Cam Newton was all over the NFL news headlines around this time last year.
The Carolina Panthers were surging into the playoffs after dominating for most of the regular season. Newton was becoming the new face of the NFL and was a surefire hit to earn the NFL MVP. And he did just that. Also, there was an inkling of "Too Black, Too Strong" in comments Cam made leading up to and during the press day for Super Bowl 50.
Man, it seemed like he had a nefarious ghost hanging over his head since those comments were made, we just didn't know it at the time. Initially, the mainstream publications were just too upset that Cam appeared to be talking about race when discussing black quarterbacks in the NFL, Black publications were happy to publish his comments and former Black NFL QBs like Warren Moon and Doug Williams rushed to cover his back.
But apparently all of the drama that ensued must have disturbed his psyche because the Panthers were soundly dominated by the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, 24-10. But even after the beat down, the press continued to hound him, leading to a tense post-game presser in which Cam walked out of the room.
However, Newton inadvertently called more undue media attention to himself with an interview in GQ magazine in which he appeared to say racism in America was inert and simply a matter of perspective. Mainstream publications were way too happy, and black publications were way too upset. Though philanthropic and charitable, Newton really just wants to be an NFL superstar and a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
While the nature of energy transference in the lives of humans borders on pseudo science, there is certainly something to be said for not allowing negative words spun by naysayers to get lodged in our heads.
Seemingly strong in body and spirit, Cam's major problem seems to be that he really cares what people think. Not just fans, or simply from a celebrity PR perspective, it appears to really matter to him that he is generally liked.
Coming into the start of this season there was still a great deal of animus against Newton and the Panthers for the way he dabbed on folks last year, and for all the smack the Panthers defense used to talk as well. Much to the chagrin of fantasy football owners everywhere, Newton didn't look right from day one. Fans lamented that if the Panthers had WR Kelvin Benjamin during the Super Bowl that Carolina may have won. Benjamin returned from injury this season after missing all of last year's fun and put up comparable numbers to his stellar rookie campaign, but Carolina just didn't have it humming.
Additionally, Newton's statistical measurements plummeted as well. His 270 total completions were the second worst of his career behind the 262 completions he threw in 2014, but his 510 total attempts were the second highest in his career to the 517 attempts he threw as a rookie. Toss in the measly 3.7 touchdown percentage, the worst of his career, and his a career low 75.8 passer rating, and this season is in contention for one of the worst of his career.
From far away, it would appear that Cam's decline could have been mental, but I have to take into account that Newton was physically banged up as well. Although he only missed one game with a concussion, the blatant head shots Cam was taking (with no penalties being assessed) plagued him during the season. There were also concerns about his right shoulder, but those didn't start coming up until after Carolina was out of playoff contention.
I get it. It's kinda difficult for some to put the Carolina Panthers' horrible season into words, so we place the blame on Cam's regression, LB Luke Kuechly being hurt and not having a "Cap'n America" type of season like last year, or highlight the fact that Josh Norman was no longer in the secondary.
Overall, it's been a forgettable year in Carolina for Cam and the Panthers. I wouldn't expect it to bleed into next year though, because Cam, when playing with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, will be back to remind us all what the fuss was all about in the first place.