Marty Hurney: “We’ve gone through three and four quarterbacks during a season. We are not giving up on Jimmy Clausen.”
by Steven Cuce
It’s a colossal understatement to say that Marty Hurney made a bold decision in his selection of Auburn quarterback, Cam Newton, with the number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. It looks like the Panthers General Manager has come to grips with the fact that he will be forever remembered as the front office executive who believed in Newton and felt confidence in taking him.
Hurney will be going all in with Newton as his job in Carolina will most likely depend on his new quarterback’s performace. He got to a point where he felt the Panthers had an opportunity to select a player with special qualities at an impact position and he couldn’t pass Newton up. The uncertain part of all this is the fact that Carolina doesn’t have a veteran quarterback to mentor Newton or even help bridge the gap while the rookie learns the system. The Panthers drafted a quarterback in Jimmy Clausen last year who most likely feels dejected at best, but according to Hurney he still has confidence in the second year quarterback out of Notre Dame. Marty Hurney joined WFNZ in Charlotte with The Mac Attack to discuss wanting to play Cam Newton right away,why he liked Cam Newton over Blaine Gabbert, if he feels like it was a major gamble taking Cam Newton, are the Panthers going to trade Steve Smith once the lockout is lifted and if he’s giving up on Jimmy Clausen as the Panthers starting quarterback.
Do you want Cam Newton to play right away? Do you want to bring in a veteran quarterback? Do you want Jimmy Clausen or Matt Moore to hold the fort down for some time?
“Well this is the exact discussion with Cam [Newton] that obviously it’s going to take him awhile to learn and you want to give a rookie quarterback some time to step back and learn. The best way Cam can learn is to be out on the field and see things and experience those things, so you want to get him as many reps as possible. I think what it’ll come down to is just a feeling about it when you get there after having seen him on the practice field for however long we will see him and see how he does in competitive situations and see how comfortable he is with things. I think you’ll make the decision there. I think we’re very confident with Jimmy Clausen coming along and getting time and playing and I think we think he has the ability to be a very good quarterback and then you also have a young guy like Tony Pike. With the current situation I can’t tell you what’s going to happen with Matt Moore , but if you go out and get an older veteran because you do have younger guys to be a kind of mentor type guy and teach them. That is an option and we’ve talked about that. I have no definitive decision on that yet, but all of those are options. I think we feel good about the fact that we have young quarterbacks. We have guys that have ability to play this position. Now we just have to go along and see how it all works out and a lot of those answers come with seeing guys on the field.”
Why did you like Cam Newton over Blaine Gabbert?
“Cam just showed…Cam with his combination of athletic ability to his poise and presence were probably the two things that hit you the most. His poise in the pocket, his presence, his ability to stand in the pocket under pressure and make decisions. The way he improved accuracy wise as the years went on as the year progressed, as the season progressed, and his history as a winner. I mean his ability to win anywhere he has been. His leadership qualities are huge. His ability to…just the charisma he has with players in the football arena so to speak I think is huge. He’s got a lot of positives. You had to spend more time on him than a [Blaine] Gabbert or anyone else because there were so many rumors that popped up on him, so many stories you had to investigate and most of the time you know you investigated it and come away feeling well all the time.”
Did you feel like it was a gamble taking Cam Newton? Did this feel like a swing for the fences taking Cam? Does it feel like I’m putting my job on the line for this quarterback? Did it feel risky that you may be putting your job on the line?
“Well, first of all quarterback won’t be the only thing a lot people say I can’t pick. Yes. The answer to your question is yes. Anytime you make a move like this obviously it is, but you know we have to win football games as I say that’s what we have to do. I think anytime you pick a quarterback high like this it’s a risk. You know I laugh when people look back and say ‘god there’s no Matt Ryan. There’s no sure thing like a Matt Ryan in this draft’.’He went third. Two teams that needed a quarterback passed him up. At the time there is no sure thing at quarterback.
I mean because it’s the nature of the position. The intangibles. All the things you can’t see because it’s the one guy on offense who touches the ball every play. It’s the hardest position to evaluate and to project into this league. What I think makes Cam, the hardest thing about Cam, you know you look at him in an offense that is different than an NFL type offense and projecting him. It’s the same thing for Blaine Gabbert. Those two guys you had to project them over. When you look at the skill set, when you look at the person, look at the qualities he brings, you know you don’t feel nervous. You just feel like this was the right decision. When you do what I do you can’t be afraid because if you’re afraid to make any type of bold decisions then you’re not doing what’s right for your team and your organization. You have to do what you think is right.”
Fan Question: Are you going to trade Steve Smith? It sounds like he’s on his way out?
“And again I’ve answered this question twenty times. There’s nothing to change. You know this goes back to what I was saying. Everybody wants yes or no. I mean again we haven’t been able to talk to these players. The truth is you can’t have conversations with them. That makes it difficult, but the one thing I do know I can say eighty times…as much frustration as our fans went through with last year and you can hear it in the phone calls, you can hear it in their opinions, just think of how much that frustration has multiplied for our players, for our coaches, for our staff, for our scouts, and myself. So what you want to do is you want to get that behind you and again I can’t answer it any other way than I’ve answered it before.”
Can we say your giving up on Jimmy Clausen?
“Not at all. Not at all. [Host: Cam Newton has gotta play right?] He does. All you gotta do is look back at our recent history. I mean we’ve gone through three and four quarterbacks during a season. We are not giving up on Jimmy Clausen. We believe Jimmy Clausen is a good player and will continue to improve. He got thrown into an extremely difficult position last year and I believe very strongly that he has the ability to be a starter in this league. Again the situation with Cam is we got to a point where having the top pick we had the opportunity to take a player at a most impactful position in this league that had we thought special qualities.”