If you have been on the interwebs at all this week you will have noticed plenty of chatter about quarterback Cam Newton. Not the kind of chatter that many of us expected to hear in Newton’s third year, but nevertheless it has come. Debate on whether or not the former Heisman trophy winner is the right man to lead the Panthers going forward has been ignited.
After moronic comments from Rodney Harrison last Sunday saying the Panthers should bench Newton there seemed to be several football writers this past week who came to Cam’s defense. Grantland’s Bill Barnwell went into depth on why the problem isn’t Newton, but instead it’s the rest of the team. You can read that here. Barnwell makes interesting points throughout his piece, some of which may come across as excuses to others.
One thing is certain though: the Panthers’ front office is going to have to make a decision on whether Newton is the problem or solution. With his rookie deal set to expire after next season there it’s going to be fascinating to see how Carolina approaches the situation. The two sides will be able to negotiate between year three and four on the deal, which means Newton could be coming to the table asking for a large sum of money without ever leading the team to the playoffs, let alone a winning record.
That wouldn’t be as much of a problem if discernible progress from the team was being made, but that clearly hasn’t been the case. The Panthers have stumbled out of the gate in back-to-back seasons when there have been expectations to improve. This is where things get tricky. Is this lack of progress due to a coaching staff that has failed its players or is it players not coming through with big plays when needed? The correct answer is both, so what does that mean for Newton?
Well, it’s obvious that Rivera’s tenure in Carolina hasn’t proven to be the best hire, which many Cam backers cite when defending him, but there is a reason this conversation is even being brought up on a national level. One of the biggest critiques I have of Newton is that when the going gets tough Cam doesn’t get going, and I mean that in the way that he doesn’t turn his play around and trudge through the adversity.
Against Arizona it was clear from the beginning that Cam came to play. His teammates let him down with drops, the offensive line was a sieve and things spiraled out of control. There are going to be games where it’s just one of those days, but a franchise quarterback is able to lift his team up and provide a spark more times than not. That’s something Newton has never done in the NFL. During his three seasons with the Panthers every time that Carolina’s backs are against the wall in a game the team has collapsed.
That’s a problem. But is it one that is because of Newton? I don’t believe so. A lot of the “excuses” you can make for him are valid, yet you would like to see a quarterback rise above the excuses and still deliver. Andrew Luck is a prime example of a quarterback who came into a less than ideal situation and delivered right away. He has shown that he is the solution to Indianapolis being competitive for the next decade.
When looking at Cam I feel confident in saying that he isn’t the problem, but I’m still not sure if he’s the solution either.