"Killa" Cam Newton Slays Critics by Leading Carolina Panthers to the Playoffs

There was hype. There were haters. Could Cam Newton be a pro player?

Newton has been a polarizing player from day one. With unprecedented accolades (NJCAA National Champion, BCS Champion, Heisman winner), Cam burst on to the scene as the #1 overall draft pick. This was a highly debated pick, even amongst Panther fans.  Many wondered could his game translate to the NFL? 

The Haters

The doubters questioned Cam’s ability to transition to the pro game, perceiving him as freakish athlete who could potentially play quarterback. They cited the Auburn’s primitive playcalling system and simple offensive scheme. They claimed he wasn’t pro-ready because he hadn’t played under centered. Critics like Mike Lombardi marginalized Newton to a running quarterback alone, stating “he’s looking to run with that big body.” Terry Bradshaw flat out stated he didn’t “like Cam Newton at all,” describing Blaine Gabbert as a more pro ready QB. And ESPN’s Skip Bayless unsurprisingly (that is if you know Skip) cried that Tim Tebow was a more accurate passer than Newton could ever be.
Doubt turned to reluctance when ESPN’s Cris Collinsworth called for Carolina to take Von Miller #1, claiming Newton was too much a risk with too little potential reward. Collinsworth thought at best Newton could only be a Ben Roethlisberger hard to take down game manager.

Then doubt turned to hate when analysts questioned Cam’s football IQ , personal commitment, and maturity.  Charlie Casserly, who has since demonstrated why he is no longer NFL GM, stated he would take “Kevin Kolb over Cam Newton 100 times out of 100 chances."  Yea that’s right Kevin Kolb! He went further though, denigrating Newton’s football IQ exhibited at Auburn as “so simple you can do it in ninth grade.”

Cam’s football IQ was not the only thing under scrutiny.  His past at Florida and the scandals surrounding his alleged six figure recruitment by Mississippi St and Auburn led many to question his maturity.  Former coach Steve Mariucci wanted to know “where is this kid going to be when he gets a paycheck,” and he wasn’t thinking the answer was going to be the Pro Bowl.

Newton’s most scathing pre-draft review came from Pro Football Weekly, claiming: 

Cam defied the critics by going on the most impressive rookie campaign in NFL history. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year award, made the Pro Bowl, and shattered rookie quarterback records in rushing, passing, and rushing TDs. This wasn’t enough for the haters, who critiqued his demeanor, press conferences, and off the field behavior. Newton didn’t seem to do himself any favors publically in the offseason. Stories leaked that many of his peers viewed him as a diva, who failed to show the proper humility and respect for the guys who had been there before, at the Pro Bowl. Other stories surfaced that he had continued to defy the pecking order in the Carolina locker room. The former story appeared to have some validity, but the sources quoted in the story remained anonymous. The Panthers press machine denied the the latter. Overall, it appeared as Cam rubbed some the wrong way. Whether this was simply his personality or some sort of specific slight seems unclear. What probably should have been a non-story continued to plague Newton’s image throughout 2012. The Panthers started out slow the next year. Cam had what many described as a sophomore slump, while new media darlings RGIII and Andrew Luck took center stage. As Carolina struggled, Cam struggled with losing. These struggles came early with in a primetime Thursday night blowout by the New York Giants. Cam’s struggles continued after the game with a miserable press conference that summed up much of his demeanor throughout the season.

The haters ate it up.  Even those who had jumped on Cam’s bandwagon shrunk and started to believe the haters. Hell, it even frustrated me--one of SuperCam’s greatest supporters. There’s just something wrong about a big, beautiful, athletic specimen like Newton sulking and whining.  It was his confident, attitude that was so mesmerizing in the first place--well that and the 250lbs, 4.5s/40yd, and an arm that can throw a football through a piece of plywood. 

 It was clear Cam was adjusting.  All through this, his on the field play never suggested he couldn’t make it or even become great one day.  He was young.  He was accustomed to success, and he had always been the best athlete on the field.  Winning had always come easy, but it was now allusive. Simply put, Cam was developing.  If development wasn’t required, they wouldn’t make rookies buy doughnuts or carry pads in training camp.

This is what the  mainstream media sharks craved, and Cam’s sideline and press conference performances were the proverbial blood in the water. The media machine doesn’t want to wait for athletes to develop into greatness.  Wait? Hell no, they need to sell the story now.  That’s why they jumped ship for the newest flavor of the week and used Cam as a side story to exploit when they needed a little filler. (The same thing is going on right now in Washington with RGIII, who just last year everyone praised for his maturity.)

The Believers

Cam has always had his supporters though. Many of us knew something special was developing in Carolina. In 2012, Trent Dilfer stated that Cam “is going to change football.” The great Bo Jackson argued that Cam was one of the “two baddest men in the NFL,” and “the rest of the NFL {just didn’t} know it yet.” Many of us tauted that Cam could possibly become the greatest NFL player ever. I still stand by that!

What Cam didn’t prove in his stupefying rookie season and respectable sophomore campaign, he has this season.  Cam’s 2013 stats may not be as absurd as those of the past, but Carolina is winning and in the playoffs.  While this is not solely because of Cam’s play, it certainly is not in spite of his play.  He has not been a weakness to the 2013 Panthers.  Instead, he has defied every criticism levied at him in the past and played a central role in Carolina’s success.  

Haters said he could put up big stats, but couldn’t win.  Cam led the Panthers to a 11-4 season, including a franchise record 8 game winning streak. He was instrumental in beating the San Francisco 49ers in Candlestick, the Patriots the following week on MNF, and the New Orleans Saints to take the divisional lead.  A win on Sunday will lock up the division and gain the Panthers their first playoff appearance since 2008.

Haters said he crumbled under pressure.  Cam led 4th quarter game winning drives against the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints.  

Haters said he couldn’t be a pocket passer.  Cam has completed 62% of his passes, thrown 22 TDs with only 12 INTs. 

Haters said he was immature and a liability. He has matured significantly and continues to develop into an important team leader both through action and attitude. Cam Newton has simply not been the liability that the critics claimed he would be.  Instead, he has been an essential leader both on and off the field. Those critics still fail to mention Cam’s much improved press conferences that put the team first and always acknowledge Carolina’s defensive identity. 

It’s at this moment Cam’ron’s Purple Haze album finally makes sense.  As he said, “see the problem is” Cam “ain't goin nowhere.”  Killa Cam is here to stay. He has arrived, forcing the haters to even acknowledge it! 

Killa Cam....Killa Cam, Cam, Cam