The National Football League career of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has seen its fair share of ups and downs. The Panthers made Newton the first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft and his initial year saw him named as the league’s Rookie of Year which included him setting a rookie passing record for the NFL with 4,051 yards. In each of Newton’s first two years in the NFL, he rushed for more than 700 yards, but he could not lead the Panthers to a winning record. Finally in 2013, things began to come full circle as he led the Panthers to the NFC South Title. The following season would see Newton deal with injuries, but he was still able to help Carolina win the division. But the height of Newton’s career so far came in 2015 when he improved as a pocket passer to help Carolina finish the regular season with a record of 15-1 as his 35 touchdown passes led to him being selected as the NFL’s MVP.
The Panthers would ride that wave of momentum to their second Super Bowl berth in franchise history. However in the big game, Newton was stymied all evening long by the Denver Broncos defense as they sacked him 6 times, while also forcing an interception and fumble. Overall for the game Newton was just 18-of-41 passing for 265 yards. And Newton’s frustration boiled over into his post game press conference that he abruptly ended as he could hear some of the Broncos players celebrating nearby.
Since 2015, Newton has been able to help the Panthers reach the playoffs one more time, but the injuries appear to be catching up to him.
In March 2017, Newton underwent rotator cuff surgery, and he looked sharp that year in helping Carolina qualify for the postseason. However last year Newton and the Panthers finished with a losing record in spite of the fact that he completed a career-high 67.9% of his passes in 14 games. And this season after starting the first two games of the year for Carolina, Newton has been sidelined with a foot injury as he was unavailable for Carolina’s 38-20 victory this past Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals. And the way that things sound, don’t expect him to be under center anytime soon.
Throughout Newton’s nine-year National Football League career, he has been equally effective as a runner as he has been as a thrower of the football, but it comes with a price. In Newton’s NFL career he has run the football 934 times which includes scoring 58 touchdowns on the ground. And a good portion of those rushing attempts have seen Newton take on multiple defenders. Yes, Newton is 6’5″, 250 lbs., but consistently shedding the tackles of defensive linemen and linebackers is taking its toll on his body.
We’ve already seen two quarterbacks who were selected in the first-round of the draft this decade retire early as Jake Locker and Andrew Luck bid adieu to the National Football League as their bodies could no longer take the punishment. And although that Newton more than likely will work through things, he needs to think about his future.
Sure, the National Football League is attempting to make a violent game safer for it’s players (especially the quarterbacks who are immensely protected already), but this is why teams have historically preferred for their franchise signal callers to be pocket passers as opposed to runners.
Some of the greats at the quarterback position such as Steve Young and John Elway came into the National Football League known for their running ability as well as their passing ability. But it wasn’t until Young and Elway each became better with throwing the football from the pocket that they won. And even the dynamic Michael Vick who was as elusive as they come in regards to being a runner from the quarterback position had to learn how to evolve into being a pocket passer once he got on the other side of 30-years of age.
Newton just turned 30-years of age this past May, but the damage to his body might be too much for him to overcome. Newton needs to take a page from Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who is a runner with the football as well, but he very rarely takes on defenders as he instead opts to slide or run out of bounds.
And in this era of football where the spread offense is en vogue as more teams are opting for the mobile quarterback, it’s all fine and dandy until teams begin to lose their $30 million investment at the most important position on the football field. And as Luck, who like Newton took a beating in his first few years in the National Football League has already retired this year, it’s only going to be a matter of time before more teams will call on their quarterbacks to slide, or run out of bounds when they see the contact coming in order to preserve themselves.
This past Sunday the Panthers offense showed signs of life as they tallied 413 yards of total offense with quarterback Kyle Allen navigating things. But you cannot overlook that this was done against one of the worst teams in football. However there will be those people who’ll clamor for Allen to be the Panthers starting quarterback going forward, but with so much invested in Newton financially, the organization is going to give him every opportunity to come back and once again be the guy.
However with a bum shoulder, an ailing foot, and who knows how many other bumps and bruises that Newton has suffered along the way, not even his “Superman” persona might be able to ever make him the player that he once was.