I am not in the habit of criticizing sports analysts, especially analysts not named Bayless or Cowherd, but an article written a few days ago by Gregg Rosenthal has found its way under my skin. The piece questions why Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton, who are both struggling, are not receiving the same amount of criticism.
As a fan of the Detroit Lions and the Carolina Panthers, I have vested interest in the success of both of these quarterbacks and find Rosenthal’s article to be misguided at best and completely biased at worst.
The aspect of this article that bothers me the most is the fact that it reeks of biased journalism. Rosenthal opens the article by stating the similarities between the two quarterbacks’ current yearly stats as well as their sharing of the No. 1 overall draft picks.
He then asks the question, “Why does it feel like Carolina Panthers QB Newton is being roasted on a weekly basis while Detroit Lions QB Stafford's struggles slip under the radar?”
I will acknowledge that I am more of a Lions fan than a Panthers fan and do often have discussions with Carolina fans that have this kind of premise. The difference is that we are admittedly biased, so this kind of approach to a sports conversation is acceptable. I am not sure if Rosenthal is a Newton fan, but this kind of argument, wherein he calls for criticism to be shifted to another player, certainly brings his objectivity into question.
Beyond that, Rosenthal states that he is basing his argument on a “feeling” that Newton is receiving more criticism. Since we are dealing in “feelings,” I can argue that I honestly feel that they have both received the same volume and intensity of criticism from a pure football perspective.
Peter King recently accused Stafford of forgetting what garnered his 2011 success: throwing the ball to Calvin Johnson. A statement that not only calls Stafford’s judgment into question, but also implies that he may not be a great quarterback without Calvin.
A few days ago, I listened as Mark Schlereth called Stafford’s mechanics “lazy”, which is a strong indictment of a quarterback given that the aspects people admire of a great quarterback typically begin with work ethic and attention to detail.
Add on to that the multitude of analysts that have used some variation of the term “regression” when describing Stafford, and I would argue that there are few starting quarterbacks in the NFL who are receiving more pure football criticism than Matthew Stafford. Whenever someone talks about the current state of the Lions, the discussion focuses on their offense, which inevitably leads to an examination of Stafford’s struggles. He still has not thrown a touchdown in the first half and has yet to find his primary receiver in the end zone.
Sure, Cam Newton’s press conferences get more attention and are the main thing that sports analysts criticize, but if the argument is that the media is focusing on the more sensational story, I would contend that the Tebow explosion last season should have already taught us that the media will always focus on the more palatable, sensational stories.
To be honest, there is one thing that really drives me crazy about the premise of this article and it is the fact that it ignores the polarizing nature of Cam Newton. The Carolina quarterback came into the league with controversy surrounding him, but thrived nonetheless.
After Tim Tebow, and possibly Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton was the most talked about QB in the NFL. Newton put up numbers that no other rookie in history has ever put up, but this was not the sole reason he was talked about last season.
Cam is a lightning rod, and always will be. Some people love him and others hate him, and this will only change if he fades into irrelevancy, which will not happen anytime soon. He is certainly more newsworthy than Matthew Stafford, whose laid-back demeanor does not win him a lot of headlines. Perhaps this is unfair to Cam. I could see how his polarizing nature could accentuate his lows, but I can also see how it would bolster his good moments.
Let's flip the table for a moment. Let's imagine that both Stafford and Newton were having profound years. Let's say they both have a QB rating over 100, have thrown for 16 touchdowns and under five interceptions.
Which quarterback would be getting more attention and praise? I would have to assume it would be Cam Newton, again due to how polarizing of a figure he is. I do wonder if Rosenthal would have a problem with Newton getting more praise in this scenario.
Both of these quarterbacks bring some amazing things to the table. There are few quarterbacks who are more exciting to watch than Cam Newton. I watched last season as he began the game torching my Lions both through the air and on the ground. I grimaced as he revealed a huge smile at the same pace as the metaphorical "S" on his chest after he ran into the end zone.
I honestly believe that when Cam starts organically reacting to game situations instead of residing so much inside his own head and letting external factors impact how he plays, we could truly see the production he is capable of.
Similarly, Stafford has fantastic potential. I have listened this season as in-game commentators and sports analysts have bemoaned his telegraphing of passes and attempts to fit the ball in windows which are either too small or nonexistent.
Regardless, he earned the support of the Detroit faithful on a Sunday afternoon in his rookie campaign where he fought through injury to bring the Lions a victory that they desperately needed. Since then, he battled injury until last season when he put up astonishing numbers that lead me to believe that what we are currently seeing is not the best that No. 9 has to offer.
I do not have a problem with Gregg Rosenthal as an analyst, but I feel that this article was misleading and unfair. Newton is getting more criticism, but it has more to do with perceived leadership ability, an argument that analysts are making by judging his press conferences, which is absolutely ridiculous.
The bottom line is that the sensationalist sports media will be the sensationalist sports media, and instead of complaining that one player is being more criticized than another, fans can focus on the experts who are actually saying something of substance in their commentary.
You can find just as much football criticism of Matthew Stafford as you can of Cam Newton, but I find myself hoping that they both are able to prove their skeptics wrong.