Today, various news outlets in the USA announced that the Carolina Panthers are set to release quarterback Cam Newton. The 30-year-old has been with the Panthers for nine years having been taken with the first pick in the 2011 NFL draft but now, his time in Charlotte has come to an end.
From hero to less than zero
Cam Newton arrived in 2011 with the Carolina Panthers in disarray. He had won the prestigious Heisman Trophy in College the year before so it’s fair to say that expectations were high for his arrival in the league.
He started off with a bang despite a loss in the opening week. Newton became the first player ever to throw for over 400 yards in his first NFL game, reaching 422 yards in total. He had a QB rating of 110.4 in that game and rushed for a touchdown too – making his mark early on in the NFL.
That season, Cam went on to win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award having thrown for 4,576 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He was the standout star of a pretty poor Panthers team that finished the season 6-10, but things improved.
In 2012, the Panthers improved by one win finishing 7-9 but Cam’s productivity dropped off. He managed two less touchdowns with 19 but only threw 12 interceptions. The star of the team in 2012 was Luke Kuechly in his rookie year – he would go on to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
In 2013 the Panthers would win the NFC South for the first time since 2008, finishing 12-4. That set in motion probably the three best years of Cam’s career so far as they won the division three consecutive times. The final of those three seasons was 2015 – during which saw Cam at his very best!
In 2015, the Panthers were damn near unplayable all year long. They went 15-1 in the regular season and came so close to going unbeaten, losing their only game in week 16 against the Falcons.
The ever-trusty connection of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones foiled the Panthers plans for an unbeaten season, but that didn’t stop them in their tracks. They bounced back in week 17, then beat the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals in the play-offs to reach Super Bowl 50 at Levi Stadium.
In the regular season, Cam scored a huge 35 touchdowns and threw just 10 interceptions all season long. He also ran for over 600 yards and added 10 rushing touchdowns to his record too, earning him the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.
Unfortunately for him and his team, there would be no Lombardi Trophy for the Panthers as the Denver Broncos took the Super Bowl 24-10 thanks to a magnificent display from the No Fly Zone and the legendary Von Miller (can you tell I’m a Broncos fan?).
His career hasn’t been quite the same since then as the Carolina Panthers have struggled. Since 2015, the Panthers haven’t managed to win their division and only reached the play offs once, but lost to the New Orleans Saints in the 2017 Wild Card round.
Injuries derailed the season for Newton in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. In fact, Newton has only managed to play all 16 regular season games once since the 2015 season – that was in 2017, when he set his own personal records for rushing attempts and rushing yards.
It was, perhaps, this run first mentality he developed that curtailed his career with injuries. Over the years it’s become apparent that average lifespan of a dual threat quarterback is a lot less than that of a pocket passer, and Cam Newton seems to be demonstrating just that.
In the last few seasons, Newton has been replaced as the star of the show on offence by in the incredible running back Christian McCaffrey. Run CMC has been a phenom and has managed two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons in 2018 and 2019.
What went so wrong for Cam?
Injuries are a big part of the reason why Cam Newton is set to become a free agent this afternoon. His 2018 season showed that he can still put up some decent numbers – he had his highest ever season passing accuracy percentage despite having thrown a similar number of passes than he had in his previous seasons.
As well as that, he was ranked as the most underrated QB in the league by a whopping 85 different defensive players from across 25 of the 32 NFL teams. He was also ranked at 87 on the NFL’s top 100 at the start of the 2019 season – showing he has the respect of his fellow professionals.
He played just two times in the 2019, starting the season in abysmal form. He started under centre in the opening two weeks of the season, both of which resulted in defeats. Against Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week two, Cam completed just 25 passes from 51 attempts in a 20-14 loss, taking responsibility for the loss after the game.
He was then left out of their week 3 match-up with the Cardinals and after the game, news broke that Newton had a Lisfranc fracture which he confirmed with a video on YouTube. He was due back before the end of the season but in November, the Panthers placed Newton on IR as the injury was taking longer to heal than expected.
In December, Newton has surgery on his foot and is currently still rehabbing the injury. The Panthers had originally told Newton he was free to seek a trade and reportedly even shopped him around the league themselves, but unsurprisingly, no suitors could be found.
Now that he will be available as a free agent, I’m sure someone will take a chance on Cam. For me, it’s a gamble because his wage demands will likely be high and the risk is even higher. Those injury issues are a real problem, but if he can stay fit then Newton can be a very handy QB for a team in need.