On Thursday night, the Carolina Panthers played a nationally televised game on the NFL Network against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that exposed all their warts for America to see:
The offensive line isn’t very good; teams are catching on quickly to how dependent the Panthers are on Christian McCaffrey; and something just doesn’t look right with quarterback Cam Newton.
With two years left on his contract, Newton, right now, doesn’t look much like the resplendent star who led the 2015 Panthers to a Super Bowl and won the NFL MVP award.
In Thursday’s 20-14 loss to Tampa Bay, the Panthers had a fourth-and-1 at the Tampa Bay 2 on their final possession. Carolina needed a touchdown, but instead of giving the ball to Newton, who has been of the league’s best short-yardage options for years, the Panthers went with a tricky fake reverse to McCaffrey, who didn’t get the first down.
All of this was talked about Friday.
▪ On “Undisputed” on Fox Sports, host Skip Bayless said this version of Newton isn’t what fans had expected. Bayless also talked about Newton’s accuracy. According to a Sports Illustrated article, Newton is completing nearly 81 percent of his throws to the left and nearly 57 percent in the middle. But throwing to the right side of his body, it’s just 40 percent. That showed up in Thursday’s game, too.
“All I know is something is very wrong with Cam Newton,” Bayless said. “I know we all get fixated, we try to hold onto our memories of 2015. He was pretty accurate in 2015. He won the MVP, got them to a Super Bowl. He was sensational all the way to the Super Bowl ... yet last night, during the Fox telecast, Troy Aikman said I see nothing and hear nothing to tell me that he’s hurt. ...
“So if I accept that there’s nothing wrong, that’s even scarier, because now it’s either in his head or he’s just sort of battered physically and psychologically to where he’s just starting to lose it.”
▪ ESPN’s Jon Vilma criticized Newton’s outfit and his play.
▪ On ESPN’s “First Take” show, there was poll asking if fans thought Newton would rally the Panthers to a playoff berth after the 0-2 start, Carolina’s worse in six years. The results were decidedly against.
▪ Finally, noted Cam basher Colin Cowherd teased a segment called “The ugly truth about Cam Newton” when his show signed on.
Cowherd suggested that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is better than Newton, noting Newton has lost eight consecutive starts while Prescott has won nine of 11.
“Folks, Tampa Bay didn’t have a Pro Bowler on defense last night,” Cowherd said. “Carolina was at home. They had to win. Cam was 0-for-3 in the red zone; abysmal on third down, 3-for-14; 24-of-50 (passing overall) Couldn’t extend drives. Carolina’s defense is shot by the fourth quarter. You don’t want to pay Dak Prescott and you keep telling me that Cam’s a star. Today, Dak is better than Cam.”
Cowherd suggested that both quarterbacks have similar weapons around them at receiver, tight end and running back. He said both “clearly have competent coaches.”
“Stop with the nonsense,” Cowherd said. “All you need to know is teams tell you what they think about your quarterback on the biggest plays of the game. The biggest play of the season for the Carolina Panthers and watch who they hike the ball to.”
Cowherd showed fans a clip of McCaffrey’s fake reverse on the Panthers final play Thursday.
“The problem with Cam,” Cowherd finally said, “is that Cam has never taken the time to become a pocket quarterback. Cam is too distracted from Day 1 in this league. He’s distracted being Cam; he’s distracted begin cool; he’s distracted with his commercials; he’s distracted with his fashion. He has never committed to being a great pocket quarterback. I’ve seen more growth from Lamar Jackson in last six months than I‘ve seen from Cam in eight years. ... Superman’s over. When Superman can’t reach over the goal line and get a yard, they won’t hike it to him, it’s over. Cape off.”