I was initially disappointed when Josh Norman left the Carolina Panthers for the Washington Redskins, but after enduring a barrage of J-No’s self-centered, deliberately provocative sound bites this week, I’m relieved he’s gone.
My eyes are still sore from all of the rolling around in their sockets over the past few days reacting to headlines like, "Josh Norman Sounds Off on Demaryius Thomas" and "Josh Norman Slams ‘Horrible’ Roger Goodell: ‘He’s a Dog in a Suit.’"
It’s like Norman just received his degree from Miley Cyrus University with a major in Shameless Self Promotion and can’t wait to show off everything he’s learned.
From Disappointment to Deliverance
The reason I was initially disappointed with Norman’s departure is the Panthers had just reached the Super Bowl with #24 making significant contributions as he blossomed into an All-Pro in his fourth NFL season.
The ideal for me was to keep the core together, including Norman, and make another couple of Super Bowl runs. This would have required signing J-No to a contract that made him happy without completely hamstringing the Panthers cap flexibility.
We all know how well that negation process worked out.
Immediately after the Norman-Gettleman divorce, many Panthers fans simply wished Josh well. Both sides were doing what they thought was best. Gettleman didn’t want to overpay for a cornerback while Norman, who turns 29 in December, wanted to get perhaps the only mega-contract of his career.
It didn’t work out. It’s a business. It happens.
Good luck, Josh. Thank you for what you did in Carolina. No hard feelings.
And then this week happened, and I now feel like the Panthers dodged a major bullet and several cases of migraine-strength Excedrin by letting him walk.
Hey Everybody – Look at Me!
Norman’s distracting, me-first behavior began almost immediately after arriving in Washington.
The Redskins new $75 million CB took a part-time job with Fox as an NFL contributor without speaking with coach Jay Gruden beforehand to see if his secondary employment could be a potential distraction to the team.
Gruden seems to have learned about Norman’s new job from The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg and was quoted as saying, "I have no idea what you are talking about. Pre-game show for what? Great to know."
Not an ideal way for Josh to show his new organization he’s a professional, team-first guy.
Then this week Norman was part of an ESPN feature story where he made multiple statements that ESPN called "interesting and polarizing" but come across to me as "selfish and immature."
Exhibit A in the ESPN piece is J-No's headline-grabbing declaration, "I’m the best cornerback on Earth."
Interesting perspective from a guy who has only had one great year, aided in large part by playing behind one of the best front sevens in the NFL.
The ESPN article then says Josh was asked to join a video shoot and he replied, "Man, I’m going international! Three sixty-five, worldwide, baby!"
I guess it's all about J-No's brand getting out there, all the time, all year long.
When discussing Demariyus Thomas with ESPN and the Denver Broncos defeating the Panthers in the Super Bowl J-No crowed, "I don’t know what (Thomas) was out there for. He was supposed to be an all-world guy, and I shut him down." Thomas then shut Norman down with a picture of his Super Bowl ring accompanied by the simple question, "Where yours at young fella??"
And then there’s the whole Odell Beckham drama. Ugh. Moving on.
The Problem Ain’t Carolina, It’s You
Okay, fine. An outspoken NFL player makes a couple of brash statements in an interview. Whatever.
But then Norman took a couple of swipes at the Carolina Panthers in the ESPN interview, and that’s when I started to shake my head and thank my lucky stars he’s moved on.
As I’ve previously written, Carolina has a winning culture that reinforces strategies and behaviors that result in long-term, sustainable success. Apparently that winning culture just didn’t fit with Josh Norman being Josh Norman for the benefit of Josh Norman.
"They kind of shunned me," he alleges of the Panthers. "They wanted it to be about the two main guys, Cam and Luke."
I guess it doesn’t sit well with J-No when the league’s MVP (Cam Newton) and former Defensive Player of the Year (Luke Kuechly) steal some of his spotlight.
It also sounds like the Panthers winning culture was inhibiting Norman’s development. When speaking about the Washington versus Carolina culture to ESPN he said, "I just feel like I can grow. In Washington, it feels like everybody can say what they want. It’s a free-flowing kind of place. It’s like going from a dictatorship to freedom."
Let me repeat that: "It’s like going from a dictatorship to freedom."
Carolina a dictatorship? Seriously?
Respected veterans like Jared Allen and Charles Tillman raved about the Carolina culture last year. Charles Johnson took a huge pay cut to remain a Panther. True professionals like Thomas Davis, Greg Olsen, and Jonathan Stewart seem to love it in Carolina. Cam Newton has been given free reign to express his vibrant personality. Heck, even owner Jerry Richardson dabs in the locker room after big wins.
That's not a dictatorship. That's professionalism and class.
But I guess Norman has found what he is looking for. He’s got his money. He’s got the national media’s attention.
And he apparently now has his freedom.
Freedom to do and say and be whatever he wants.
Freedom to be Josh Norman.
Good for him.
And good riddance.