Panthers made right decision to move on from Cam

Posted 3/27/20

When the Carolina Panthers announced on the team’s website last Tuesday that QB Cam Newton was given permission to seek a trade, it took me by surprise.

Probably the best quarterback in …

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Panthers made right decision to move on from Cam

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Posted

When the Carolina Panthers announced on the team’s website last Tuesday that QB Cam Newton was given permission to seek a trade, it took me by surprise.

Probably the best quarterback in franchise history, the nine-year vet took Carolina to the Super Bowl and won league MVP in 2015. But recent injury issues put his future with the team in doubt as he lost his ability, at least temporarily, to be as mobile and effective has he had been.

“One of the distinct pleasures of my career was selecting Cam with the first pick in the 2011 draft,” team GM Marty Hurney said, according to the team’s website. “Every year difficult decisions are made and they are never easy. We have been working with Cam and his agent to find the best fit for him moving forward and he will always be a Carolina Panther in our hearts.”

Yes, every sports team has to make difficult decisions. But this move fits right in line with the direction owner David Tepper and new head coach Matt Rhule are taking the Panthers, and I think it’s wise to follow them.

Newton only played two games last season because of injuries, but also missed time in 2014 and 2018. As a rule, I’m always going to be skeptical of athletes who have a history of injuries. That doesn’t mean they can’t do amazing things — Kirk Gibson in the World Series, Michael Jordan and the flu game — but athletes’ effectiveness is limited when they’re not physically at their best. That’s especially the case for Newton, whose best play comes when he’s mobile and slinging the ball downfield.

Football is a physical sport, and players are going to get hurt often. I’m not expecting Cam to be healthy all the time. Even the greats miss time — Tom Brady missed all but the first part of the first quarter of the first game during the 2008 season. But Brady came back from that and has earned two MVPs, went to 10 Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls since then.

Is Cam capable of that? I think so. But here’s the second part of my argument.

Owner David Tepper wants to win, which Panthers fans should love. Additionally, new head coach Rhule comes in with a lot of energy and passion. But it’s a project. And starting a project with a quarterback with nine years under his belt and multiple injuries is not entirely promising.

Think of the other moves the team has made or have made for them: releasing veteran contributors Greg Olsen and Eric Reid, trading away Trai Turner and seeing Luke Kuechly retire. This is a squad that’s in the midst of an overhaul, and no position is more emblematic of a team’s approach than a quarterback.

I don’t know if Teddy Bridgewater is the long-term answer. He’s got a history of injuries of his own — he missed the whole of 2016 and almost the entire 2017 season due to an ACL tear and dislocated knee joint, and that worries me. But having a player fresh off some solid outings for the New Orleans Saints last year three years removed from his last major injury seems like a safer bet for a reboot.

My last line of reasoning: If Bridgewater doesn’t work out, the Panthers can just draft Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall in 2021, and they’ll be set.

Wherever you fall on the Cam Newton debate in North or South Carolina, whether he should have been kept on or not, you can appreciate what he brought to the team on and off the field, in the community and on social media. And he clearly felt the love — “I love the Panthers TO DEATH AND WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU GUYS,” he wrote March 17 in a post on Instagram.

He added that he felt he was being forced out — that’s another conversation — but in this case, I encourage Panthers fans to be grateful for what Cam Newton brought to the franchise and look forward to something new and different. And root for Cam wherever he goes, except when he plays the Panthers.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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