The Panthers’ Embarrassing Cam Newton Experiment Shines a Light on the Team’s Major Dysfunction
When the Carolina Panthers first announced they were bringing back Cam Newton, most fans were overjoyed. The Carolina community was primarily upset at how Newton’s time with the team ended and were anxious to see him return following his impromptu release from the New England Patriots.
Throw in Sam Darnold’s miserable start to the 2021 season, and most Panthers fans were eager for any change at the quarterback position.
The Panthers made an emotional decision, not an fact-based one
The Panthers needed to make a change at quarterback. There’s no debating that. Darnold was playing horrifically bad while simultaneously racking up injuries. It was becoming increasingly clear he had zero shot of stacking together a productive 2021 season.
However, that doesn’t mean the decision to sign Newton was automatically a good one.
Obviously, Newton has a special connection to Carolina, making him a top free-agent candidate once Darnold was placed on injured reserve. However, amidst all the fanfare, it’s essential to highlight the state Newton was in. The Patriots released him during the offseason after a lackluster preseason, and he’s been training (?) at home ever since.
It’s hard to imagine Newton was taking the appropriate steps to keep himself in NFL condition at home through the first few months of the season. It’s impossible to simulate the ins and outs that come with running an NFL offense, reading a playbook, etc.
Cam Newton was exposed against the Miami Dolphins
After a lackluster starting debut against the Washington Football Team in Week 11, Newton was appropriately welcomed to the NFL the following week against the Miami Dolphins.
Newton went 5-for-21 for a measly 92 passing yards and two interceptions. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule ultimately benched Newton for backup PJ Walker, putting an exclamation mark on his horrible game.
Newton looked lost and played recklessly all afternoon long. He looked like a quarterback who’d been out of the league for several months, to put it bluntly.
The Panthers are starting to look dysfunctional
Since the Panthers released Newton at the start of the 2020 season, they’ve failed at every turn when it comes to filling the starting quarterback position. They offloaded Teddy Bridgewater just one year into his three-year/$60 million contract. They passed on intriguing rookies Mac Jones and Justin Fields during the 2021 NFL Draft in favor of trading for Sam Darnold, who played horribly this season. Now, they’re right back at square one with an aging, regressing Cam Newton under center.
This is not the path to acquiring a franchise QB most functional teams take.
The Panthers have done a fantastic job building their defense over recent years for what it’s worth. Brian Burns and Haasan Reddick is arguably the best defensive end duo in the league. Jeremy Chinn is an ascending star at safety. Trading for CB Stephon Gilmore was a solid move. However, the Panthers have not displayed the same level of competence at quarterback — the most critical position on the field.
Moving forward, the Panthers are somewhat trapped due to this silly, failed Cam Newton experiment. Darnold is still under contract through 2022, and Newton has been told he’ll be considered for the starting role as well. Both are bad options. However, several Panthers players will presumably push for Newton due to his infectious personality.
Either way, the Panthers are in a bad spot moving forward solely due to their own dysfunction.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.