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If Hollywood was looking for a new young face to build and market around, what would they look for? A charming individual, with a picturesque smile? Of course. How about an athletic build that would fit perfect alongside any leading lady? Check. An individual who gives back to his community and looks out for the youth, encouraging them to reach for the stars? You got it. Enter Cameron Jerrell Newton. Is he not the prime example of the above-mentioned budding star?
Over the past few weeks, he has been criticized for celebrating too much, adored for his work with children, chastised for his comments about racism and praised for maturing into a team leader and MVP quarterback. He is all of the above, for better or worse. He was the chosen one, selected 1st overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 2011 NFL Amateur Draft. In five short years, he took his team to the promise land.
The Panthers had an incredible season in 2015, finishing 15-1, rolling through Seattle and Arizona to earn their ticket to Super Bowl 50 as the #1 seed in the NFC. This team wasn’t chosen at the beginning of the season by most, to be the NFC’s representative in the Super Bowl. The Panthers had their fair share of flaws, highlighted by a weak receiving corps and questionable depth along the offensive line and in the backfield.
Some holes can be covered up when you have a super-human highlight reel at quarterback. What Cam Newton lacked in offensive support he could mask, for the most part, with his own electrifying talents, as the most explosive running quarterback since the likes of a young Michael Vick and vintage Randall Cunningham. The NFL had been waiting for his coming out party and 2015 finally was that opportunity.
Carolina lost Hall of Fame wide receiver, Steve Smith, to free agency in 2014, thinning out the depth chart at the position that was already lacking in play makers. Rookie Kelvin Benjamin came in and picked up a lot of the slack, putting up over 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. The 2015 preseason dealt another heavy blow to the position when the 2nd-year pro, went down with a torn ACL, during a practice with the Miami Dolphins. This injury left the Panthers with very little experience at wide receiver outside of vagabond veteran Ted Ginn Jr. and a handful of other young players and roster castoffs.
It’s hard to poke holes in a roster that accomplished what every team hopes for at the beginning of each season. They made it to the Super Bowl after all! However, after smashing through two tough defenses (Seattle, Arizona), convincingly so, they still had holes. They never addressed the depth at key positions that teams attempting to make a run at a ring should have filled.
At the NFL trade deadline, it was suggested by a few experts that the Panthers should look to upgrade their wide receiver depth. What might it have taken for them to get Calvin Johnson from the Lions? Would it not been worth a 2nd round pick? Would the Lions have said yes? What about trying to acquire Alshon Jeffery from the Bears? Due to his age, he might have been tougher to trade for, despite his pending free agent status. What about veterans on teams with losing records?! They could have had Anquan Boldin or Vincent Jackson for much less.
Maybe the Panthers picked up the phone and inquired about one of these players, or all of them. They didn’t make a move and left Cam Newton with a receiving core that was not prepared to face the likes of Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, TJ Ward, ect. The holes along the offensive line couldn’t protect even the most athletic of quarterbacks when Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were barreling down on them. Jonathan Stewart rolled his ankle in the first quarter and my first thought was, will this game be decided by Fozzy Whitaker?!
The Panthers had a lot of pieces that it takes to win a championship. A lot of those very players were at key positions in which you would build a team around. However, they lost in the trenches, they lost in the secondary, they lost when it came to pure, unadulterated will. They lost because they weren’t the best team on the field. They lost because they were smug and obnoxious. They were playing to “Hollywood” and not to win. The Broncos came prepared, not only to win the Super Bowl, but to beat the Carolina Panthers. One came for the cameras, one came for the ring.
The sign of true integrity is how a person holds themselves in the best of times, but more so how they conduct themselves during the worst of times. In postgame interviews a few players came across as poor sports, most notably, you guessed it… Cameron Newton. He claimed that he was a “sore loser” and “if you show me a good loser, I’ll show you a loser.”
What he should have said was “Denver played a good game. They were the better team. Congratulations to Peyton Manning, Von Miller and the entire Denver organization. Kudos to Wade Phillips for drawing up a phenomenal game plan. Today, they were the best team. We will be back. I have a lot of work to do in the offseason to better my game for the 2016 season. See you next year.” Then walk off into the proverbial sunset and live to fight another day.
Had Cam Newton held himself to a higher standard, they might have won. Had he lost with integrity, he would have gained many more fans should he ever win a Super Bowl down the road. A man’s reputation and good word is all he has in life. I lost a lot of respect for Cam Newton as a player, a leader and as a man. For that, Carolina deserved to lose. Oh and the fact that they didn’t have any wide receivers. They deserved to lose for that, too.