CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46) - A couple of months ago I was one of the few who ridiculed Cam Newton for his post-game behavior after the Panthers loss to the Saints. A quick refresher – Cam gave snotty, petulant one word answers after his team narrowly lost in New Orleans. Remember now?
I said then and I’ll say it again now, Cam Newton does not deserve to be a captain on this football team. Rule #1 of being a captain – follow team rules but at the end of the day this is more than Cam Newton not wearing a tie to Sunday night’s game. This is about a football player who must grasp the concept of team if he hopes to ever lead a team to a world championship. This is also about a football coach who is equally to blame for letting this train get off the tracks.
Now to the latest episode of Cam Newton’s unabashed selfishness and lack of team concept. Before we go any further I will add that Cam’s benching for a dress code violation did not cause the Panthers to lose the game. The Seahawks are simply a better team and executed to perfection in the 40-7 embarrassment.
However, it did indeed set the tone for the rest of the evening for this team. Derek Anderson’s short dump pass to Mike Tolbert should have been caught but why was that play necessary in the first place? Because Cam Newton again was more worried that he didn’t look like the rest of his teammates when they deplaned in Seattle and wasn’t in for the first play of the game. If you don’t think one play can set the tone for an entire game then you simply haven’t watched much football. If you don’t think every player on that team said to themselves, “Damn it Cam” right after that first play interception then again you don’t understand the dynamics of team.
Sure some players may have said “Damn it Ron” but at the end of the day it was ultimately an action or non-action by Cam Newton that resulted in his benching and again the focus is on him.
Cam’s response Sunday night when asked if he knew about the team’s dress code:
“Well, in a sense I did. But needless to say, I think there’s a lack there of communication on my part, and I think I have to be clearer moving forward, know what certain things are done.”
In public and in interviews basically every Panther player will say they’ve got Cam’s back or “he’s our guy” but behind closed doors there is a strong and growing faction of players that have tired of the act. And not just players have tired of the act – Cam’s “me-first” campaign has the entire organization pulling its hair out from top to bottom but the organization itself is to blame that it has come to this point with Newton.
For six years the franchise quarterback has been treated with kid gloves and it began the minute his name was called in New York during the 2011 NFL draft. He was hailed as the savior of the franchise and there is no disputing last season he performed like a franchise quarterback but 2015 seems like a lifetime ago. Ron Rivera spent much of the off-season defending his quarterback after his now infamous post Super Bowl news conference.
Ron Rivera spent much of training camp defending his MVP quarterback’s sluggish Spartanburg performances. Ron Rivera has spent the majority of this season defending what has been a mediocre season for his quarterback but obviously Ron reached his tipping point yesterday. The problem I have with Ron reaching his tipping point now is he should have reached his tipping point years ago.
I have no proof that “tie-gate” is anything more than a dress code violation but common sense tells me something is rotten in Denmark or at least on Mint Street. When you suspend your highest profile player for a nationally televised game when you still have a flicker of a playoff chance then you did it for more than not wearing a tie.
In all of my years of covering the NFL I have never heard of a suspension for a dress code violation. Cam has been on this team for six years and the code has been the same for six years. This is again a pattern of behavior that Cam is simply going to be Cam but it’s not cute anymore. It could and should have been nipped in the bud a while ago. It’s another Monday when we are focused on something Cam didn’t do on the field but it’s a culmination of his off-field antics that has led to a massive drop-off of production on it.
The Cam defenders will point to the numerous injuries on the offensive line for his lack of production and sure that has been a contributing factor to a degree but #1 has not been right all season long. I have covered the NFL for 30 years and Cam is a football player who has regressed. His mechanics have been bad and his pocket presence non-existent. Gonna play dime store psychologist here but when Cam won the MVP last season Cam became even more content. He did not work extra on his craft this off-season instead his focus was on his Nickelodeon television series.
When the post script is written for this season in four weeks Cam Newton’s final stats will be some of the worst ever for a reigning league MVP. Sure, there have been injuries on the offensive line but every team gets banged up so that excuse rings hollow with me. Cam has not adapted to a make-shift offensive line. He still is taking too deep of drops and still hasn’t mastered the simple five yard in throw. Some will say “but Chuck Cam will never be a true pocket passer.” He better learn how to become one because he ain’t getting any younger. Is Cam’s play this season an aberration? Time will tell but he’s currently the 18th ranked QB in the NFL.
Team management thought it would be best if they jettisoned veteran Steve Smith from the team as it needed to be Cam’s locker room. What Cam Newton needs now more than ever is for a veteran to standup and kick him square in his fanny and tell him to stop the “Sideshow Bob” routine. As I have always told my folks, “Family first, Work Second, Playtime Third”!
Greg Olsen warned us in training camp that if some players didn’t shake the glow of 2015 then this Panthers team was destined to win four games. Olsen is an old school player who has an old school work ethic. My guess is Greg was one of those players who said “Damn it Cam” last night and Olsen’s prediction of this team winning four games may end up being spot on.