By Ted Fleming
If you missed Cam Newton’s post-game performance following the Carolina Panthers lopsided loss on national television Thursday night, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. It was must-miss television.
After what he called a “disappointing” loss to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the second-year Carolina quarterback gave that quoted word a new meaning. Showing up in a brown sweater-vest and jacket, Newton would sleep-walk through his media session the way he did in full battle garb of Carolina blue, black and white.
Lasting an agonizing four minutes and 18 seconds, the immaturity of the 23-year old was on full display. Newton’s non-appearance appearance was laced with a lot short answers and spoke so low you may have thought he was talking to himself instead of the press. There was not even the cursory tip of the hat to a Giants team that had just thumped the Panthers on both sides of the ball leaving them for dead saying they did “nothing” to win the game.
Carolina clearly underestimated New York’s ability to fire on all cylinders when faced with a challenge. It was a short week for both squads but only the Giants showed up ready to play. The visitors began the game by placing their fortunes in the hands of a running back that had been cut seven times and a third line receiver and they performed like seasoned veterans. It didn’t hurt that Eli Manning was under center.
The ease in which Big Blue marched down the field on the first series of downs deflated a capacity crowd at Bank of American Stadium and it might have had the same reaction on the Panthers who never seemed to get into gear except for a flash of brilliance to start the second half when Newton led his team to their only score of the night.
Newton looked like a man who was trying too hard to get it right rather than a man on a mission. The defense didn’t do him any favors playing like a Pop Warner team against Newton’s alma mater, Auburn but that should not have affected his approach on offense. That 1,000-watt smile he usually possesses disappeared when the first points went up on the board and he had not yet stepped on the field.
He was a beaten man then and was a beaten man when he stepped up to the microphone. Was it a crushing loss? Sure but there is always tomorrow, or rather a week from Sunday. A 1-2 record is not the end of the world only Newton played it as if it was.
Was it a sympathy play? Was he trying to get local scribes to feel sorry for him and write something not so critical? No one will even know and now head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney must make a decision. They can simply blow it off as some kind of youthful misstep or have him sit in the film room and watch the video over and over and over – not of the game but his press conference and tell him he has to be better than that.
Newton is the face of the Panthers for better or worse and that has more to do with Hurney giving his quarterback the right combination of players to make the team at least be competitive against the upper echelon clubs.
Let’s face it, Carolina got lucky against New Orleans last Sunday and they thought they were good enough to slip past a depleted New York team. That may have been their biggest mistake. The Panthers are a team on the rise but if Thursday night is any indication their ascension could be slowed to a crawl. And the last thing they need is a sulking quarterback. Newton is sulking and he has ten days between games to clear his head. That’s where Rivera and Hurney come in.
The two men charged with running the franchise have to jump in and jump in fast. One more game like Thursday could actually make Newton believe there is such a thing as the sophomore jinx.
Can you imagine what the post-game press conferences will look line then?
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.