Home > Uncategorized > Cam is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t

Cam is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t

Let’s start here: Cam Newton didn’t handle his Super Bowl postgame press conference well.

To say the least. And many, many people have said a lot more than that:

Embarrassing.

Childish.

Disgraceful.

Stephen A. Smith said Newton looked like a coward while saying in the same breath that he would never call Newton a coward. Yeah, there was a lot of that over the airwaves and interwebs on Monday.

And I get it. Cam has an obligation to answer the media’s questions and he needs to complete it, no matter if the questions are repetitive or inane, or if he can simultaneously hear Chris Harris Jr. talk openly about how the Broncos’ entire defensive game plan was based around challenging Newton’s ability as a passer. 

To his credit actually, Newton didn’t shut down completely. He didn’t say “Both teams played hard” 10 times. He may not have offered up any soliloquies, but he did give one fairly flushed-out answer. The rest consisted of one or two words, but how is that any different than what we usually get during a presser with a disgruntled Bill Belichick? Tom Brady has done the same thing too. 

But, yes, Cam screwed that up. However, that immature moment opened the flood gates for pundits to rake him across the coals about other issues during the Super Bowl which were overblown and/or demonstrated the hypocrisy that is being applied to Newton right now. Let’s tackle what are the three most popular.

Newton’s press conference attitude, pre-walkout

Cam Newton, you just lost the Super Bowl! You missed a bunch of open receivers, wasted a handful of drives in opposition territory, got battered by the Broncos’ defense and generally played awful football. Well more than 100 million people watched you and your team fail, coming up horribly short to finish what had been the best season of your career. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NEXT?

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Looks about right.

During the presser, Newton was terse and sullen. But need I remind you that he had JUST LOST THE FREAKING SUPER BOWL?

Cam caught a bunch of flak for his mopey demeanor during the presser. Some said he showed a lack of professionalism and that for a guy who was always smiling and so happy-go-lucky throughout the season, he needed to show more composure at a time when things hadn’t gone his way. But it shouldn’t be surprising or offensive how he acted the way he did considering the game’s circumstances, platform and result. Newton reached the apex of his profession and then tumbled down the mountain, hitting every rock during his fall. The day was a tremendous bust. He was frustrated. To which I say “good.”

I want that out of my quarterback. I want him downtrodden after such a game. I want him to be upset. I want him to show his disappointment and hurt. Similarly, I want Josh Norman crying on the sidelines. Fans should want to see what it meant to their team’s players. And you could tell how much Sunday’s loss meant to Newton without a tear. Which leads me to issue No. 2.

Newton’s on-field attitude


Specifically, let’s look at Newton’s actions, some of which were rather demonstrative, during the Super Bowl’s final few minutes, when the game had clearly been decided. 

Following another fumble — a controversial one at that, which we’ll get to later — Denver set up shop on the doorstep of Carolina’s goal line, leading by six with about four minutes to play. 

On third and goal, Josh Norman is called for an evident pass interference penalty. A new set of downs for the Broncos, and a punch to the gut for Newton. Upon replays, you could see Cam crumbling to the ground as the call is made. He knows what that flag means, and it’s nothing good.

Later on, now trailing by 14 with less than 3 minutes remaining, Newton is forced to scramble into his own end zone on third and 24. He just throws the ball out of bounds and takes a hard shot from Derek Wolfe. I thought the hit was legal, but once Newton saw that the ref had not thrown the flag, he displayed his anger. Colin Cowherd said Newton was “rolling on the ground,” but the truth is Newton was just turning over to get up and snapped for a second in the process. It honestly wasn’t anything close to the temper tantrum that people made it out to be.

But again, who doesn’t want to see that kind of emotion from your team’s on-field leader? In fact, in those waning minutes, Newton looked to be the only Panther on offense who was clearly perturbed with how things were unfolding. Offensive tackles Michael Oher and Mike Remmers got whipped by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller all night long, and they hardly let out a shake of the head in the second half. They just looked like they didn’t want to be there.

You know that if Newton had shown such stoicism, he would have been blasted for not caring more about the game or for checking out mentally. If Newton had gone with the stone face, I’m sure someone like Smith or Cowherd would have at least insinuated that he quit on his team. Hell, Cowherd on Monday, while explaining why he prefers his quarterbacks to act more “presidential,” said that Newton has more of a “running back’s mentality.”** I’m sure that’s supposed to be a veiled shot at Newton’s quarterbacking abilities, but ANY team, ANY fan base would like to have a QB with a running back’s mentality who can also put up 40 touchdowns and lead a team with Ted Ginn as its No. 1 wideout to the Super Bowl.

In the end, Newton let his emotions fly and was blasted for not conducting himself like a quarterback should. He couldn’t win.

**I never watch or listen to Colin Cowherd or Stephen A. Smith. They are inciters who swim in lowest-common-denominator sports shouting, but the fact is they have a tremendous reach to the Joe Fans out there and hold influence over how a lot of people talk about sports. So on Monday morning at 9:42 a.m., I just had to see what Cowherd and Smith were talking about, assuming that they were trashing Newton. They didn’t disappoint. Stephen A. was telling Cam to grow up. Colin was saying that the MVP looked “tired” during the game while adding that while we don’t know what Newton did during the two-week break, Cowherd himself never drinks until at least Thursday. Just lovely.

I would also like to point out here that if Newton and not Peyton Manning had mentioned how much beer he was going to drink once he leaves the stadium, the postal service would have dealt with boatloads more letters from outraged mothers who think Newton was setting a bad example for the children. But with Peyton, it’s cool.

Don’t get me wrong; winning the Super Bowl, getting wastey-faced and then flying to Disneyland via a private jet all on about 45 minutes sleep sounds like an incredible experience. But just acknowledge that, again, people would have reacted very differently toward Newton if he had dropped the same cheap plugs for Bud.

That dodged fumble

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After almost every other Panther had left the field, Newton was still in disbelief over his crucial fourth-quarter fumble.

Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith wrote that Newton’s refusal to jump on a fumble with 4 minutes remaining defined his Super Bowl. That was true at one point Sunday night. For about 40 minutes. Then Newton put on a hoodie, sat in front of some reporters, and the defining moment of Cam Newton’s Super Bowl changed. The fumble got pushed to the back. But while the game was still being played, that split-second decision lit Twitter ablaze.

It was not a good look; the Panthers MUST maintain possession there at all costs. Newton either didn’t want to risk getting crunched in the middle of a Big Dude pile, thought the ball was going to move, believed DeMarcus Ware was going to recover the ball anyway or something else. I don’t know. But in that situation, it’s a bit difficult to defend staying out of the fray entirely.

Newton’s decision, however, led to a bunch of people questioning his desire or his toughness. I’ve already said plenty about how much Newton wanted to win. But if you actually thought that Cam Newton wasn’t tough based off that one play, let me just say you really should start watching more than one NFL game per year.

At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Newton possesses a rare blend of size and athleticism in a quarterback — and he knows it. And he is not afraid to use that bulk to his benefit. He’s commonly used as the Panthers’ goal-line runner, muscling his way through crowds of defenders. In the Super Bowl, Newton ran for 45 yards on six carries, most of which saw him cut through the heart of the defense. He took a couple of big hits — especially one from T.J. Ward in the second quarter — but we’ve grown accustomed to that. Or at least I thought we had. It’s funny that Newton’s toughness was debated in a game where his counterpart goes near-fetal at the first sign of contact.

For me, Cam Newton’s Super Bowl was defined by the immense and relentless pressure he faced and the open targets he missed. I thought nerves got the best of him often. He overthrew Ginn on Carolina’s ninth play of the game, a play that probably would have gone for a touchdown if not for the inaccuracy.

Unlike in Super Bowl 49, where it was easy to know which play changed the game, there was no flashing arrow pointing to a singular determining moment Sunday. It was more of a collective effort from Denver’s defense and Carolina’s overall ineptitude. That late fumble was key, but it was far from the deciding factor. And it definitely didn’t tell us anything about Cam Newton’s toughness.

Americans love their sports stars, but we have this strange requirement to see them humble. If you’re gonna be great, you better not revel in your greatness or else you are going to be tagged as a showboat, carrying yourself in an unsportsmanlike manner. Just in the past few years, it has happened with LeBron James, Yasiel Puig and it definitely happened with Cam Newton this season. In the span of a few months, he went from getting ripped for celebrating too much to getting ripped for being too moody.

People were waiting for him to stumble. People were waiting to take him down a peg. And they got to, partially because Newton’s own mistakes made him an easy target and partially because, well, people who gab about sports can be jerks sometimes.

There is no doubt Cam has things to understand about dealing with the media. But as far as his emotions on or off the field, I don’t think Ron Rivera would want him to change, no matter what anyone on the outside says. That emotion played a role for a team that won a conference championship and for a QB who was a near-unanimous Most Valuable Player selection, so why change? Plus, the Panthers didn’t lose the Super Bowl because Cam Newton was pouting or complaining or wasn’t tough enough. 

“They just played better than us. I don’t know what you want me to say. They made more plays than us, and that’s what it comes down to. We had our opportunities. It wasn’t nothing special that they did. We dropped balls, we turned the ball over, gave up sacks, threw errant passes. That’s it.”

That answer from Newton’s press conference really does say it all. Everything else is just noise.

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  1. February 9, 2016 at 9:06 am

    “Damned.”

    Great piece….well thought out.

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