By Eric Schmidt

In the last 24 hour news cycle, veteran QB Warren Moon has made innuendos suggesting that the current criticism of Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton might be rooted in racism against black quarterbacks. I grew up watching and have met Warren Moon and have nothing but the utmost respect for the quarterback that threw for over 70,000 yards and 435 touchdowns during his 23 year career which spanned the CFL as well as the NFL. However, I have to disagree with Mr. Moon’s suggestion.

Speaking to Yahoo! Sports, Moon said the following: “I think a lot of this is because so many people want to say ‘I told you so’ about him but couldn’t because he was so good last year. I think people are overreacting. How can he be a bust? He just had one of the great years a rookie ever had, and now he can’t play? Come On.” I agree with Moon on this assumption.

Moon however, continued, stating, “I heard somebody compare him to Vince Young. It’s the same old crap–it’s always a comparison of one black to another black. I get tired of it. I get tired of defending it.” He continued with, “If you want to compare him to someone because of his demeanor, compare him to Jay Cutler. There are a lot of guys who whine and moan. Cam’s not biting anyone’s head off or pushing his linemen. He’s just disgruntled, and not handling losing well, because, think about it, he basically didn’t lose in college.”

Let’s analyze Mr. Moon’s comments here for a minute. He states that he wants critics to compare him to Jay Cutler,a player who has a bad reputation about whining and then had a well documented incident pushing one of his offensive lineman a few weeks ago but then defends Newton’s actions as the anti-Cutler on the sidelines?

Is the comparison of Newton to Vince Young fair? We don’t know yet, Newton has just 22 starts in his young career and has recorded seven wins in those games. I seriously considered picking the Carolina Panthers as a wildcard team to advance to the playoffs this season based on the offseason additions the Panthers made and the record setting play of Cam Newton last season. Carolina lost five games by seven points or less with a horrible defense last year and I believed they could be a 9 win team heading into this season.

What is grabbing the attention of NFL fans around the country is Newton’s behavior. His broodish behavior with the towel over his head, removed from his teammates on the sidelines when he finds the team behind on the scoreboard. His post-game presser comments this week made the rounds after the Panthers recorded yet another loss.

These weren’t the comments that you want circulated through a locker room full of players you are going to battle with, week in and week out. It was a bizarre rambling with Newton referring to a reporter as “sweetheart”. That’s a first for me.

I understand the frustrations that Warren Moon has over his playing career in the NFL. Coming out of college in the late 1970′s, NFL teams did not want black quarterbacks. He refused to change positions and joined the Edmonton Eskimos and played six seasons in the Canadian Football League, throwing for over 20,000 yards. He then joined the NFL  with the Houston Oilers. Between 1990-1991, he threw for over 9,000 total yards and 56 touchdowns in an era when offensive receivers did not have the advantage over defenders that they have today.

I’ve watched football for over 35 years, and I’ve seen few quarterbacks that could throw a deep ball as well as Warren Moon. Mr. Moon could have joined my team at any time, without question. Then again, in the late 1970′s my favorite team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran QB Doug Williams out of town under the misguided leadership of then-owner, Hugh Culverhouse. Fans of the Buccaneers could not wait for Culverhouse to sell the team after milking the fans each season while putting a horrible product on the field throughout the 1980′s. The loss of Williams set the Buccaneers back decades, and Tampa is still looking for a franchise quarterback, although Josh Freeman is showing signs of becoming just that franchise quarterback that they have been searching for, for decades.

Cam Newton entered the league last season and set a rookie record, passing for 845 yards in his first two games. He shattered the rushing touchdown record for quarterbacks, scoring 14 times. But, you must remember, last season, teams were subjected to a lockout. The preseason was truncated. There were no offseason workouts, there was no offseason learning of playbooks as coaches and players were forbidden to have contact with each other due to the terms of the lockout.

The NFL is a highly competitive league, and once tape gets out on player’s abilities, defenses adjust. In the second half of last season, Newton never threw for more than 300 yards, an achievement he reached three times in the first four weeks of 2011. Now, with a complete offseason heading into 2012, teams can game plan for Newton. Cam Newton’s passing numbers have decreased every week he’s played this season.Cam Newton has the lowest QBR rating of any NFL starting quarterback inside opposing team’s 10 yard line this season.

-Week 1 303 yards

-Week 2 253 yards

-Week 3 242 yards

-Week 4 215 yards

-Week 5 141 yards.

He rebounded after the bye week and tossed a paltry 233 yards against the Dallas Cowboys in a loss last week. WR Brandon LaFell and TE Greg Olsen were going to give Newton the added weapons he was lacking last season.

Cam Newton took the football world by storm last season and seemingly set the bar higher for rookie quarterbacks. Was too much expected of him this season? He entered the league with questions surrounding him. He wasn’t able to recite one single play call of the Auburn playbook while on Jon Gruden’s QB Camp show on ESPN prior to the draft. There were questions surrounding his college history. There have been questions surrounding his integrity while at college and now, questions are surfacing in regards to his maturity and his ability to lead at the NFL level.

Yes, the quarterback with the million dollar smile is facing scrutiny right now, but every quarterback in the league undergoes that, and it has nothing to do with race. The Panthers have lost their last three games by a combined 11 points after holding leads in the second half of in all three games. Cam Newton does not play defense.

Is his behavior strange? Bizarre? A little aloof? Yes, yes and yes.

Should everything be placed squarely on the shoulders of Cam Newton? No.

This week, the ownership sent a message by firing the team’s general manager in the middle of the season. Will second-year head coach Ron Rivera be far behind at the end of the season if the Panthers can’t show improvement? Why hasn’t Rivera been able to utilize what many thought would be the best running attack in the league this season with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and the addition of Mike Tolbert?

Some people in the media might be bailing on Cam Newton after just 22 games, but I’m not. I think he needs a mentor, a head coach which humbles him as well as teaches him the finer points of the game. He is an exceptional athlete with a rocket arm, but he needs maturity. He entered the NFL in his rookie season without a complete offseason, and he joined a team with a rookie head coach in Ron Rivera.

Is the team’s problem with Cam Newton or Ron Rivera? I believe there are a combination of factors surrounding the Panthers. Cam Newton is an NFL quarterback, the highest profile position in professional sports. He needs to take the criticism and galvanize himself. Stop pouting. Never get too high, never get too low. There is just too much athletic talent in Newton’s body to simply write him off as a bust after just 22 games.

Troy Aikman went 1-15 in his rookie season. Peyton Manning struggled in his early years. Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw was benched and nearly tossed out of Pittsburgh early in his career. All quarterbacks struggle early in their career. Franchise quarterbacks are harder to find. High profile athletes face greater challenges these days with the addition of social media and the instant gratification society we seem to be living in.

I’m giving Cam Newton a pass, for now. I think he has the talent to be a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. He needs to learn how to deal with failure, and that will help him in the long run to deal with success as well. Criticism comes with job Mr. Newton but it has nothing to do with the color of your skin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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