Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers are 1-5. If they aren’t the NFC’s worst team, they are definitely at least in the conversation for the honor. Newton, after being showered with praise for leading the team to a 6-10 mark in his rookie season, has been the object of non-stop ridicule over the past month.
Has the criticism been fair? At times, yes. The Panthers currently rank 22nd in the league in passing yards. Newton has recorded more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five). He has racked up more pouty postgame interviews (four) than victories (one). He has a lower passer rating this year (79.4) than he did last year (84.5). There is no denying that some of the criticism has been fair.
That said, a lot of it hasn’t. The Panthers aren’t very good. There is no getting around that fact. People projected that they would be better than they actually are, but other people’s expectations are not Newton’s fault. A lot of people thought the Kansas City Chiefs would be good this year. Some people suggested that the San Francisco 49ers would be better this season than last. Neither of those guesses has proven to be true, either. Preseason team expectations are not a barometer that you can measure individual players by.
And so, given the ridiculous amount of hate that Newton has gotten over the past month, some folks can’t help but wonder if there is something else at work here. A racial element, perhaps. Here is what Warren Moon had to say on the matter during a recent interview with Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports:
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"I don't understand it," Moon said. "I heard somebody compare him to Vince Young. It's the same old crap – it's always a comparison of one black to another black. I get tired of it. I get tired of defending it.
"If you want to compare him to someone because of his demeanor, compare him to Jay Cutler. There are a lot of guys who whine and moan. Cam's not biting anybody's head off or pushing his linemen. He's just disgruntled, and not handling losing well, because, think about it, he basically didn't lose in college.
"I don't think Cam's as bad as Cutler, because Cutler looks like he doesn't give a damn sometimes, or he's yelling and cussing at someone. Cam, he just looks down when they're losing."
Moon also doesn’t think that Newton’s attitude should be as big of a deal as it ultimately has been.
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"He just doesn't like losing. Is that bad? No, but you can't show it – not in this era where there's so much television coverage. You can't have a bad moment on the sidelines anymore. But if that's the worst thing he does, he's fine. That's fixable."
He’s right, of course. The Panthers have so many problems bigger than Newton’s demeanor that it is crazy to think about how much time has been spent analyzing his postgame interviews. That said, we have spent a lot of time analyzing them, so you can’t blame people for wondering why that is the case.
At the end of the day, does race place a role in the Newton criticism? It’s tough to say. On one hand, guys like Cutler and Mark Sanchez get scrutinized a lot, too. And both are legitimate quarterbacks, just like Newton. On the other hand, the amount of blame Newton has gotten over the past month compared to how much of it he actually deserves has been completely and totally disproportionate.
Who knows why people say what they say. Moon's theory is just as good as any other we've heard thus far.
(Kudos Yahoo! Sports)