‪The Cam Conundrum: What to make of what you don’t understand

By John Ellis

Cam Newton is fine. 

Do I have a source on it? No, I don’t

But I do have an expectation about it. And that seems to be an acceptable bar of confirmation for certain highly-compensated national reporters.

I generally steer away from this type of article, via-Ian Rapaport— pure speculation tossed together under the guise of a news item regarding the future of Carolina’s franchise quarterback.

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The headline struck me.

So, yes.

I clicked it.

What happened next: I was overcome by a tidal wave of contradictions, a sense of covering all of one’s bases, incorrect assumptions, and flawed analysis.

Two paragraphs in particular were rife with mind numbingly lazy takes.

“However, the expectation is that the Panthers will attempt to trade Newton this offseason provided they can get a large deal to make it worth their while. In what could be the most active QB market in years, Newton — if healthy — could be the centerpiece”

The expectation? Oh, OK. I guess we’ll just roll with that.

Could still be a centerpiece? Man, it would be nice to have a quarterback as the centerpiece, wouldn’t it, PANTHERS FANS?

Rapaport continues:

“They won’t give him away, but with Kyle Allen showing potential and Will Grier possessing traits that led the Panthers to grade him better than the third-rounder he was, they have options. And a top option is for the new coach and still general manager Marty Hurney to move on from the former MVP Newton, collect a bounty of picks, and start fresh.”

Kyle Allen flashed his potential, and has shown his ceiling, to a large extent. 

Will Grier? We’re actually factoring in Will Grier right now? I like the kid, and hope he dials in and makes a career for himself.

Banking on that? Not sure I’m willing to.

Look, we’re all speculating here. Anybody ever consider how Cam Newton feels about all this? Where is his mind at? Does he want to even stay in the city? Once you start snowballing down that road, you end up trapped in a horrific funhouse of hot takes and bad information.

All I know is this: I watch a lot of film, and Cam looked very good for a good part of last season. He looked very good in 2017. He fought through a lot of pain in 2016 and made some tremendous throws.

He is a tremendous football asset. He creates matchups, he gives you great flexibility, he’s an extra runner defenses have to account for.

He’s also the heartbeat of this franchise. It’s tangible, and it’s a deep void right now.

What new coach in his right mind would move on from Cam Newton, assuming the foot surgery and a full year+ of limited shoulder strain has paid off?

Then again, what comes first? New coach or a Cam decision?

And that’s just the thing: you can’t have it both ways. If you feel Carolina wants to move on because of the lingering health questions, what makes you believe any other team would fork up a bounty for what the media has painted as “damaged goods in a scarf.”

‪Oh, I know. Because it’s fun to talk about trades and picks and the cap. Those are your standard, Evergreen topics.

I studied journalism in college. I played high school football (not very well, usually) and have studied the game, and all of its nuances, like a hawk for over 20 years.

Weird flex, but OK.

Neither of those bona fides qualifies me as Grantland Rice or Bill Walsh.

But I do make an effort, as an analyst and reporter, to draw most of my conclusions from the tape. And I’m telling you right now, the tape shows me Newton is less than 14 months removed from an MVP caliber run of games.

He can make the throws, even after the TJ Watt hit. The foot injury was a freak accident in New England. It had nothing to do with the shoulder, which by the way, was blessed with an extended rehab window for this next stretch run of his career. I watched Newton throw the ball in training camp back in August. I paid close attention to ball placement, velocity in tight windows, and touch on 30+ yard throws.

He looked supremely comfortable in each of these areas. Moreover, he had his swagger back.

Despite the recent surgery, there was no shortage of reps. Ron Rivera did rest him during the preseason games, up until the trip to New England.

And then there’s this: reporters trying to tell me “Cam can’t keep running around like he’s been doing for years, because he keeps getting hurt.”

That statement represents a Holy Grail of sorts  for football ignorance. It’s the media—-shedding a ton of heat with no light.

With no realization that Cam’s most damning injuries since the ill-fated 2016 pursuit of an interception have both occurred WITHIN the pocket.

I have buried myself in Newton’s game tape. I’ve paid close attention to the first half of last season, and all of 2017. I have already made my evaluation on Newton. I feel he should come back. I’m not concerned under what circumstances at this point.

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Final year of the deal? Whatever. A longer-term contract? Good. The team should have some sense of leverage right now with his recent injury issues.

None of which, by the way, are connected.

Or, at least that’s what the sports media at-large, all working off the same unscientific set of talking points, would have you believe.

Or, is it the other way around?

I can’t keep up.

All I know: I can think of one team in particular who needs a franchise quarterback.

Take a wild guess.