By Fergus Head
I really love Cam Newton. Well, when he’s on the field, with his gum shield stopping him saying silly things. But aside from his apparent little-man syndrome despite being 6”5 and 250lbs, I do really love him. He’s so much fun. My favourite single-second clip of anything football related is Cam Newton rising from a knee in front of some very extravagant pyrotechnics in New Orleans before their playoff loss in the Wild Card round earlier this year. As his frame fills the screen there is an unbridled feeling that you are genuinely about to watch someone do stuff nobody else on Earth can do. Cool stuff.
Cam Newton entered the league in 2011 with an immense amount of expectation from fans, teammates and coaches alike. He was a phenomenon. A star before he’d even set foot on an NFL field, and even bigger one once he had. On and off since then, Cam has been both invaluable, and underwhelming; priceless, and pricey. Analysts poke at his completion percentages with long sticks, asking it to do something despite the glaring lack of a Probowl receiver since his rookie year, aside from TE Greg Olsen, who’s very good when he’s on the field. Coaches demand he does more running, while ‘using his legs less’, so that he can use his physical powers without being overly physical and risking an injury.
Nobody knows what to tell Cam, because he’s the first child. It’s always the way. Parents don’t know how to deal with the first child’s growing pains because they’ve never been through it before. But there aren’t any parenting books on how to utilise this kind of weapon most effectively. It’s never been seen before. There have been pretenders before and since, middle children you might say, but nothing compares to the freak that is the original Cam Newton. Just how much of a toll is his style taking one wonders? Time will tell. But that consciousness of time passing is the point of this piece. Why aren’t we appreciating him more?
When we once ogled at his raw playmaking ability and special size and speed, combined with the arm talent, we now criticise ruthlessly because he isn’t what we want him to be. It isn’t reasonable. Cam hasn’t changed for the worse; expectations have changed for the unattainable. Time and time again. Newton has less than 100 rush attempts only once in his career, and has proven his toughness numerous times, yet people still question his competitiveness. Surround Newton with some actual receiving talent and passing game issues will start to mend themselves with the new OC in town. The last time Newton had a Pro Bowl wide receiver, was also the only time he has thrown for over 4000 yards; his rookie year in 2011 with Steve Smith. Of course he isn’t perfect, but there are glaringly obvious ways to help Cam out. He has made his offensive line look better than it is every year he has played. He’s the best runner inside the tackles on the team, and he’s the quarterback.
That’s the padding. In the end I’m not the coach, I’m not an expert analyst who has all day to look at the stats and film of every game he’s ever played, nor am I going to be unanimous in what I’m saying. Newton no doubt gets flustered, makes silly mistakes, and goes through some very dry spells. But what I do want to focus on is the way we watch him and enjoy the rest of his career. I’d suggest he has 3-6 years left at his best depending on the way they go. I do not want to waste another minute trying to find reasons why he isn’t playing well enough to enjoy watching him. I don’t want to be pouring over his numbers while he pummels another defensive lineman into the ground as the lead blocker like he did last week against the Giants, only to look up and write a think-piece on his inadequacies as a short to intermediate passer.
Cam Newton is, and always will be, a revelation. He’s created a whole new position and because they don’t know how to tame it, a lot of people will misinterpret it as redundant. But in a league dominated by athletes, Newton, like he did in that short moment before the Saints game, rises above them all and persistently sets the league alight.
Oh and for the clip, it’s 53 seconds into this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gxyAsydWuA
Mowlem is a sports writer from Reading, United Kingdom. All articles are written by Reece Mowlem (unless stated otherwise).