Cam Newton's Leadership Skills Questioned by Steve Smith After Loss to Giants

Ethan GrantAnalyst ISeptember 21, 2012

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 09:  Receiver Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates a receptiona against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on September 9, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

Cam Newton didn't have much to say to reporters after his Carolina Panthers suffered a 36-7 loss to the Giants Thursday night. Apparently, his teammates didn't have much to say about his ability to be a leader on this football team.

According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Steve Smith didn't take too kindly to Newton's reaction after coach Ron Rivera decided to put Derek Anderson in during the final minutes of a game already out of hand for the Panthers.

Steve Smith, when Cam Newton sat on the bench after he was benched Thurs, said he lit into Newton on the sideline with "unchoice words."

— Joe Person (@josephperson) September 21, 2012

Newton had an awful night at QB. He completed just 16 of his 30 passes for 242 yards and threw three interceptions on the evening. He couldn't get anything going on the ground either, rushing six times for six yards and a fantasy-saving touchdown in the third quarter.

Apparently Rivera had seen enough after Newton's third interception and lifted last year's AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in favor of Anderson, who went 3-of-3 for 46 yards in mop-up duty.

Newton, who celebrated his rushing touchdown with gusto that didn't reflect his team being down by double digits, didn't react well to being taken out in favor of the veteran Anderson.

In a familiar position from last season, Newton found the bench, put his head down and began to sulk while his team finished the game without his support. That, according to Person, is what put Smith over the edge and forced him to chew Newton out in full view.

Unfortunately for Carolina, this isn't the first time that Newton has had problems with his demeanor following hard times. Last season, captains on the offensive line had to jerk him around a little bit, and the feeling was that coming into his second season, some of those demons had been banished.

Second time in as many seasons Panthers captains have had to address Newton's demeanor. @ryankalil and Jordan Gross did it late last season.

— Joe Person (@josephperson) September 21, 2012

If you look at Newton's history, it isn't hard to understand why he is upset in situations of adversity. He went two consecutive seasons as a national champion, first at Blinn College in Texas and then at the Auburn University.

That kind of success spoiled him as a QB, and coming in as the No. 1 overall pick with a high level of confidence, competitive spirit and no real knowledge of what it feels like to lose, it can be expected that he would pout a little when things didn't go his way.

However, he's the face of the franchise for a city that needs him to be that guy. Sitting at the end of the bench is indicative of an attitude problem, not someone who is trying to help the team win at all costs.

At the end of the day, Smith likely doesn't regret getting in Newton's face. It needed to be done, and as his progression as a QB moves forward, Smith hopes situations like this increase Newton's level of maturity and allow him to persevere, not take steps back like Thursday night.

Smith said he's more concerned about development of Newton as a man, than a leader, saying leadership is a process.

— Joe Person (@josephperson) September 21, 2012

That's the most telling quote of the night from Steve Smith. The veteran wideout knows things aren't going to get better without a helmet shift. By giving Newton that extra push, Smith figures to remind him that hard work and fire are no good without the right temperament.

Take Newton's backups, Anderson and Jimmy Clausen. Smith cited their work ethic and team-first attitude as something that Newton, the starter, should build on if he wants to be an elite quarterback in the NFL:

I watched D.A. and Jimmy (Clausen), they don't play in 20-something games last year. And they get up and they observe and learn and get those mental reps. I told him, "You can get some mental reps or you can sit on that bench and sulk."

After hearing that, Newton should be motivated to get up and get better. The Panthers essentially gave up on Clausen by drafting him and only brought in Derek Anderson as an insurance policy. What does that say about Newton if Smith is making a claim for two backups before the guy throwing him passes?

Newton isn't available for comment until Wednesday, per the team's policy with his interviews. That gives him a full week to practice hard, apologize to his teammates and turn the corner for these Carolina Panthers.

Superman doesn't turn his back on his family. If Newton is really the Man of Steel, he won't either.