(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Cam Newton will find a way to keep moving the chains, regardless of the obstacle.
Amid all the well-deserved hoopla surrounding the quarterback class of 2012 along with San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl signal caller Colin Kaepernick, Carolina Panthers second year quarterback Cam Newton was going through his own private hell.
While the media took their shots at the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year, Newton kept it moving — throwing for fewer interceptions and increasing his passer rating — while leading the Panthers to five wins in their last six games.
It was all good a year ago…
For one month during the 2012 season, the media did something they were unable to do dating back to Cam Newton’s senior season at Auburn University.
They took his smile away.
After the Panthers fourth loss in a row at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, Newton made his frustrations with the team’s overall output known. In the Panthers post game presser, Newton expressed out how the offense had failed to move the ball for several weeks in a row. Other than the 36-7 pounding they took to the New York Giants in Week 3, the Panthers lost their next four games by a total of 12 points. The Panthers were in every one of those games, it was one or two plays which determined the outcome.
Instead of focusing on what Newton said about his team, more attention was paid to how he addressed a female reporter. When asked how could he help remedy the problem, Newton mentioned a suggestion box because he had no idea and later addressed her as “sweetheart”. In watching the above video, Newton does not come off as condescending, but all journalists should be addressed the same to avoid any misinterpretation.
That’s where the media took the hand off. Newton was ostracized for whining and lacking leadership. As well as lashing out at the aforementioned reporter.
Many have been waiting to hunt down Carolina’s Big Cat.
Newton acknowledged it was his responsibility to get himself and the team back on track. From September 20th through October 28th, Newton threw three touchdowns and six interceptions. His completion percentage was an uncharacteristic 48 percent with a QB rating of 69.4.
Meanwhile, Robert Griffin III was grabbing headlines similar to the way Newton did the previous season.
In their first meeting, the Panthers defeated the Washington Redskins 21-13, snapping a five-game losing streak. Newton’s numbers weren’t dazzling, but he was effective, as he threw and ran for a touchdown with no turnovers.
The Panthers went on to win six of their next nine games, including four in a row. Newton threw 14 touchdowns and 4 interceptions to close out the 2012 campaign. He also rushed for five scores and didn’t throw an interception for five straight games. The Panthers finished 7-9, a one game improvement over their 2011 finish.
Newton passed for 3,869 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His two-year total of 7,920 yards are the most by any quarterback to begin a career in NFL history. Newton also led the Panthers in rushing last season.
The 2013 Carolina Panthers offense will have a different look. Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski left the team to become coach of the Cleveland Browns. Chudzinski was responsible for bringing the zone read offense to Carolina, where Newton flourished in 2011. Quarterbacks coach Mike Shula takes over for Chudzinski, replacing the zone read with more of a conventional drop back offense for Newton.
This works for Newton, who has one of the strongest arms in the game. If you can get your hands on him, he’s still tough to bring down. It’s head coach Ron Rivera’s hope a drop back approach cuts down on Newton leaving the pocket unless it’s completely necessary. Dropping Newton back adds an element of surprise to his game. With a three-headed monster of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert in the backfield, the Panthers offense should be much more balanced. Newton’s primary focus needs to be on consistency and accuracy heading into his third season.
In his first season, it was all about Steve Smith and last year Greg Olson and Brandon LaFell were added to the mix. This year, Newton has two more receivers in Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon. Not exactly names that jump off the page, but both can stretch the field and after all, we’ve seen Newton has made it work with much less in his arsenal.
If the offensive line can continue to develop and the defense can build on its top ten finish, the Panthers could be in position to snap their four-year playoff drought.