Cam Newton had a rough Super Bowl.
He came on to the field at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday in full Superman mode, shirt included. He left as Clark Kent’s scrawny little brother. And when it was his turn to answer questions in the post-game news conference, he gave short answers and abruptly left the gathering before it was time.
I understand Newton’s frustration. The Panthers were bad. He was bad, but he had a lot of company on the offensive side of the football. His line didn’t block, his runners didn’t run and his receivers didn’t receiver. Those add up to making a quarterback’s life difficult.
But Newton had his own questionable moments. He was stripped of the football near his own goal line in the first quarter and the resulting TD for Denver put the Broncos up, 10-0.
He also fumbled late in the game, again deep in Carolina territory with the Panthers trailing, 16-10. This time, he didn’t attempt to recover the football. The Broncos did and picked up the touchdown and two-point conversion that broke Carolina’s back.
Newton already is an NFL lightning rod. Those who love him point to his youthful exuberance and overwhelming arm. Those who don’t claim he’s over the top in his celebrating and that he’s not the player he thinks he is.
The anti-Newton crowd comes out of Sunday with more ammunition, unfortunately. He was not a difference maker in the game and even worse when it ended.
If Newton is the leader he says he is, he has to sit there for the questions the way he stands in there for a pass rush. Nobody said this stuff is easy, but to be the face of a franchise you have to be the face of a team’s disappointments, not just its accomplishments.
If a back-up safety wants to pout after a Super Bowl loss, OK. Nobody’s going to know anyway.
The quarterback, though —and this one just happens to be the MVP of the NFL — has to step up to the podium, literally and figuratively. Newton can’t just slough off questions with one-word, inaudible answers.
He doesn’t have to stand up there and tell jokes after such a discouraging defeat, but he needs to be enlightening in his answers. When he’s not, he looks bad. And he makes the Panthers look bad.
Newton was a joy while being interviewed by Fox Sports’ Terry Bradshaw after Carolina defeated Arizona in the NFC championship game more than two weeks ago. It’s easy to be “on” in front of the home crowd while confetti is falling around you.
Anybody can do that.
It takes a real champion, in my opinion, to be a leader in the toughest situations.
It’s too lenient to use Newton’s youth as an example . . . he’s been around long enough to know how this works.
He was simply pouting after the game and it was an unbecoming look that puts the entire Panthers franchise under a bad light.
But it also doesn’t take away from Newton’s great accomplishments this season. Nor does it mean he’s not an effective leader who can get the Panthers back in the Super Bowl next season or in seasons to come.
Newton’s talent is undeniable. He’s everything you want in a quarterback when it comes to talent.
He needs to improve as his team’s statesman, though. For the sake of the Panthers, the NFL and Newton himself, here’s hoping he learned something Sunday.