Cam Newton has been dealing with the nickname "Scam" due to a pay-for-play college scandal that was ultimately proved to be his father's fault, not his. However, the moniker has taken on a new meaning in 2012, as his play has become quite fraudulent.
The main culprit of their follies has been their highly touted quarterback. Newton has struggled in every sense of the word: 58.8 percent completion rate, four touchdowns, five interceptions and five fumbles.
Are his problems correctable?
Or are the Panthers going to need a new signal-caller if they are going to achieve their dreams?
The Term "Sophomore Slump" Exists for a Reason
The term "sophomore slump" is not a product of Newton's season. The phrase has been in the football lexicon for as long as I can remember.
Obviously, it happens often enough to have withstood the test of time.
The reason these second-year downturns occur is because defenses figure out how to counter a productive player. NFL defensive coordinators are entrusted with scheming to stop an opponent's playmakers, and considering their pay scale, it makes sense that they would be successful more often than not.
Therefore, Newton's difficulties this year are somewhat understandable. Defenses were eventually going to catch on and force him out of his comfort zone.
Newton Needs to Develop as a Play-Manager, Not Just a Playmaker
Anyone who has ever played Madden knows that you can't just chuck it deep and expect to win. You're not going to complete many passes, or worse, you'll throw quite a few interceptions. I watch my girlfriend's brother do it all the time.
However, eventually you figure out that you need to focus on moving the chains. You learn that making plays doesn't always mean gaining large chunks of yardage or scoring touchdowns.
Newton finds himself at these very crossroads.
Head coach Ron Rivera explained that his quarterback has been "pressing" to make plays instead of managing the game (H/T Pat Yasinskas). Once he starts to shift his focus from long balls to Steve Smith and checks down to other options, the deep-pass opportunities will eventually present themselves.
He's Worrying a Bit Too Much About Everyone's Feelings, Including His Own
Newton also has another lesson to learn about being an adult. Part of being a professional is handling your business and not worrying about the rest.
His sulking doesn't do anything for him or for his teammates, except draw their ire. Getting so emotional about poor play after a game will not do anything for his development.
In fact, it will stunt it.
Players in every sport need to have a short memory.
Let a goal through? Forget about it and focus on stopping the next shot.
Give up a home run? Worry about getting the next guy out.
The same goes with throwing interceptions or missing passes. These things are going to happen. The good players shake it off because nothing can be done to take it back. The only thing that can be done is learn and avoid compounding the mistake.
Cam Newton still has all the physical tools to lead a team deep into the playoffs. However, he needs to match his mental game with his physical abilities before he will find any sustained success.