The Panthers had the first pick in the 2011 draft and used it on Auburn quarterback Newton. There were plenty of concerns expressed prior to the draft as to how effective the Panthers would be with a quarterback who took approximately 90 percent of his snaps out of the shotgun. With no minicamps or offseason workout programs, the working theory was that it would be difficult for any team to incorporate a rookie quarterback given the small window of opportunity teams had to get their work done and get a young quarterback acclimated to the lineup.
The process was deemed to be even more difficult for the Vikings and Panthers, who not only drafted quarterbacks in the first round, but did so with new coaching staffs that were prohibited in working with them. While the Panthers have got off to a 2-5 start with Newton at the helm, anyone who has watched Carolina games this season knows that the Panthers have made a lot of progress and that Newton is the "real deal." Rarely has a 2-5 team created more positive buzz about the future than the Panthers have with Newton, who clearly has all the tools to be an effective pro.
The lack of practice time hasn't seemed to have as big an effect on teams that took QBs early in last April's draft. Cincinnati has posted a 4-2 record with Andy Dalton as its quarterback, the Jaguars are moving forward with Blaine Gabbert as their quarterback and the Vikings made the switch to Ponder after veteran Donovan McNabb brought little to nothing to the table as a starter.
Even the oldest of Vikings fans may have thought they saw it all over the years, but they're going to see something Sunday that they've never seen before – two rookie quarterbacks starting in the same Vikings game. Both teams are pinning their future hopes on the young men lined up under center and their success will go a long way to determining how fast the Panthers and Vikings can move from the bottom or middle of the pack to return to inclusion among the elite teams of the NFL.
For both the Vikings and Panthers, the future begins Sunday … again.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.