I've been entertained this week with the sniping going on between the Panthers and San Francisco 49ers.
It began with 49ers quarterback Alex Smith saying this:
"I could absolutely care less on yards per game. 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."
OK, we'll take that point by point in a minute. But Smith's quote inspired this from Panther linebacker Jon Beason as he defended his quarterback on Twitter:
"Alex smith, don't hate on Cam (because) your stats would've gotten u cut if Peyton decided to come 2 San Fran. Truth b told. That's after a 13-3 yr.”
And then this from San Francisco LB Patrick Willis, also via Twitter: "Wins are Wins I stand with My Qb Alex Smith and all my teammates. I can't wait for the season.”
All right, back to Smith. He had a fine 2011 season as the 49ers went 13-3 and beat New Orleans in the playoffs before losing. He threw an NFL-low five interceptions. He accounted for a total of 19 TDs (17 pass, two rush).
Newton, meanwhile, accounted for 35 TDs (21 pass, 14 rush). He also threw 17 interceptions -- that's the one stat he really must improve in 2012.
The obvious: Smith didn't have to throw much, especially in the second half, because the 49ers' defense was fearsome. Newton did. But it wasn't like he was in the "no-huddle" in the second half every game -- with a few exceptions, most Panther losses were close and the Panthers were running their regular offense until late in the fourth quarter. Newton, in fact, only threw for about 55 yards per game more than Smith on average in 2011.
Smith, 28, obviously is sensitive about his reputation as a "game manager" type quarterback, but that's what he is. He did a nice job of it in 2011. But if you polled 30 GMS (outside of SF's and Carolina's) which player they'd want to build a team right now, I bet at least 90 percent of them would go with Newton.
Newton does so many more things than Smith. He only had three 300-yard passing games last season, actually, not a "lot," as Smith proclaimed, but he also makes so many more plays with his feet. Give Cam the 49ers defense and he would go 13-3, too -- or better.
The only thing I believe Smith does better than Newton right now is avoid the interception. But that hasn't been the case throughout his career -- in the six years he has played, he has a modest TD/interception ratio of 68/58. (Here are Smith's stats).
As for Beason's Peyton Manning reference, he's right on (although Smith wouldn't have been cut, as he was a free agent at the time -- he just wouldn't have been a 49er anymore). It's not close which one of those guys is better. And Manning is better than Newton, too, assuming he's healthy again. Manning is a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer tonight; Newton has many more productive years to go before he gets to that point.
So pity the oversensitive Smith, who unnecessarily brought Newton into this fray to bolster his own argument.
To paraphrase that old quote from a political debate: We know Cam Newton in the Carolinas, Alex. And you're no Cam Newton.