If you still accept Cam Newton labeled, pigeon-holed, awash into a one-size-fits-all casting and filed abroad in your chiffonier of quarterback stereotypes, again you allegation not accept apparent “The Block.”
Here’s The Block. It happened amidst through the additional division adjoin the Bears. Newton agape seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs to the turf, allowance bounce Philly Brown for a few yards on an end-around.
It was a abrasive play, a do-anything-to-win play. Newton, aggressive aggregate from aching ribs to the aftereffects of dental surgery, laid out a linebacker because Brown and the blow of the practice-squad ability Panthers breach bare all the advice they could get. It was a leader’s play.
OK, every quarterback has a tough-guy block or two on his resume. And Newton coughed up an interception to Briggs a few plays later. The Block did little to advice the Panthers exhausted the Bears. But it did aggregate to atom the Newton labels and deconstruct the Newton narrative. The block burst a bank of preconceptions that Newton has formed abroad at for two seasons.
Immature. Crybaby. Overrated. Scrambler who cannot apprehend defenses. Selfish. Phony. Can’t handle an NFL offense. A Dapper Dan in blush action coats and angular slacks who cannot be taken seriously. Not a winner. Not a leader. Newton has beat all the labels. He has acceptable one or two of them in the past.
Have you apparent Newton lately? He is carrying the NFL’s toughest achievement this year. He is befitting the Panthers aggressive by blind in the abridged and demography allegation of a ataxia abounding of youngsters and newcomers. He is befitting his aggregation animate with his arm, apperception and guts.
The new Cam Newton is a abstraction in contrasts, a chargeless spirit with a dandy’s apparel whose on-field accomplishments now allege far louder than his words—or his clothes.
Connecting the Dots
Newton has beat a ablaze annular bull’s-eye for able instigators aback afore he entered the NFL.
There was the pay-for-play aspersion at Auburn, area Newton briefly absent accommodation amidst allegations that his ancestor solicited six-figure sums from colleges in barter for his services. Newton’s Pro Football Weekly pre-draft aloof report was a abandoned claimed advance by a draftnik belled for them: Newton had a “fake smile” and a “selfish, me-first makeup,” and lacked “accountability, focus and trustworthiness.”
A arch amateur division brought Newton “next big thing” cachet but additionally placed a man with a actual active faculty of amusement (Newton aboveboard campaigned for the Madden video d cover, recording asinine YouTube videos) afterpiece to the crosshairs.
When Newton was benched afterwards three interceptions in a 2012 blast accident to the Giants, amusement cameras bent him with his arch draped below a anhydrate on the sideline, allegedly sulking. Steve Smith gave the second-year quarterback some boxy love, again aggregate his thoughts with the press. “I lit into him because I anticipation it was an befalling for him to see and accept what was activity on. This is added than about arena football. It’s about acceptable a man.” Newton’s ancestor (of pay-for-play fame) again told tales of a adolescent Cam arrant afterwards accident abbey softball games.
That Giants d and its after-effects anchored Newton’s reputation: selfish, immature, extemporaneous for adversity. Two years later, Newton still provides armament for the critics with his quirky, sometimes cool antics. He ran assimilate the acreage to accord a pep allocution to the ataxia in artery clothes while abeyant with a rib abrasion in Anniversary 1. He alleged Ndamukong Suh “Donkey Kong Suh” again during a columnist appointment afore the Lions game. His postgame apparel choices accept not corrective an angel of acceptable ruggedness. Steve Smith, now in Baltimore, alleged Joe Flacco “refreshing” because he is “the aforementioned all the time” afore a antagonism with the Panthers, battlefront an aberrant attempt at his above quarterback’s personality. And Newton still loves authoritative gamer videos.
It is accessible to affix the dots from those old aloof letters through the benching to the asinine nicknames and blush apparel and achieve that Newton absolutely is a simpering man-child, all aptitude and no heart, a central-casting archetype of the million-dollar body, 10-cent arch amateur we accept categorized a thousand times before.
You aloof accept to avoid aggregate that has happened on the field: not aloof The Block, but a 12-4 division in 2013 that saw Newton bandy for 24 touchdowns, blitz for six and advance four fourth-quarter comebacks. You accept to avoid Newton’s achievement in this next-man-up Panthers division that armament him assimilate the acreage with aching ribs and a bad ankle, bare the casework of three of his top four receivers from aftermost season, his top three rushers and three of his bristles above starting linemen.
You accept to avoid the actuality that Newton had all four acumen teeth removed on Tuesday afore the Bears game. Best of us accept never had our ribs absurd by a 250-pound defender, but dental anaplasty we can chronicle to: Practicing and belief the d plan allegation accept been miserable, let abandoned demography the field. “It’s been affectionate of blame me in the basics with the hurting, but it’ll be all right,” Newton quipped.
You accept to avoid the actuality that Newton has additionally been aboveboard about his early-career unpreparedness and immaturity. He accepted that he struggled with NFL analogue and affronted beneath the administration of Rod Chudzinski, his aboriginal coordinator. “It was affectionate of force-feeding a kid with carrots,” Newton said. “I didn’t appetite to apprentice it, and I was consistently aggravating to accuse about the workload.”
Newton downplayed any abrasion with Smith afore the Ravens game, praising his above top receiver’s “every day, chip-on-his-shoulder attitude.” He deflected arrangement chatter this week. Opposing quarterback Andy Dalton, alleged afterwards Newton in the 2011 draft, active an addendum in August, while Newton is alone active through a fifth-year option. Newton has fabricated no excuses and talked up his amateur teammates.
There’s a auspicious bluntness to Newton’s stunts and his admissions of accomplished mistakes. Newton is actuality himself. But critics who labeled him continued ago can still charge the new Newton’s antics into all the cubbyholes they assume to fit. Newton’s animadversion about Chudzinski were interpreted as criticism of his above coach, banishment him to afterwards analyze them. The Suh antic was chided as disrespectful—because no one has anytime taken a bang at the absolutely acclaimed Ndamukong Suh—and Newton afterwards apologized. His postgame lavender jackets and capri pants, absolutely a bit arrant in a football setting, affronted up the accepted suspects.
Newton is no added the acceptable nail-chewing warrior than he is the all-legs, no-heart stereotype. Afterwards an offseason of defections and surgeries, he is gluttonous a average ground: aching but upbeat, committed yet fun-loving. Newton is no best arena the role of “talented disappointment” we casting for him, but his adaptation of “gritty acreage general” comes with brawl routines and loafers. It’s a adamantine advance to blueprint for a above Heisman champ and first-overall pick, the best acclaimed amateur in America’s 16th largest city, a man abounding by boundless expectations that abounding feel he has already bootless to meet.
Newton is unique, and the Panthers’ cap aition and abrasion adventurous accept placed him in different circumstances. The NFL does not handle different well: Players (particularly superstar quarterbacks) are declared to act, allege and dress a assertive way. So aback aggravating to alarm Newton, we abatement aback on tropes we understand: the scrambler, the leader, the “traditional” abridged passer and, of course, the quarterback controversy.
Contriving the Debate
Attempts to accomplish a quarterback altercation in Carolina accept borne little fruit, admitting not for wont of trying.
Derek Anderson acceptable a abruptness season-opening alpha due to Newton’s ailing ribs. Anderson went 24-of-34 for 230 yards and two touchdowns adjoin a Buccaneers aggregation that, frankly, did not attending accessible to alpha the season.
Anderson again played able-bodied while bed-making up losses to the Ravens and Steelers, amateur in which a still-wobbly Newton alloyed big plays with band sacks while the Panthers boring burst on both abandon of the ball. Anderson holds a 114.4 ability appraisement to Newton’s 94.6. Anderson acme Newton in ESPN’s absolute QBR metric and Football Outsiders’ DVOA, admitting he has not befuddled abundant passes to authorize for the leaderboards.
Blessed be the advancement who alone plays adjoin bad opponents and anticipate defenses in the fourth quarter. If you capital to anatomy an Anderson-over-Newton argument, and there were affluence who capital to afterwards the Steelers and Ravens losses, there was statistical affair for the mill. If the anticipation of a 31-year old career advancement replacing Newton articulate too preposterous, the altercation could consistently be couched in “just until Newton is advantageous abundant to clutter again” rhetoric.
The funny affair about all the “traditional abridged passer” allocution is that Newton has been belted to the abridged all season, and he has been productive. His ability appraisement on third bottomward is 107.5, admitting adverse connected 3rd-and-long situations because of the Panthers’ abhorrent active game. Allegedly a bad red-zone quarterback, Newton is 5-of-7 with three touchdowns central the 20, admitting the actuality that he can no best abuse opponents with his legs or Mike Tolbert’s girth.
Perhaps you don’t accept statistics. Watch The Block, and accept your own eyes. Attending at the cadre on the acreage for the Panthers: Ed Dickson and Brandon Williams at bound end (Greg Olsen was briefly injured), Darrin Reaves, a check band with a amateur bouncer and two above undrafted chargeless agents at tackle. This aggregation is scripting plays for addition alleged “Philly Brown.” The Panthers would not be bigger off with Derek Anderson. They would be an old UFL aggregation with Derek Anderson.
What the Panthers could use is a little added of the old scrambling Newton. A quarterback who has beat Newton’s labels cannot win for losing: He gets banal for scrambling too much, again criticized for not scrambling abundant while his ribs and ankles heal. The Panthers charge a arch passer and a arch rusher appropriate now, additional a acquaintance who can accessible things up for what’s larboard of their playmakers. Newton can alone handle two of those three jobs appropriate now. It’s adamantine to criticize him for that. But we’ll acquisition a way.
If you don’t accept The Block, accept “The Sneak.”
Newton completed a nine-yard canyon to Jerricho Cotchery at the Bears 12-yard band 46 abnormal afore halftime, with the Panthers abaft the Bears by 14. Instead of calling timeout, he rushed the Panthers to the band and acquired three yards on a sneak. Then, with a aboriginal bottomward in his abridged and 20 abnormal left, he alleged timeout, extenuative the third so the Panthers could alarm plays up the average if needed. Newton begin Greg Olsen for a nine-yard touchdown on the aing play.
That was a exciting play, a Tom Brady-type brawl in a analytical bearings aback his aggregation bare a atom to break in the game. It was addition archetype of the complete Newton application his mind, arm, legs and audacity to advance his team. There accept been abounding examples over the aftermost two seasons.
On the carbon area and in the standings, Newton is not accepting an outstanding season. But he is accepting the best division he could possibly have. It’s a division of assurance and will. It’s a division that makes all the old Newton storylines complete apish and silly.
It’s additionally an accessible division to discount if all you see are final array and fantasy stats. Aback Newton set amateur records, we congenital him up. Aback he sputtered as a sopre, we tore him down. Aback he led the Panthers to the playoffs aftermost season, we kept up our bouncer by talking about Riverboat Ron, Luke Kuechly and Steve Smith, alive Newton to a talented-non-leader anteroom we congenital for so abounding accomplished “scrambling quarterbacks.”
And now that the Panthers are baffled up, understaffed and aerial about .500, it is accessible to aloof accumulate Newton in his niche. The Panthers face a barbarous accessible schedule: at Cincy, at Green Bay, home adjoin the Seahawks. A few wins ability acquire Newton some respect. A few losses will absolutely restart the questions and controversies.
No one is accomplishing added with beneath appropriate now than Cam Newton. No one is constant added affliction or aggravating harder to change perceptions. The Block accepted that the old labels no best apply. Newton is acceptable article new, and it’s time to attending at him in a new light.
Mike Tanier covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. All stats address of Football Outsiders.
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