NFL: Lights, Cam, No Action

Cam Newton has been nothing short of special on the Carolina Panthers. If there was a movie about him, the theme song to his debut in the NFL in 2011 would be “A Star is Born” by Jay-Z.

In his first game against the Arizona Cardinals, Cam’s first touchdown was a 77-yarder to Steve Smith. The receiver had high praise for him after the game.

“He was everything everybody didn’t expect him to be.”

Steve Smith Sr.

Everyone expected Newton to look flustered and forced to flee the pocket to use his innate athleticism. Instead, he surveyed the field like a veteran, throwing for 422 yards and three total touchdowns.

It was at that moment you just knew Newton was a generational talent.

Fast forward to here in 2019, the former Auburn star has a Hall of Fame resume in the works. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler, All-Pro nominee, MVP recipient, and Offensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year winner. He even took the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015.

It doesn’t just stop there for Cam in accolades and accomplishments as his stats give light to him being a future Hall of Famer.

Newton already has the most rushing touchdowns for quarterbacks in league history (58), is on pace to throw for 200 touchdowns, and he is going to exceed 30,000 passing yards in a season or two.

The only thing Cam is missing is a ring. In fact, he might not get the chance to bring a Super Bowl to Carolina.

After sustaining a shoulder injury late in the year, Carolina and Cam are at a crossroads. There are reports revealing that Carolina wants Newton to sit out for the entire 2019 season. On the flip side, Newton wants to play.

In the event that he sits for 2019, Newton’s days as a Panther are over.

Old and Battered

Super-Cam is more than capable of slicing a defense like a surgeon, but what makes him special is his running ability. That style of play is what made him special at Auburn and the first overall selection coming out of college in 2011.

Usually, running quarterbacks are subject to big hits that land them on the injury report every week. Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III come to mind as electric dual-threats hampered by injuries.

Vick and RG3 hovered around 215 pounds while Newton is much bigger at 245. When he runs, he is physical as he punishes defenders that stand in his way.

Newton has rushed 929 times since entering the league, which is nearly 300 more attempts than the next nearest passer in Russell Wilson. He has also been sacked 285 times. With a nagging shoulder, it’s clear the hits are taking a toll.

That’s not it either.

Newton will be 31 the next time he steps on the field should he miss 2019.

Peyton Manning and Drew Brees had significant injuries and were able to bounce back in their 30’s to win a Super Bowl. However, Newton isn’t a stationary passer like them.

Cam is a free agent after the 2020 season. With his contract situation, age, health, and playing style in mind, it’s hard to picture the Panthers cashing in on him.

The Hurney-Newton-Tepper Trifecta

Cam was drafted in 2011 by general manager Marty Hurney. It was a match made in heaven for the two of them. Newton wanted to go somewhere he could play his style of football, be himself, and be the man while Hurney yearned for a competitor to be the face of the franchise.

The two got their wish.

Yet, Hurney wasn’t around to see the real gem Newton developed into as he left in 2012. When he returned as GM in 2017, the deep affection he had for the quarterback he drafted was still there.

At one point, it looked as though Newton might be a lifer in Carolina with Hurney back in the front office. That is until Jerry Richardson, the Panthers’ former owner, was forced to sell the team.

In May of 2018, new team owner David Tepper assumed control of Carolina.

A new team owner usually means there are going to be massive changes. Cam might have been feeling a bit uneasy with Hurney’s job hanging in the balance with Tepper taking over. However, the new owner decided to keep Hurney around to continue as GM. This meant Newton was safe.

That is until he got injured.

No matter how tight Hurney and Newton might be, it’s Tepper’s call on what to do with his franchise. The comments he made about his star quarterback’s shoulder weren’t exactly a vote of confidence either.

“Hopefully, Cam’s shoulder is fantastic, right?” Tepper said. “And we’re hunky dory, all fantastic. If it’s not, you may need more cap space. You may need to go out and find somebody. If you don’t, you guys are going to be writing what a dope we are here.”

Team Owner, David Tepper

Tepper did try to backtrack and clean up what he said, eluding to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts 2018 resurgence. He referenced them to provide hope that Carolina could be a contender if Newton returned to his elite status after this injury.

Tepper isn’t wrong to think that, but Newton doesn’t play like Luck. His situation in Carolina also isn’t as luxurious as the one in Indy in reference to cap space. Carolina only has $16 million to improve their roster while the Colts have $106 million to enhance theirs.

The new owner might like the idea of keeping Cam, but balancing his checkbook is more important.

Looking Ahead

History doesn’t favor aging stars under center when the current team they play for has a chance to draft a stud to usher in a new era.

In 2004, the Chargers drafted Philip Rivers despite having Brees. One injury later it was out with the old veteran and in with the young buck.

In a separate instance, it took a while before the Packers realized it was time to move on from Brett Favre. Yet, that was only possible because they drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005.

Eight years later, Peyton was coming off a neck injury, but even a Super Bowl winning quarterback like himself couldn’t avoid the inevitable. The perfect marriage between he and the Colts came to an end as the Luck era began.

The Panthers could opt to do the same as the Chargers, Packers, and Colts. Tepper’s vision for the team is a telltale sign.

“You want to keep your options open, put yourself in best position as you can to win, and I’m talking again for the long term.”

Team Owner, David Tepper

Who could blame the owner for feeling this way? It’s hard not to be tempted to sit Cam in 2019 in hopes of drafting Tua Tagovailoa, He is the player many deem as the top quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft class, should he forego his final season. Not to mention, the Baltimore Ravens just received a mid-round pick for a lesser quarterback in Joe Flacco.

At some point, the Panthers’ new owner will want to make his mark. He will want to make a statement. Drafting a high-profile quarterback like Tua would do just that.

Wrapping it Up

Newton has given his heart and soul to the Panthers, but that isn’t accounted for when a franchise is faced with a business decision. When judgment day comes, his theme song will be “Hard Knock Life” by Jay-Z.

Cam’s shoulder injury has put him in a tough spot. Your best ability is your availability in the NFL. Now, his days as a Panther are numbered because he’ll be in street clothes.

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