There are many statistics that could show the type of season Cam Newton is having is all but ordinary. During the regular season, he scored 45 total touchdowns while only throwing 10 interceptions for the 15-1 Carolina Panthers. Even after Carolina’s 31-24 win against Seattle Sunday, there is one number that illustrates how unusual Newton’s season has been to this point.
Newton’s 66.1 rating in ESPN’s Total QBR has him ranked ninth overall. This places him behind other quarterbacks such as Alex Smith (66.5, eighth), Tyrod Taylor (67.8, seventh) and Kirk Cousins (70.1, sixth). Newton, who is likely to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award at the age of 26, has been marginalized by a media practically begging for a team to beat the Panthers, so the Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady-Peyton Manning status-quo sticks around longer.
Cam Newton has been described as being arrogant, cocky and “full of himself,” all of which would be considered normal behavior if Tom Brady were doing the same thing on and off the football field. Confidence and competitiveness, they would say, is what makes Brady great. He just simply puts it a different way.
Brady told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in 2013 “Going into my 14th year, I have never had more confidence in how I am throwing the football…I’ve never felt better throwing the football.” When Brady screams, yells at his teammates or celebrates a touchdown, he is described as being ‘passionate’ and ‘tough.’ Meanwhile, Newton gets a different label. Rosemary Plorin, a mother who attended the 27-10 rout of the Tennessee Titans in Nashville with her child in November, wrote in an open letter to the Charlotte Observer. In the letter, Plorin included the following observation: “Because of where we sat, we had a close-up view of your conduct in the fourth quarter. The chest puffs. The pelvic thrusts. The arrogant struts and the ‘in your face’ taunting of both the Titans’ players and fans,” the letter reads in part. “We saw it all.”
Some of the Cam Newton criticisms come from how he acted in some his early years in the NFL; A pouty, negative 23-year-old who lacked leadership skills. Although he won Rookie of the Year and set records his rookie season for a previously 2-14 Carolina team, nothing was ever good enough. The same will hold true today if Carolina falls to what some would say is a superior football team in the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday.
It is similar to what NBA superstar LeBron James had gone through before he won enough where his ‘arrogant’ label turned into ‘confident’ and ‘competitive.’ James used to, and still does to some degree, say things like this:
“I’m only one guy,” James said in a postgame interview following a 2009 playoff loss to the underdog Orlando Magic. “I took Hedo in the first game and Rashard made the shot. I took Rashard in the second game and Hedo made the shot.”
“If I could clone myself, we’d be all right. But I can’t,” he so graciously added.
With every game he has won, the general public has slowly come back around on Newton. The is a possibility the Panthers come up short against what some would say is a superior football team in the Arizona Cardinals. If that happens, the praise may come to a screeching halt, even if he had a historic season for a franchise that is often as overlooked as he has been this season. For starters, no player in Carolina Panthers’ history has ever received an MVP vote.
The ‘arrogant’ label will, almost certainly, change to ‘confident’ if he keeps winning, as it did with James. No matter what happens Sunday, Cam Newton is not going anywhere. ‘Arrogant’ should already be ‘confident’ when it comes to Newton.