Just as the 2013 season was a breakout year for the Carolina Panthers, so was it for Cam Newton. The young quarterback posted career high numbers in touchdowns (24), completion rate (61.7) and quarterback rating (88.8). He made some great fourth quarter drives, and firmly established himself as the leader of the young and talented Panthers team. However, with that power comes a new chapter in Newton’s career, a chapter where people expect him to be the hero of their city and finally fill out that blue and red suit he always pretends to wear.
Throughout the first weeks of the offseason there has been a lot of talk of the Panthers’ future. They have the second most unrestricted free agents in the league, and have gaps to fill across many different positions. Many experts think that the Panthers’ choices in the NFL Draft and free agency will shape whether or not the Panthers manage to repeat their playoff performance from 2013, but the truth is, great signings or not, the 2014 Panthers will come down to one man: Cam Newton.
The NFL is, as it has been for many years, a quarterbacks’ league. Newton, after posting six and seven wins in his first two years, has now proven he has the ability to be the real deal, a game changer who can (and does) win games. There isn’t one person who blames him for the abysmal passing offense last season. But he is also not without blame.
Newton showed many flashes of a great quarterback last year, but still struggled at times. He has room to grow, but he also has room to fail. It is hard to say what Newton will do next year (a lot of it will depend on who Carolina manages to keep on their roster), but one thing is for sure, his performance will decide Carolina’s future. The defense is going to take a hit because of cap space, and the offensive line is in threat of losing the superb Jonathan Gross. Add a depleted wide receiving core to that equation, and the future looks more uncertain than ever.
Among the whirlwind of uncertainty stands Newton, tall and proud, ready to face the future. Every athlete handles pressure differently, but fans expect another phenomenal year, and that is going to fall on Newton. Succeed, and he will be heralded as the hero he says he is — fail, and everything Carolina built last year will come crashing down around him.