By Ted Fleming
The seeds of discontent were not planted last year because he was on a new piece of land and wanted to check things out before making any decisions on the future. The soil appeared to be rich, the weather near perfect and just to make sure he would have something in the fall a few kernels were sprinkled around the property.
At this time of the year ghosts and goblins are in vogue and pumpkins are aplenty. But what Cam Newton had in mind was not a farm that supplies Halloween lanterns and Thanksgiving pies, but something like a vineyard. Those few kernels multiplied like the miracle of the five loaves and two fish and the Panthers’ quarterback suddenly found himself with a bumper crop of whine.
For the second time this season, Newton melted down at a postgame press conference and began his magical mystery bus tour by throwing everyone in sight under it. Whether it had anything to do with the firing of general manager Marty Hurney the next day is pure speculation, but the timing of owner Jerry Richardson’s announcement left many to wonder.
Newton no longer carries with him that patented thousand-watt smile. It has become more of a sneer as he talks about old scripts, suggestion boxes and change. That word might have been special in a presidential race but not when it comes to teammates, coaches and/or front office personnel. Maybe he never learned the old adage, “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.”
Shortly after Hurney got his pink slip, players lined up to express how disappointed they were – in themselves – that they let their now fallen GM down. For the most part the feeling was unanimous, although some, like DeAngelo Williams, Jordan Gross and Jon Beason, respectfully declined comment, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Whether he likes it or not, Cam Newton is at the center of the firing because it came 24-hours after he made his change comments. But when asked for his thoughts, the paper reported that he looked straight ahead, whistled softly and continued walking. Whistled? Someone lost his job and all you can do is whistle? Was this a case of finally learning to say nothing at all or thinking he had just pulled one over on everyone?
Put aside all the allegations that happened as he married three different colleges (Florida, Blinn and Auburn) and dated another (Mississippi State) before having a fairy-tale senior season capturing a national title and the Heisman Trophy. That might have given everyone a little insight as to why Marty Hurney went out on a limb to take him with the first overall pick in 2011.
No one, not even Hurney or Richardson, had a clue as to how Newton would handle adversity. After all, he was coming to a bad team that was likely to lose more games than win in his first NFL season and he had been on the short end of a score just once (at Blinn) over his final two seasons in college.
Disgruntled fans wanted Hurney out a long time before he was shown the door but he is well respected in NFL circles and should not have a long wait in the unemployment line. On the other hand, the jury is still out on the Panthers signal caller.
A few weeks back it was thought that Newton might be slipping into what is commonly referred to as the sophomore jinx. But it seems to go deeper than that. NFL coaches are quick studies and they can pick up on a player’s idiosyncrasies faster than you can say “time out.” They adjust but so far Newton has not done the same and if things don’t change, his word, the pundits may start to hint at the dreaded “B” word – dare it be said? – bust.
The pressure is off Newton – for now. Jerry Richardson found his first scapegoat for a 1-5 start. It is in the wind that others will follow but the Panthers owner has to do more than just get rid of people, he has to do something a lot more dramatic and it is not what how Donald Trump does at the end of his so-called reality show each week.
The Cam Newton Postgame Show is getting high ratings on that sports network up north but it is for all the wrong reasons. Richardson needs to step in and have an intervention with his quarterback because he has apparently become addicted to his own hype and needs a refresher course in humility. You have to look no further than how Josh Freeman handled his entry into a losing environment in Tampa Bay and Newton should be forced to watch all of his postgame media sessions until his head explodes.
Newton is currently the face of a dysfunctional 1-5 team that is offensively challenged and as the leader of that offense he has yet to be accountable to himself and looks elsewhere for blame. In a league driven by a single position, you get patted on the back when things are going well but you also have to accept the negativity when things go in the opposite direction.
Newton is young but he can only use that as an excuse for so long. He is also talented but unless it shows up on the field, you get only so many chances after failure. If Newton isn’t careful his words and lack of on-field production will begin to cut into a promising career, potentially ending it prematurely.
The last thing Newton wants to hear is his name mentioned in the same sentence as JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf. Go look those names up.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.