Let me state going in, this article may piss off a lot of people, fair warning.
SuperBowl 50 didn’t live up to a whole lot of expectations. Cam Newton and the Panthers were expected to dominate, they didn’t. They were expected to win, they didn’t. Though it was largely in thanks to his D, Peyton Manning was good enough to get it done and he will retire as a Superbowl Champion. After the game, however, the spotlight was as much on Newton as Manning, but for totally different reasons. Carolina’s offense received a load of criticism for failing to show up for the biggest game of the year after being so electric all season. Newton didn’t exactly dazzle in the game either, and unfortunately for him, his conduct after the game didn’t exactly help his cause.
The criticism of Newton came to the forefront in the fourth quarter. Trailing by 6, 16-10 with 4:15 left, Newton fumbled the ball on third down when Denver’s Von Miller smacked his arm. As typical with a fumble, a wild scramble for the ball followed but Newton did not make an attempt to dive on it, instead he held up and moved back. The Broncos recovered on Carolina’s 4-yard line and eventually scored to make it 24-10, effectively ending the game. There’s no telling if the Panthers would have recovered if Newton had gone for the ball, but he made himself look pretty bad by not even making an attempt. It’s the Superbowl, time is running out and you’re within striking distance, you’ve got to make an attempt for that ball. Whether Newton was afraid to take one for the team or just giving up doesn’t matter, you’ve got to try. If he had, Carolina could have possibly recovered and they may have gone downfield and tied the game. But even if he didn’t, it still would have showed his commitment to his team and his fiery drive to win.
After the game, it didn’t get better. Newton did shake hands with and congratulate Peyton Manning as per custom, but his post-game press conference gave his haters even more fuel for their dislike. Newton, understandably downtrodden, came into the media room and sat dejectedly before getting up and finally answering the questions of the rabid press. He responded mostly with one-liners and didn’t take much time at all to explain why Carolina failed to show up after such an incredible year. After all that, he left the podium after about 5 minutes, something that also didn’t help him. To describe it, no one said it better than Jeffri Chahida of NFL.com.
“Newton spent maybe five minutes in that session before bolting … Most of his teammates talked for much longer about how a team favored to win its first championship — one that led the league in scoring and ranked 6th in points allowed — imploded on so many levels. Their star quarterback instead acted like he shouldn’t be subjected to such scrutiny at such a difficult moment.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I can absolutely understand Newton’s sadness and depression afterward. There hasn’t been a player in NFL history that has been happy after being on the losing end of the grand spectacle that is the Superbowl. Any player would have been sad, but when you’re the talk of the entire League, the face of your franchise and a role model to so many, your conduct has got to be different. When the Broncos were absolutely trounced by Seattle in the big game two years ago, Peyton Manning openly admitted that Denver blew it. After he threw the interception that sealed last year’s Bowl for New England, Russell Wilson stood up and took the heat like a man. That’s the price of being an NFL QB because every team’s face is its QB. He’s the first to get accredited when his team is having success and he’s the first to be blamed when his team is underperforming. In both victory and defeat he is expected to be professional and represent his team with class and dignity. So why can’t Newton do that when all of his peers have? Some defended him by saying that he’s young and hasn’t learned yet. That’s what you say about a 22-year-old. Newton is 26 so that excuse doesn’t apply here. Acting like that doesn’t make him look like the League’s most elite talent and the player that was this year’s MVP, it makes him look like a cocky kid that can’t handle losing or the criticism that goes with it.
Newton was known for his immature behavior in his Auburn days but has since claimed that he has matured beyond that. Our own Frankie Boeck said on Saturday in our SB50 Preview Podcast that Newton hasn’t quite learned how to lose yet. He was spot on and it absolutely showed. Cam Newton is a phenomenal talent and will win a Superbowl of his own one day, I have no doubt. But, he’s still got an awful lot of growing up to do before that happens.