It was a long day for Cam Newton and the Panthers offense. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Before we get to the Cam Newton drama, let’s celebrate the Denver Broncos. What a great game by that defense. They were incredible. An elite defense stifled an elite quarterback. It’s somewhat unfortunate that the Peyton Manning saga has stolen their glory, but I hope history remembers this Super Bowl as belonging to that defense and not Manning’s swan song.
Carolina’s defense was also spectacular. For them to lose a football game by two touchdowns despite surrendering less than 200 yards of offense is incredible… and sad. Cam Newton and the offense should feel awful about how they performed, but they should feel even worse about how they let down their defense. Even a semi-component offense wins the Super Bowl behind that defense’s performance.
Now onto the juicy stuff…
The biggest story coming out of Super Bowl 50 isn’t a Broncos victory or even Peyton Manning likely walking away from the NFL a champion. Cam Newton is the story. Hot takes have been streaming in from all angles in regards to Newton’s play and how he handled himself on and off the field. Let’s break them down one-by-one.
White America’s hatred for Cam Newton is leaking out. The whole race narrative was unbelievably stupid. I literally asked every single white person I saw this weekend if they hated Cam Newton. Not a single person answered yes. One individual wished he didn’t celebrate 1st downs, but that was as close as I got to a negative opinion in regards to Newton. The whole notion of equating someone’s opposition to Newton’s celebrations to racism was asinine. You know who else was hated for their flamboyance on the field? Jim McMahon. Know who is hated for the same thing today? Bryce Harper. Hold on… aren’t they both white?
Cam Newton is a sore loser. Kind of. Anyone who’s watched Newton throughout his NFL career knows he doesn’t handle losing well. He sits on the bench. He sulks. He looks ready to cry and kill someone all at once. As Bomani Jones shared via Twitter, Cam Newton didn’t stop being a sore loser this season. He just stopped losing.
On the other hand, is being visibly upset really being a sore loser? A sore loser to me is someone that denies the opponent credit for the victory. Cam Newton doesn’t do that. Look at the picture below of Newton congratulating Peyton Manning. It was the only time Newton smiled all night. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Cam Newton needs to grow up. Here’s the narrative that’s more on point. I’ve got nothing wrong with how hard Newton takes losing, but you’re the quarterback. You can’t be pouting the whole game when things don’t go your way. You can’t flop and writhe on the ground from the sideline late in the 4th quarter. Newton handled everything about Super Bowl 50 perfectly except for the 4 hours he was playing football. I’ve never been pummeled by a defensive line over and over and again, but I imagine it’ll suck the life out of you. Here’s where we should all have greater appreciation for Tom Brady. Two weeks ago Brady took more hits than Newton did (albeit not many more) and just kept coming. The Patriots were a 2 point conversion from forcing overtime. Brady didn’t play great but he didn’t mentally check out at any point. Newton’s head left that game after the Ted Ginn Jr. drop/interception combo early in the 3rd quarter. From that point, the Panthers mustered only two 1st downs over the games final 20 minutes and went three-and-out on 5 of their last 6 possessions.
The most frustrating part (from a Newton fan’s perspective) was that Carolina was never out of that game. There was a stretch late in the 2nd quarter through late in the 3rd quarter where Carolina moved the ball and appeared to have settled in. Unfortunately, all three of their drives during that stretched that surpassed 40 yards ended in a turnover (fumble, missed FG, INT).
Cam Newton’s postgame performance was cowardly. Oh stop. People love judging athletes without once considering how they’d act in a similar situation. Imagine you put an entire years work into this one evening and it all blows up in your face. You sucked. You’re devastated. Not only are millions of people watching you, but you also must go answer questions about what happened. Newton was understandably terse with his responses, often providing only one word answers before saying, “I’m done,” and leaving the podium after less than 90 seconds. What if leaving the podium was the mature decision? When Newton left, he appeared ready to cry or angrily explode. I couldn’t decide which it was but it was definitely one of those. Had he cried, he’d have been called a coward or a crybaby. If he started yelling, he’d likely have said something regrettable. Given the magnitude of the loss and his obvious pain, leaving the press conference was the right decision. Newton owed the Denver Broncos credit for the victory. He owed them grace and respect in defeat. He did both. Newton owed the media nothing.
Look at it this way. Are you married? Ever do something that pisses off your spouse? What do you do when he/she wants to talk about what you did wrong just minutes after the event? Do you put on a smile and pour out apologies or do you angrily walk away? Athletes make millions of dollars, but those millions of dollars are paid to them because they’re physically more gifted than the rest of us. Emotionally, they’re every bit as vulnerable and unstable as you and me.
Cam Newton choked. Hard to argue this one. Newton was lousy all night. The Broncos defense stole Newton’s swag after only 6 plays. From there, Newton was never the same. I can’t remember the last time Newton didn’t smile for the last 50+ minutes of a game. The strip sack-fumble-touchdown on the Panthers 2nd possession set the tone for the whole game: Denver’s defense made a great play; Newton compounded the problem by easily surrendering the football.
The Broncos pressure got to Newton’s head. He moved when the pressure wasn’t there and sat in the pocket too long when it was on top of him. His clock was all messed up. His accuracy was subpar for most of the game too and his receivers left him hanging with backbreaking drops. The fumble late in the 4th quarter that sealed the game was a fitting end. Denver’s defense made a great play; Newton compounded the problem by clearly opting not to dive for the football.
Not sure what Newton was thinking there, but whatever his rational was it was wrong and inexcusable. You can’t do that to your teammates with the season on the line. If people want to roast Newton, his play and that play particularly are where they have my blessing. Cam Newton was the NFL’s MVP. You can’t let a defense take your swagger. They feast on that. It’s like throwing chum to sharks.
[I’d like to note that Jonathan Stewart deserves some blame for the loss, if not all of it. After scoring the Panthers lone TD, Stewart opted to keep the football (totally reasonable) instead of allowing Cam to give it to a kid in the stands as they’ve done all season long. HELLO!! YOU CAN’T CHANGE WHAT YOU’VE DONE ALL SEASON JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE IN THE SUPER BOWL. IT’S VERY BAD MOJO, VERY, VERY BAD. That’s why Carolina lost.]
Finally, I wonder what Cam Newton does with the upcoming 2016 season. After a horrible performance in the 2011 NBA Finals, LeBron James cut out the playful pregame shenanigans and all but eliminated the on-court flamboyance. He went as far as to call himself a villain that season. He was all business. LeBron understood that the more colorful and extravagant you are on the court (field) the louder the backlash will be when/if you lose. Once you win, it’s a moot point because they can’t take away your title, but until then, it’s added pressure that’s self-inflicted and unnecessary. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Newton take a similar approach. Overall, it’ll be interesting to see how Newton responds next season after everything blew up in his face in Super Bowl 50. I mean… it’d be hard to construct a fictional scenario where Newton’s 1st Super Bowl could go any worse than it actually did.