Cam Newton won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award Saturday night, and he’ll be looking to add a Lombardi Trophy Sunday.
The fifth-year starting quarterback of the Carolina Panthers became the first player in team history to win the award. Ron Rivera, Newton’s coach, won his second Coach of the Year award in three seasons.
“Without the fans there wouldn’t be no me. Thank you for supporting me in an unwavering way for so much of my career,” said Newton in a taped message at the NFL Honors ceremony since he couldn’t be at the awards show the night before Super Bowl 50.
“I would also like to thank every person that has doubted me because you make me better.”
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Newton led the Panthers to a franchise-best 15-1 record and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. He threw for 3,837 passing yards with a 59.7 completion percentage along with a career-high 35 passing touchdowns and career-low 10 interceptions.
Newton also had 10 rushing touchdowns to go along with his 636 rushing yards on 132 carries, the second-most by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era.
Newton won the award with 48 of the 50 possible votes. The Associated Press award is voted upon by journalists, analysts and former players at the end of the regular season. Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer and New England quarterback Tom Brady each got one vote.
Newton’s quarterback counterpart in Super Bowl 50, Peyton Manning, said this week that Newton had an “incredible year.”
“I mean, no doubt in my mind he’s going to be the MVP on Saturday night,” said Manning, who has won the award an NFL-record five times. “What he’s done in the short time being an NFL quarterback he’s been awesome. It’s the best word I can think of. He’s been a great passer, he’s been a great runner, he’s been a great leader. You don’t go 17-1 as a starting quarterback without being awesome and that’s what he’s been this year without a doubt.”
Newton is also the first African-American quarterback to win the award outright. Steve McNair shared the award with Manning in 2003.
Newton, who also won the AP Offensive Player of the Year award with 18 votes, becomes the first Panthers player in team history to even receive an MVP vote.
“The last time I spoke on Cam’s behalf it didn’t go very well so I’m going to be very brief,” Newton’s dad, Cecil, said when accepting the Offensive Player of the Year award when making an apparent reference to the pay-for-play scheme during Newton’s collegiate years.
Rivera won the highest honor for coaches for the second time since 2013. He received the award after Carolina’s 12-4 season.
Rivera ran away with the award’s voting, earning 36 1/2 of the 50 votes. Kansas City coach Andy Reid was second with six votes.
“An award like this is indicative of the organization and ours start at the top with our owner, Mr. (Jerry) Richardson, and also with our general manager, Dave Gettleman, who’s been very supportive in the last few years and been behind me the whole way,” Rivera said.
Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula finished third in voting for the AP’s assistant coach of the year award. Shula oversaw the league’s No. 1 scoring offense in 2015.
Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips won the award with 18 votes. Former Cincinnati offensive coordinator Hue Jackson had nine votes, and Shula finished with seven votes.
Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly finished in third place for the AP Defensive Player of the Year award that he won in 2013. Kuechly had four votes while cornerback Josh Norman finished in fourth with two votes.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt won the award for the third time in his career with 37 votes.