Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton put together a memorable rookie season in 2011. But any hopes that he and his team would build on that initial 6-10 campaign and quickly morph into a playoff contender already have been dashed in his second season.
The Panthers fell to 1-5 after a 19-14 loss to Dallas on Sunday. It doesn't matter that four of those losses have been by six points or less. Results haven't met expectations, and for that general manager Marty Hurney lost his job Monday. That likely means Newton will be starting over next season under a new coaching staff. Can he handle that?
"The past couple of games have been the same script by the same director," Newton said in yet another odd postgame session with reporters after the Dallas loss. "It's kind of getting boring. This taste, this vibe, I'm not buying it man."
Newton admitted his team needs to be more balanced. He threw the ball 37 times Sunday despite the game being tight the entire way. It was hard to tell whether Newton was being critical of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. But his overall demeanor doesn't impress some former NFL greats.
"This is poor because it's not the first time," NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin said on "NFL GameDay." "The first time that Cam got up and did the eyes closing thing, I said, 'He's young.' But I know he has people around him now saying, 'That's not a good look.' And we do it again. So, yes, he has to move forward now. You've gotten the lesson. You understand that's not profitable, that's not good for the organization or anybody on the squad."
It's not all about Newton, however. The Panthers are 21st in yards allowed per game. Carolina's front office didn't allocate its resources properly, and that ultimately cost Hurney his job.
"I think Cam Newton is still one of the best players to play this game," NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders said. "In his defense, they did nothing in the offseason to help this cause. This is virtually the same team. ... They are who we think they are."
- Brian McNally