half, guess what, you’re like the Carolina Panthers and you’re going no-huddle the entire second half. Yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games. That’s great. You’re not winning, though.”
As King points out, Newton threw for more yards last season in the first half of games than in the final two quarters, with 2,071 and 1,980 yards, respectively. Also, Newton threw for only 523 of his rookie-record 4,051 yards when they Panthers trailed by between nine and 16 points.
There’s another relevant reality that doesn’t arise from the numbers. Attaching any member of the 49ers’ front office, coaching staff, roster (except for Smith), and fan base to a lie-detector and asking whether they’d prefer the first overall pick from 2005 or 2011 to be the San Francisco quarterback, and the answer would be unanimous.
The same outcome would happen in Carolina, and perhaps the best news for Panthers fans is that Newton has taken the high road, saying nothing in response to Smith’s assessment.