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The Real Reason Why the Panthers "Gave Up" on Cam Newton

Digging deeper into the breakup of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers

Just a short four years ago, the Carolina Panthers were suiting up for Super Bowl 50 vs the Denver Broncos led by the NFL's MVP, Cam Newton. The Panthers fell 24-10, which put a damper on the team's 15-1 regular season.

Since the Panthers Super Bowl 50 loss, things have not been the same and quite frankly, the bottom fell out. The team has gone 29-35 since and has failed to reach the postseason three out of the last four seasons. Things were spiraling out of control and even though Newton had back-to-back season-ending injuries, the team failed to reach expectations or even come near those expectations. There was a need for change. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome- we've all heard that phrase before. The Panthers weren't doing anything different. They weren't adding quality players to the roster to surround Newton on the offensive side and defensively failed to add a legitimate pass rusher until this past season when they brought in Bruce Irvin for one season - a lost season.

No disrespect to Devin Funchess, Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery, Brandon LaFell, Legedu Naanee or any others, but they weren't necessarily a huge threat that Newton had to his disposal. In fact, really the only impactful move the Panthers made during his tenure  was draft running back Christian McCaffrey out of Stanford in 2017. Since the front office has decided to move on from Newton they have added wide receiver Robby Anderson via free agency from the Jets, giving the offense a third weapon in the passing game and acquired offensive tackle Russell Okung from the Chargers. Newton took a beating during his time in Carolina and was never truly protected at any point of his tenure. 

Rewinding this thing all the way back to early December, Ron Rivera was informed that he would be relieved of his duties as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers and at this point, the writing was on the wall. It was just a matter of time before the team finally moved on from Newton. Rumors had been swirling all season long since the moment Newton went down with a Lisfranc injury and it seemed all but certain that his time in Charlotte was officially over with. 

That, however, is not how things panned out. Instead of Carolina informing him immediately after the end of the season, which would have allowed Newton to have an opportunity to sign somewhere to be a starter, the Panthers had a drawn out process. They gave not only him, but the fan base false hope that the relationship would be amended and a new deal could be a possibility. Then, once Matt Rhule was hired, there was growing belief that Newton would indeed stick around in Carolina, especially with Joe Brady coming to the organization as the team's new offensive coordinator. It had the feeling that for the first time in Newton's career, he was going to get some weapons, protection, and a young, offensive guru that could relate to him. The excitement was building all the way up until the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February. Once again, Panthers team owner David Tepper teased the fans and Newton by stating that their current plan was to "move forward" with Newton. "Move forward" not "move on". Not even a full month later, the team came out with announcement saying that they would grant Newton and his agent permission to seek a trade - one that Newton did not ask for, ever. 

This whole saga felt like a really bad high school breakup. One called out the other on social media saying they wanted to leave, the other half (Newton) said that's not true, that's not what happened and made the other (the front office) look really bad. 

Newton has made several posts on Instagram throughout the breakup including ones that show him saying "no loyalty" and "they gave up on me". Again, like a bad breakup. But who can blame Newton? This was his franchise and he turned the Panthers not only into contenders, but took them from being a mediocre team to heights that have never been seen in Charlotte. He won Rookie of the Year, the MVP in 2015, and guided the Panthers to their second-ever Super Bowl appearance. Not only has he been great on the field, but he was terrific with the fans and doing great humanitarian things in the community by raising an immense amount of money over the years, including his most prized project - the Cam Newton Foundation. This year, Newton won the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his incredible dedication in community service, raising well over $5 million dollars since 2012. 

After all that Cam had done for not only the organization, but the city of Charlotte and the surrounding areas, one would think that the Panthers would have helped his transition to a new team become a little easier. Instead, Newton is currently without a job and is watching the days pass by as there are hardly any teams that are in dire need of a quarterback. Had the Panthers attempted to trade Newton at the conclusion of the 2019 season, two things would have happened: 1. They would have found a suitor and would have received something in return, instead of being forced to release him. 2. Helping him begin a new chapter with another team without all of the drama would have made the front office's efforts look much better. Now, the fan base is ticked that the face of the franchise is no longer in a Panther uniform and even worse, was treated poorly throughout his departure. This is certainly something that will not sit well with the fans for years to come and the only cure for it to go away? Winning.

Despite, the front office clearly mishandling the entire Newton situation, the question that keeps getting asked is: Why did they choose to do it and why now?

First and foremost, injuries were a huge concern for the Tepper and GM Marty Hurney. Anytime you have a quarterback that likes to tuck it and run on occasion has to be protected at all costs. The Panthers failed miserably at doing just that and is a huge reason why they are parting ways. Carolina will need to rebuild the offensive line before they see the next "face of the franchise" come along. For Carolina, it just wasn't feasible to upgrade the line. Cap space was limited this offseason and they also lead the NFL in dead money (money that is being paid out to players who are no longer on the roster). 

Not only did the Panthers fear Cam's health and have limited cap space, but the signs were being flashed around them everywhere they looked. It was the perfect time for the organization to start over. Greg Olsen decided his time in Carolina was up and left for a one-year deal with Seattle, Luke Kuechly retired, Ron Rivera was hired by Washington and the only part left of the old regime was Cam Newton. The team was preparing for a rebuild and a player like Newton, who is in what would be considered his "prime", is looking for a situation to win games. Dumping a ton of money to an injury-plagued Newton during a rebuild just doesn't seem like a recipe for success. All great things must come to an end someday and although moving on from Newton was the right decision, how it was handled was not.

So, I'll re-ask the question. What was the real reason for the Panthers "giving up" on Cam Newton? Money. At the end of the day, it all came down to having money and when you have limited cap space and question marks surrounding a player's health, you typically don't give them a huge pay day, no matter how much they have done for your organization.

However, here is a question that I will leave you with. Had Cam Newton defeated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, do you think he would still be in Carolina? 

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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