The Carolina Panthers could have made Denver Broncos football a very different world.
Flash back to the 2011 NFL draft when the Panthers had the No. 1 pick and the Broncos had the No. 2 selection.
If the Panthers had not taken Cam Newton, the Broncos likely would have. At the time, the Broncos had Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow, and Brady Quinn on the roster. The new John’s (Elway and Fox) had not zeroed in on any one of those men in particular. It was an “open competition” for anyone to win.
If Newton had been available at No. 2, the Broncos currently wouldn’t have Von Miller or Peyton Manning.
“It was tough,” Fox said of having the No. 2 overall selection. “Again, we had to react to what Carolina did in front of us, but we felt that we were going to get a good player at that No. 2 pick. We’re really pleased with who we took.”
Miller is a sack monster. He has 9 sacks on the season, including 3 last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. He also has 33 tackles and a forced fumbles through 8 games compared to 11.5 sacks, 64 tackles, and 2 forced fumbles through 15 games last year.
“Certainly Von has special athletic skills,” Manning said. “His ability to run, to cover ground, certain things that he has, you just can’t teach…Certainly glad to be on his team.”
The Panthers took a long look at Miller as well, but decided to go a more conventional route with the No. 1 pick.
“That was our belief coming in,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said of needing a franchise quarterback. “The one thing we had to do was we had to establish who our franchise quarterback was going to be. Who was going to be the guy we believed was going to be our leader for the next ten years hopefully?”
After a prolific year of passing for 4,051 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions in 2011, Newton has done something that Miller hasn’t. He’s hit the sophomore slump, at least from a quarterback perspective. Through 8 games, Newton has 1,902 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions.
From a running perspective, Newton is still at the top of his game. He’s leading the team in rushing with 43.4 yards per game, and he has 4 rushing touchdowns on the season.
The critique on Newton comes in when looking at the big picture: wins and losses. Newton took a team that went 2-14 in 2010 to 6-10 in 2011. This season though, the Panthers are stumbling at 2-6.
While Newton may make more of an impact on the game that he plays in, the Broncos must feel like they got the better end of the stick with Miller.
Without Miller, there is no Manning, there is no aggressive defense, there’s likely no 5-3 record.