Cam Newton was still Cam Newton for the most part yesterday, so why are we still being pitched the idea of a 'sophomore slump'? (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
The stage was set for the perfect media day imaginable. Robert Griffin III was near-perfect, and Andrew Luck looked like a rookie. All that was needed was the Powerball; an afternoon of struggles for Cam Newton that could create a headline triumvirate, finishing with the phrase ‘sophomore slump'.
So what happens when your Powerball doesn't come up? That eight you were waiting for is unfortunately a nine, and you have a decision to make. Do you toss aside your ticket and say "better luck next time", or do you take out your mechanical pencil, retrieve a magnifying glass, and try to alter that number in a vain attempt to sneak it through? Sure, someone might catch you, but the risk is worth it.
Football fans were rife to be exploited yesterday. On an afternoon where almost everyone was watching a stellar back-and-forth game between Green Bay and San Francisco, the stage was set perfectly to try and fudge the numbers, presenting Cam Newton as ‘lost second year QB' rather than tell the more complicated story. It is a tale of successes, failures, but an overwhelming air of a player, in a bad situation, who couldn't do enough to turn it around.
More after the jump
Against Tampa Bay, Cameron Jerrell Newton threw two costly interceptions, both at times where the Panthers really needed a drive to be sustained. The first of which he attempted to squeeze a ball into a tight window, a throw he's made twenty times before, and yet this time two defenders swarmed, the ball popped up, and Ronde Barber plucked it from the air. Could Newton have played it a little safer rather than doubling down on LaFell? Probably, by nature Newton is a gunslinger. He has the arm to make the throws, he has the confidence to make the throws, and when they're complete we cheer; so should we chide him when it goes badly? Perhaps.
The second interception was indefensible- a back-foot throw, forcing the ball to Steve Smith, expecting Smitty to be Smitty and nab it out of nowhere. That play has its place, but it's not late in the 3rd quarter with the game on the line; Newton has surely learned that now.
The decision has been made among pundits to harp on the INTs, because, well, it's the easy thing to do- the story that writes itself. Why note that Newton was in the top ten in completion percentage this week, or that his 9.2 YPA also fell in the top ten? Those numbers don't fit the story. The story is Newton will slump, so the propensity is to do whatever it takes to sell the notion, and in a way this is a microcosm for media as a whole.
Yesterday was a day where fellow 2011 top-ten pick Blaine Gabbert, proclaimed to be a bust started to put it all together. In Tennessee, Jake Locker, now the Titans' starter had an excellent game too. Sadly, these must be overshadowed by "Newton's slump". There's still the overwhelming need to lead with what bleeds, and when you have a bevy of ‘Newton with a towel' pics, it makes it all too easy to sell the world on the sophomore with struggles, even if it isn't really true.
Cam Newton wasn't perfect, he'll never be perfect- but if an ‘off day' is 300 yards passing and an 83.3 rating, I'll take it. It's sad to see some fans falling for it, hearing all the negativity and assuming that the loudest voices must be the correct ones. Granted, these fans are the minority, but it's still a shame to see some getting sold on the idea of Newton slumping, and ignoring the game that was in front of their faces. Folks, Cam Newton played well. He made mistakes, he wasn't as good at times, but please- there's no slump.