The Carolina Panthers are coming off a season that culminated in a trip to the Super Bowl. It’s also a season that saw quarterback Cam Newton earn the first of what should be multiple MVP awards.
It also nearly never came to fruition. Well, that’s what Panthers head coach Ron Rivera would like us to believe.
“Remember, we had the No. 1 pick, and we were talking quarterback,” Rivera said about the 2011 draft, via the San Jose Mercury News. “And it came down to Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert. Those were the two guys we targeted and looked at, and looked at really, really hard.”
There you have it. The Panthers nearly made what would have been considered the worst decision in franchise history by selecting Gabbert over Newton with the first pick of the 2011 NFL Draft.
It’s not like we really need to delve too much into the statistics here to realize how the Panthers’ ultimate decision shaped the NFL for years to come. Newton has tallied over 21,000 total yards with 160 total touchdowns in five seasons as the Panthers’ starter.
Meanwhile, Gabbert lasted all of three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars after they selected him 10th overall that year.
Now competing for a starting job with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, the former Missouri standout has put up 34 touchdowns compared to 31 picks during his unimpressive career.
Rivera’s comments are interesting as they come within the context of him analyzing San Francisco’s quarterback competition.
In addition to drafting Newton and studying Gabbert big time, the Panthers’ head coach met with Kaepernick in the lead up to the 2011 draft.
“I got to interview both guys (Gabbert and Kaepernick), and we really studied Blaine,” the head coach said. “I can see where Blaine could really capture the (locker) room. He’s likeable. He’s high energy. Big effort. Not satisfied.”
What might end up in a quarterback controversy between two mediocre quarterbacks in Northern California, it’s apparent that Rivera seems to be a fan of Gabbert.
Though, we can reasonably conclude that the head coach is darn happy with the Panthers’ decision to select Newton first overall five years ago.