Poor Cam Newton is taking a lot of heat for the results of Super Bowl 50. In case you missed the big event, the final score was Broncos 24, Panthers 10. Newton took quite a physical beating courtesy of the Denver Broncos unrelenting, swarming defense. The Carolina defense also played very well basically holding the Denver offense to three field goals. Personally I hoped that Denver would prevail for Peyton Manning’s last hurrah, but logically told all who asked my opinion that Carolina would put the game away in the first half. I just knew the game would be a beat down with Denver as victims as they had been against Seattle two years prior. |
It turned out the game was a real throwback reminding me of a certain 1950s Bears vs. Lions game in terms of a quarterback getting smacked around. Some of the Bears were reported in the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit Free Press as saying they were going to knock Lion quarterback, Bobby Layne, out of the game because 1) Layne was always mouthing off, and 2) Layne’s backup, Harry Gilmore, was a klutz. Damned if the Monsters of the Midway didn’t pull it off on a cold day in Wrigley Field as the teams played for the Western Division title. Harry Gilmore was as hapless as advertised. As a youngster I viewed the game in glorious black-and-white. Shortly after halftime I also remember a fan falling backward off the leftfield wall after taking a snowball to the head. Great camera work, eh?
Defensive players back-in-the-day made no bones about their intentions. After the Cleveland Browns beat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, 27 – 0, in the 1964 NFL Championship game (today called the Super Bowl), Colt defensive end, Hall of Famer Gino Marchetti, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times that he was out to injure Brown quarterback, Frank Ryan, in the Pro Bowl; said he was angry because Ryan tried to run up the score in the championship game. Marchetti made good on his boast by flattening Ryan who sat out the remainder of the game. During that era, players, coaches, and press thought that kind of behavior was just business as usual for pro football. No big deal. It was a dirty game. Later there were the storied Oakland Raiders with (my favorite) Lester “The Molester” Hayes and hard-hitting Jack Tatum. Tatum said in Sports Illustrated that he loved it when a big hit left a receiver or a running back on the ground twitching. Largely because of the Raiders pass coverage tactics, bump-and-run was outlawed by the NFL.
The NFL stated they instituted rules limiting defenses to make the game safer, which yielded a byproduct of more scoring. Of course the league announced that was what American football fans wanted. Thus the game evolved to today’s passing league where quarterbacks and receivers rack up incredible yardage because (in part) the defenses have been hobbled through constant rule changes. That’s what made Super Bowl 50 so intriguing. It was dominated by defense.
With that in mind, how about cutting Newton a little slack. It wasn’t so much his play that caused the upset as much as the opposing defense turning back the clock. Some said the cocky Newton got his comeuppance for being a loudmouthed braggart a la Bobby Layne. Personally, I perceive the young quarterback a bit differently. I see him as a very enthusiastic young man who enjoyed the heck out of a storybook season. To be sure he doesn’t exhibit the smooth decorum of Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, and Tom Brady; but he is following the age old advice given to all of us: BE YOURSELF. I will admit his superman antics make it easy to invite criticism.
Some pundits suggest that the Panthers didn’t adjust in the second half, which has to be laid on the coaches, not Newton. These are the same experts that tout Brady’s playoff record versus Manning’s, but don’t take into account that Manning played for much inferior teams—especially from the defensive side. I lived in Indy during Manning’s glory years, and their defense consisted of Manning keeping the offense on the field for as long as possible. What I’m saying is: screw the so-called expert talking-heads. Steve Young had a great career with the 49ers, but in the beginning of his pro football career he was w-a-a-y-y worse than Tim Tebow, who “Talking Head” Young criticized harshly. At BYU they almost turned Young into a defensive back. Young was the “original” Tebow for crying out loud. Anyway, that’s why I never give a rat’s ass about what the “analysts” go on-and-on about.
Others have suggested Newton wimped out by not trying to recover a fumble that led to the Broncos second touchdown. These folks cite Russell Wilson being a warrior by outwrestling a bigger player for a fumble in a critical playoff game. I wish Newton would have jumped on the ball, but I think he just froze in the moment. I’m not making an excuse; just saying that sometimes it happens. I also heard from a sportscaster that Newton pulled a “Donovan McNab” referring to a Super Bowl the Eagles lost, and afterward hearing their quarterback say he was tired.
Then there was Newton’s behavior at the postgame press conference. For this I blame the media. They need to give players some time to decompress. Cam Newton was clearly disappointed, and I think by holding his tongue he didn’t give the press any emotional and inappropriate comments so they could gleefully report some “gotcha” moments. Many of the older players are on to the media’s tricks. Newton is just a rookie so to speak. In time he’ll learn how to handle those with insidious purposes. Case in point: Bill Walton, like him or not, is very gregarious and opinionated as a basketball announcer. Do you remember him as a player with UCLA and Portland? He was brooding and withdrawn given to sulking and offering inaudible comments when interviewed. When Jerry West played for the Lakers he drove through the UCLA campus and waved at Walton. Walton responded with the finger and a barrage of curse words. Newton, though sulking after the heartbreaking loss to Denver, is not like Walton was. He’s full of joy and loves the game, but at his young age simply lacks a bit of judgment. He’ll be fine. Just be patient.
Your working boy,
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Cam Newton, Super Bowl 50, Broncos, Panthers, defense, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Lions, Bears, Bobby Layne, Gino Marchetti, Frank Rya,