Cam Newton came into the NFL with a lot of questions and a bit of controversy behind him. However, he quickly pushed all of that aside as he went on to one of the greatest rookie campaigns by a quarterback in recent memory.
The 2012 season has not been as kind to Newton. He is facing a ridiculous amount of negative press and the criticism is once again bringing back the race issue as Warren Moon made some interesting statements to Yahoo! Sports that suggested there is a racial undertone in criticism of Newton.
What wasn’t taken into account was the high hopes that were placed on Newton in just his second year in the NFL. Negative reactions from Carolina Panthers fans are certainly justified but are magnified because they came into the 2012 season in hopes of getting better, not worse.
The criticism Newton is currently facing is not unlike that of Mark Sanchez or Eli Manning or even Jay Cutler. They all did something at one point in their careers to warrant criticism. Manning was, at one point in 2007, ranked behind quarterbacks like Marc Bulger and Jeff Garcia, and Derek Anderson on some experts lists. Sanchez is placed on the hot seat every week by the most relentless media in the world in New York.
Criticism of quarterbacks is nothing new, regardless of race. Steve Young was widely criticized before going on to a Hall of Fame career. Eli Manning, it was said, would never be more than a good quarterback. Look what he has done since 2007. Alex Smith was told he could be nothing more than a game manager. Tom Brady was told he didn’t look like a quarterback and dropped to the sixth round in the draft. Peyton Manning, it was rumored, couldn’t win the big game. John Elway, the same thing. Is the criticism of Tony Romo any different than that of Newton?
Yes, there are comparisons to Vince Young out there for Newton. It doesn’t mean they are correct. However, they aren’t totally off base either. Moon, however, seems to take offense because Vince Young also happens to be the same color as Cam Newton. However, Young was, at one point, a Pro Bowl quarterback. A threat to run as well as pass. Many thought he could revolutionize the position. However, Young flopped after off-field issues swallowed him whole, mentally and physically. He broke under the pressure.
I would not compare Newton to Vince Young. Sure, both had high hopes but I think Newton’s talent level is such that he can rise above all of this and achieve greatness in the NFL. Greatness is not achieved without struggle. It is how one overcomes that struggle that dictates the next step.
People don’t understand the pressure Newton feels to accomplish that next step. It isn’t easy. Every play he wants to make something happen. Most quarterbacks dream of it. Few achieve it. However, fewer quarterbacks have Newton’s ability.
Has Newton struggled? Absolutely. Is it uncommon? Not at all. Much of the criticism he receives is due to his reactions after making a bad play. Recently, wide receiver Steve Smith publicly criticized Newton after he was seen apparently pitying himself on the sidelines.
Sometimes a player needs someone like Smith to call him out. Newton is still very young and still has a world of potential to offer the NFL and Panthers fans. The criticism is not racially motivated and any that is comes from ignorant people whose opinion means very little in the public arena. Moon’s defense of Newton was inaccurate as is the talk that Newton is a bust. In fact, Moon’s comments may have put a bigger magnifying glass on Newton’s performances.
It is up to Newton to come to grips with not being perfect. He just needs to clear his head and treat each throw like it is his first, like each run could be his last, and play football the way he can play. Great things are still within reach. It is up to Newton to shake the noise, the critics, and a bad throw and go out and dominate a football game like only he can.
Is the criticism fair? Well, it isn’t unfair. Is it racially motivated? In ninety-nine out of one hundred cases it is not. The thing is, only Cam Newton can make it go away.