Late last night, this report surfaced that the Cowboys are planning to interview Auburn's Cam Newton during this week's NFL Scouting Combine. Newton, one of the top two quarterback prospects in this years draft along with Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, is an amazing physical specimen that is sure to knock the socks off of observers during the physical portions of the combine. He is a rare blend of size, speed, and power at the quarterback position, but is generally considered raw due to his lack of big time competition.
Newton only played one full year of high level collegiate football (he attempted only 12 passes while at University of Florida). His shortcomings are believed to be reading defenses, not necessarily because of a lack of ability but because of a lack of repetitions. Newton's performance in the vaunted SEC begs to differ. An SEC team has won the national championship each of the last five years, and Newton led Auburn to an undefeated 14-0 record. He ended the season winning seemingly every individual honor available, taking home the AP Player of the Year, Walter Camp, Maxwell, Davey O'Brien and Manning Awards, as well as the Heisman Trophy.
Many people look at Newton's situation as the 2011 poster child for not rushing a quarterback into the starting lineup. A long standing debate, the question over whether you put a quarterback right into the fire, a la Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning, or let them sit and develop a la Aaron Rodgers has been a heated one amongst NFL fans. Currently though, that's not the debate for Cowboys fans. That would be, what the heck are the Cowboys doing when we already have Tony Romo?
Now, Romo defenders will quickly point out that he has consistently led the Dallas offense to a position among the league leaders since he took over for Drew Bledsoe in 2006. The detractors will point out the playoff failures of the team and that since Romo is the quarterback and leader, he deserves a fair share of the blame for those shortcomings. Each side has to question though, what is it that the Cowboys would plan to do with Newton? Here's Jerry Jones response:
"I think obviously that position of quarterback you're immediately going to start looking for leadership," Jones said. "You're going to start looking for intangibles, and [Newton's] physical abilities are pretty good. As far as in an interview, you're looking for a guy who is going to be the face of your organization that you feel like will be a leader for your team and is a winner."
"This is what we do every year," Jones said. "You got to do all your work because you never know what's going to happen in a draft. It's part of doing your diligence as a personnel department. You can never assume anything and you can't leave any stone unturned. Give [director of college and pro scouting] Tom [Ciskowski] and our guys a lot of credit; they work hard at it and we get prepared."
However, it is not as if the Cowboys are interviewing every candidate in the draft. They have 60 interview slots and no matter what the double talk is, they are using one of these interviews on a quarterback and not one of the agreed upon positions of need. We all suffer from revisionist's history here and there, so I can't say with any certainty whether the Cowboys have interviewed QB prospects over the last three years. Regardless, interviewing Newton has to raise some eyebrows, especially in the Romo-Crawford household. Romo is signed through the 2013 season and will be 34 by the time his current deal expires. That's up there in football years, but with the fact that Romo rode the pine his first four years and with quarterbacks playing into their late 30's and sometimes their 40's - you'd think that there wasn't a rush to find Romo's replacement.
There are underlying causes for debate as well. If you feel that Newton will undoubtedly be the next great quarterback, you have to take him. A franchise quarterback outranks a franchise tackle, cornerback etc. every time. If you don't truly have confidence that Romo will bring us that elusive sixth championship, then you have to work on finding his replacement. That has to be in Romo's mind, as this is the first public flirtation the club has done since Romo took the reigns. How will Romo react? Remember, he just watched a streamlined version of his offense run successfully by another quarterback. He is facing a return from a serious collarbone injury and while it wasn't on his throwing shoulder, this was the second of three years where Romo missed time.
Newton on the other hand, comes with a lot of baggage. With Romo entrenched, you'd have to think that he was all-world talent to even consider rocking the offensive boat. Newton was originally recruited by the Florida Gators and was on the team for their 2009 championship. Before that though, he was arrested in 2008 for theft of a laptop on campus. When he withdrew from the University it was believed to be for this, but it was later uncovered that Newton had been caught academically cheating on three different occasions.
In 2009, Newton transferred to Blinn College, where he led them to the 2009 NJCAA National Championship. (Wow, three straight championship seasons? That is impressive.) Newton then transferred to Auburn for the 2010 campaign. Early in the season, reports surfaced that Newton's father had literally shopped Cam's services to various schools after being named the #1 high school or JC recruit by Rivals.com. It's been stated that Cecil Newton had sought anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000 to get his son to transfer to Mississippi State University.
Auburn maintained throughout the investigation that they were not involved in any pay-for-play scheme, and that Cam Newton was fully eligible to play.
On December 1, 2010, the NCAA announced that Cam Newton had been declared ineligible by Auburn after having found evidence that Cecil Newton did in fact solicit Mississippi State for money in exchange for Cam Newton's athletic service. Auburn would immediately file to have him reinstated. The NCAA quickly reinstated Newton, declaring him eligible for the 2010 SEC Championship Game three days later, stating that there was not sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn had any knowledge of Cecil Newton's actions. Still, this reeks of the Reggie Bush-USC scandal, where the team was forced to wipe Bush from their record books and vacate wins and championships he was a part of. This is a string of concerning incidents.
In true 'future' Dallas Cowboy fashion, Newton is now having comments taken out of context and made into big deals by the media. During a promotional appearance for a shoe company this past week, Newton stated that he wants to be an entertainer and an icon. Those from the 'football should be all you ever talk about' camp, took this (and referring to himself in the third person) as a sign that Newton will chase the fame ahead of chasing the bling. That's a major no-no to most old school heads and the more conservative. When it comes to running a football team, Jerry Jones has never been accused of being either of those. Jones loves players that bring their own limelight, and Cam Newton definitely qualifies.
So the question is, why would the Cowboys risk alienating Romo for such a player? Is it purely motivation? Some would say that Jerry Jones, always known as the maverick, in reality wants to duplicate the success of other teams; is he trying to create a Favre-Rodgers dynamic? Is Jason Garrett taking a page from the Jimmy Johnson playbook and trying to create a pseudo Aikman-Walsh competition? There also exists the distinct possibility that Jones is trying to convince another team to trade into a slot above the Cowboys, thereby pushing a true target down to the team. You never really know with Ol' Jerrah.
What's your take BTB? Are the Cowboys taking a serious look at Newton? Do you think it's a good idea?