Critics worry Newton lacks passion

Cam Newton passes the ball during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indiana in...

Cam Newton passes the ball during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indiana in February. (JOE ROBBINS/Getty Images/AFP)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:33 AM ET

TORONTO - Three days out from the NFL draft, there are as many questions about Cam Newton as there are answers.

The Auburn quarterback remains at the top of most, if not every, mock draft board out there, but it doesn’t feel like there is much degree of certainty.

Newton can already reportedly make every throw an NFL quarterback will ever need to make. That does not seem to be at all in question. He’s been a winner just about everywhere he has gone. What is being questioned is if he’s sufficiently motivated to keep improving.

Like every quarterback in this class and every quarterback who ever took the field for that matter, Newton has his deficiencies. He is far from a finished product. There is still plenty to learn. He ran a very simplistic offence at Auburn. The plays were numbered and that number was flashed to him from the sidelines.

It’s far more complex in the NFL. He will have to adjust. Does he want to? Does he care enough to put in what will be some very long hours to learn a much more intricate offence?

In order to find out, a team is going to have to throw a lot of guaranteed money his way.

The latest to question the concept of Newton as a first overall pick is NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock who praises Newton’s physical abilities but worries about the great intangible in professional sports: The passion for the sport.

The belief is if he has an undying passion for football, no number of hurdles are going to keep him from becoming the best possible quarterback he can be. Mayock isn’t convinced Newton has that passion.

“It’s just this gut feeling I have: I don’t know how great he wants to be,” Mayock said on the Dan Patrick Show Monday. “He’s got all the tools. Mechanically, he’s way beyond where Tim Tebow and Vince Young were as college quarterbacks. He throws the ball beautifully. He’s a great athlete. He’s got everything on the physical side.”

But the doubt lingers and here’s why.

“Something tells me that he’ll be content to be a multimillionaire who’s pretty good,” Mayock said. ”And that doesn’t get it done for me.

“I think the kid is smart enough. I just don’t know if he cares enough,” Mayock said. “And I don’t know how you qualify that either. The kid has done everything right.”

None of this is new for Newton. In a draft class that has been picked at and prodded for every possible negative trait, Newton is the pin cushion of the class.

Some of it has been self-inflicted like when he told Peter King right before the NFL Combine that his goal was to be an “icon and entertainer.”

Football players, the successful one’s anyway, live, breathe and eat the sport. During the season there’s no time for anything else. Even the off-season is dedicated to getting better and if you don’t believe that, look no further than Peyton Manning.

Tom Brady might have moved out west with his model wife Gisele Bundchen which made those off-season Foxboro workouts with his teammates a thing of the past but just because he wasn’t working out at the Pats facility didn’t mean he wasn’t working.

In fairness, Newton hasn’t actually done that much damage to himself. Most of the naysayers are like Mayock, who are not convinced football is Newton’s be all and end all.

In a strange way, all this negative feedback could work to Newton’s advantage.

He’s lived through adversity before with the theft charges at the University of Florida and the whole pay-for-play thing with his father this past season.

But rarely have his abilities on the football field been questioned as they have been for the better part of the last two months.

Maybe that kind of attention motivates him to become a tireless worker, the game-film junkie we all want our starting quarterbacks to be.

Or maybe it doesn’t.

It’s why, as much as we tell ourselves Newton will go No. 1, part of us questions whether he’s the right choice there.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos