First, retract your claws Panthers fans. I'm not here to slam Cam Newton. In fact, I'm here more to ponder than I am to judge. I'm an editor and writer over at Turf Show Times, and what I normally write isn't statistics heavy commentary. To me, there are times when taking a step back for an objective view can be very illuminating. Reading the venom directed at Cam Newton today on any number of sports new outlets, I began to consider a whole list of reason why second year players tend to struggle. Some call it the sophomore jinx, but not me. I don't really have a name for my version of the second year phenomenon that strikes a large contingent of these players, so I think I'll call it... Bob?
The theory behind "Bob" that's congealing in my mind has little to do with players physical failings in year two of their careers. It has more to do with outside forces, and their effect on a player. You see, "Bob" is like a disease (queue "The Natural" references), or more specifically like a virus that mutates to overcome it's environs. "Bob" takes the physical form in the 32 NFL head coaches and their staffs. These "Bobs" got zapped last season by the Newton antiviral, and they spent the off season figuring out how to battle back. Let's face it, the "Bobs" are pretty damn good too. They know the game of football, and study hours and hours of film on a given player, with the collective goal in mind to squash him. The "Bobs" don't act alone either. They commiserate with other "Bobs" around the league until they find the chink in the player's armor they can exploit in the next season.
After Cam Newton's stellar performance in 2011, he made at least 31 "Bobs" very nervous. Working together, they found ways to limit Newton so far in 2012. This happens to every rookie, and not just Cam, but he marked an evolution in the game at the quarterback position. Teams weren't built to handle a player like him, so through adjusting both rosters and game plans, they found the tools to temporarily befuddle young Cam. This has happen before too. Look at the Darwinian leap the tight end position has made in the last few years as an example.
Where the "Bobs" succeed or fail is in how Newton and the Panthers coaching staff respond. Responses are limited in the short term though. There are just so many draft picks to spread around a team's many needs. The team's coffers are limited by Salary Cap and free agent availability. Choices are made, and in the end it's kind of a coin flip, isn't it? Do you build up players around Cam Newton to make the offense better, or do you improve the defense so Newton doesn't have to score as many points in a game? I won't analyze the Panthers 2012 draft class, because I simply am not all that Draft savvy when it comes down to it. Year after year I've thought a player in college would be great in the the NFL, and I've been proven wrong. The inverse is true too. I thought Cam Newton would be a dismal failure, but I was oh so very wrong.
What the "Bobs" do isn't the "be all - end all" for a player. It's up to a team's head coach and his staff to morph for what lies ahead. Anyone who thought Cam Newton would be automatically as good or better this year was discounting the "Bobs", and their collective wizardry. To think a player wouldn't be frustrated while the team and he made adjustments - both right and wrong - is foolish too. Whether it's a challenge to a players physicality or ego, this is a time for growth. Carolina is experiencing growing pains right now, but they'll subside soon. You have a great coach and awesome offensive coordinator, and they will find their way soon. They'll find something that clicks, and begin to build off of it. Young Cam has work to do. He needs to set his resolve, and know his physical prowess will only take him so far in the NFL. When he accepts that the "Bobs" are smarter than he is, his football life will get easier. He'll be able to take the NFL season week by week, opponent by opponent. He'll stop thinking about what HE can do, and believe in what he and his team can do working as a multifaceted unit. Chudzinsky will start to tap players in different ways too.
This franchise is going through some upheaval right now, there's no denying it. A new GM is in the offing, and there's no clear view where the team goes from here, right? Wrong! This is a solid team, with probably one of the most talented players to every play the quarterback position. He's going to shed his emotional baggage, and injured players will return or be replaced. Life will go on, and for the Panthers that way is forward, or at least that's the way it seems to me... All the best this season! - DouglasM