The rise and fall of the Carolina Panthers

Running back Mike Tolbert (35) and the rest of the Carolina Panthers are having a tough year in 2016. Photo by Mike Zito/News4usonline.com

I guess there will be no more dabbing for a while. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers won’t be making the postseason this year. At least that’s the way it looks like. Just a year ago, Newton and the Panthers were on everybody’s fab list.

They were the dominant team in the NFL until they ran into the buzz kill called the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. But up until that point, the Panthers were streamrolling over on other teams, both on offense and defense.

Newton would have the year of his professional life, winning the league’s MVP award, handing out balls to kids every time he reached the end zone, and putting himself into the conversation of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

That’s not a conversation people are having about Newton these days. When you look at Newton and the Panthers this season, it looks as if they got drunk off of their own Kool-Aid that they sipped, including team management, which did virtually nothing to improve the ballclub. Well, they did do something.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton stood tall against the Seattle Seahawks. Photo by Mike Zito/News4usonline.com
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton stood tall against the Seattle Seahawks. Photo by Mike Zito/News4usonline.com

They made an offer to All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman and then took it back like some schoolyard bully. The bully has now been punched in the face repeatedly during this season. Now it’s just a matter of time when another team drops a left-right uppercut to formally TKO Newton and the Panthers out of their 2016 misery.

Stop your whining and play. If body language is a pre-cursor, Newton looks like a man who wants to go somewhere and hide under a rock. Maybe he should considering the way he’s played this season. It’s been embarrassing. Just last year, Newton completed 35 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions while completing nearly 60 percent of his passes.

Add another 636 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing, and you have yourself an MVP. That’s not the story this season. Newton has regressed this year. This season, Newton is only completing 55 percent of his passes and has thrown for only 13 touchdowns to go along with his eight interceptions.

That includes that stupid pick six he threw right before halftime in the Panthers’ 35-32 defeat to the Oakland Raiders.

Newton is not even running the football the way he used to. In that disastrous and probable, playoff-killing loss to the Raiders, Newton rushed the ball three times for six yards. That’s not playing like the reigning league MVP.

Newton is playing worst this season than he did during his rookie campaign. During his rookie season, Newton threw the ball more (517 times) in a season than he has since. He completed 60 percent of his passes and accumulated 4,051 yards through the air, more than he’s ever done in a year since coming into the league in 2011.

So what gives? Have the Panthers stifled the growth of one of the faces of the league with their boring, hard-to-watch offensive philosophy of run first, run second, and then pass to tight end Greg Olsen on third down?

Cam Newton
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is not having the type of season he had last year. Photo by Mike Zito/News4usonline.com

A Pop Warner defensive coach can figure out the Panthers’ offense. It’s a joke. You don’t need trick plays if you have a real offensive identity other than to dump a short pass off to Olsen over the middle or go long to Ted Ginn Jr. when all else fails.

The Panthers’ offense is about as predictable as someone taking their automobile to the car wash every Friday afternoon. It is just a complete whitewash. Now let’s get back to Newton.

In the NFL, your physical skills will only get you so far. Eventually you have to play the game with your head. For Newton, who is obviously physically gifted, that means going back to the woodshed and working on his game. The rest of the Panthers can take some lessons, too.

Newton needs to get out of his Statue of Liberty pose while in the pocket, shuffle his feet a bit more and stop throwing off his back feet. Didn’t he learn that in high school? As far as rest of the Panthers, it would go a long way if the team invested in some real playmakers on offense.

Other than Newton, do the Panthers have any other offensive weapon that teams really fear? That would be a no. Kelvin Benjamin wants to pout and throw temper tantrums on the sidelines. Ginn continues to be inconsistent in catching passes.

Jonathan Stewart is a solid running back, but is not a difference-maker. The whole team is a complete shell of themselves. Maybe this is just who the Panthers are. Last season, teams slept on the Panthers as they cruised to a 15-1 regular season mark.

Those teams aren’t sleeping anymore. They are clearly “woke” when it comes to Newton and the Panthers’ offense.

Newton is ranked No. 20 at the quarterback position when it comes to statistics. As a team, Carolina ranks No. 14 in the offensive category. That’s not too shabby. But numbers can be deceptive. Newton and the Panthers are playing like a heap of crap this season. That’s just the bottom line.

Were Newton and the Panthers just one-hit wonders? Super Bowl runner-up teams usually come back strong and make the playoffs the following season. But it will take some real stunning turn of events for the Panthers to qualify for the postseason this year.

I just don’t see that happening. At least they’ll have time to work on another dance while they’re sitting at home watching everyone else play.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1057 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.