As his Pro Bowl performance showed – albeit in an exhibition where the intensity level ebbed and flowed like the Pacific tides – Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is not yet a finished product.
But a former NFL coach believes Newton is well on his way to greatness.
Ex-San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci, now an NFL Network analyst, raved about Newton’s rookie season and predicted big things for last year’s first overall pick.
“I think Cam surprised all of us,” Mariucci said Tuesday at Super Bowl media day. “Yeah, he’s the No. 1 pick in the draft. But often times when you go to a team that needs to be rebuilt, that guy just has a real sub-par year.
“But boy oh boy, did he take the league by storm. It’s really fun to see. And Cam is growing up fast. He is in the fast lane to being a heck of a quarterback. So that’s really going to stir it up in the NFC South.”
Mariucci also liked the way offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski incorporated the option to take advantage of Newton’s talents. Mariucci believes Chudzinski, who interviewed for three head-coaching positions this year, could get hired next year if the Panthers continue to improve.
“I thought he’d be a little more in play this year. He will. His name was out there,” Mariucci said. “And if he has another good offensive year, finding a way for more wins – not just passing yards – but more wins, I think he’s going to get a shot next year.”