Back off of QB Cam Newton


Illustration by Brittany England/The Pioneer

Shomari Black,

The Denver Broncos’ top-rated defense repeatedly sacked Carolina Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton during Super Bowl 50. His receivers dropped important passes and his offensive line did not protect him. Huge Bronco defenders knocked him down more than 20 times, which caused Newton to fumble the ball a few times and throw an interception.

His team was favored to the win the game, but they lost the biggest sporting event in the country and arguably the world. Immediately after the game, he was greeted by microphones, cameras and lots of questions. He skirted tradition and walked out of the postgame Super Bowl press conference without feeding the media beast quotes for stories. As a result, his actions became the story.

Writers, reporters and former athletes criticized Newton. They called him everything from a poor sport to “classless.” His decision to walk out was not graceful or tough. He did not show any of the characteristics expected of great athletes, however, Newton does not deserve the scrutiny he has received.

Thirty-five other quarterbacks have lost the Super Bowl and Newton is not the first to react poorly. Recall Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning, the quarterback that won the game. When Manning played for the Indianapolis Colts in 2010, he left the field after Super Bowl 44 without congratulating the winning quarterback. This happened less than 30 minutes after Manning threw an interception that put the game out of reach for his team. Doesn’t this represent poor sportsmanship?

“Being a good sportsman is playing fair, respecting the game and giving credit after to an opponent. Manning did all those things Sunday,” Yahoo sports writer Chris Chase wrote the day after Manning’s faux pas. Media outlets portrayed Manning as a winner, despite the fact that he snubbed New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees. They excused his behavior based on the “fact” that he hated losing. They called him a competitor. They called him everything except a poor sport.

To reach a Super Bowl, a quarterback endures more than 30 weeks of intense physical and mental training. This includes at least 19 contests in a game known for its violent collisions. Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Dan Marino and Steve Young started just one Super Bowl in their long careers. To miss such an opportunity is similar to blowing the big audition, interview, exam or anything you spend your entire life trying to accomplish. It hurts.

“They haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,” Newton said during a press conference before the big game. While Newton referred to his skills as a runner and passer, his emotional playing style defines him even more.

Newton’s on-field celebrations don’t conform to the good old quarterbacks of the past. He dabs, a popular Atlanta hip-hop dance, after successful plays. He celebrates touchdowns with a variety of dances before his defeated opponents. When they take issue with his antics, he points out that if they stop the scoring, they stop the dancing. Countless receivers, running backs and defensive backs like Deion Sanders and Terrell Owens left behind legacies of flamboyant end-zone celebrations, but not the quarterback. 

The quarterback is supposed to be cool under pressure, like Joe Montana. The quarterback should arrive to practice first and leave last like Manning. The quarterback keeps other players in check, like Tom Brady. The quarterback is logical, reserved and fits in this box otherwise the quarterback does not win.

Newton doesn’t fit in that box, but he wanted to win. Losing proved to be a painful experience for him. None of the hits he endured in the game appeared to hurt him. In the fourth quarter, Newton dropped to his knees and rolled over on his back in apparent pain. This happened on the sideline. It was his reaction to play that made defeat certain, not a bone crushing hit.

“I never once said that I was perfect,” Newton told reporters two days after his post Super Bowl tantrum. He stood by his empty locker as reporters invaded his personal space with microphones and smartphone cameras. “At the end of the day who are you to say your way is right?”

Thirty-five quarterbacks lost the Super Bowl and answered all of the questions posed to them. One did not. Newton displays all of his emotions on the field. He celebrates touchdowns with joy. He displays agony in defeat. Many have issues with this type of competitiveness.

Newton is not Manning, Montana or any of the other greats. Winning is his job. Not quote generator, nice guy or public relations ambassador. He’s a different kind of quarterback that wins. So back off and let him play his game.