Where Must Cam Newton Continue to Evolve in 2014?

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterJanuary 14, 2014

USA Today

Cam Newton is not broken.

No matter whether you live near the Charlotte, N.C., home of the Carolina Panthers or simply follow the NFL from anywhere with a TV or Internet connection, "fixing" Newton has become a popular pastime.

I’ve done it (on numerous occasions). You’ve done it. And apparently, fans do it just about everywhere.

“It?” Offer suggestions to fix Newton, that is.

Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer wrote that people approach Panthers head coach Ron Rivera “all the time” to offer ways to fix Newton.

The message comes from a stranger. It says that if Carolina allows the writer to spend 15 minutes with Cam Newton, the quarterback will never throw high again. Cure, is a word the writer uses.

Mechanics, particularly Newton throwing off his back foot, is another hot, fixable topic, especially during games.

Does Newton tend to throw high at times? Could his mechanics be improved? Without a doubt, yes. And the idea that Carolina’s third-year passer has trouble with his mechanics is not a new topic that’s just begun trending; it’s been around for some time.

But Newton doesn’t need to be fixed.

Newton made an interesting comparison last week, prior to Carolina’s playoff loss. He likened his growth as a quarterback to a software update on a smart phone, per Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer.

We all have smart phones, and as a human I think we all need updates as well. As we go through so much as a team, go through so much as a person, you understand and learn from the mistakes.

When I say software update, I just press the install button. I don’t press ‘cancel’ or ‘remind me tomorrow.’ I press install, and hopefully that’ll take care of me.

That’s not a fix; a software update is somewhat like evolving. You might want to fix an iPhone by removing the Apple operating system and installing Android. But that would likely break the phone. While an update may possibly bog down the phone at first, it eventually leads to a smoother running and more powerful tool.

Fixing Newton might break him. It’s much better to evolve—and Newton did a fantastic job of that in 2013. With more of the same as Newton transitions from his third NFL season to No. 4, Carolina’s quarterback could truly become special.

More Happy Cam

Almost everyone remembers the Panthers quarterback that stormed off the field when things didn’t go his way or moped on the sideline with a towel over his head. I say “almost” because those shenanigans have become a thing of the past.

In an interview with Laura Okmin of FOX Sports, Newton revealed that he spent a considerable amount of time during the 2013 offseason being horrified by his childish antics.

It was very disgusting, and that's as blunt as I can be. Those guys sat me down and we went back on YouTube and looked at Cam Newton's post-game interviews. And I'm looking at it and I'm like 'Oh my God,' and I couldn't do nothing but [shakes his head in disgust]. Because I see what people see. I look at how people are viewing me. So when they see this selfish player, when they see this little childish temper tantrum that I was throwing, (I saw) that's why people are looking at me like that.

Newton’s father and brother forced the quarterback to sit down and break down film of not only current greats like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, but to take a long look at how he held himself on and off the field during his first two seasons.

The results from those personal enlightenment sessions were fantastic. Newton was a better teammate and an improved leader. This is an area where Newton, not to mention just about every other person on the planet, can continue to evolve.

The common term for this is growing up, and it doesn’t always turn out as successfully as this. Imagine if Newton were to make similar strides during this offseason.

More Clutch Cam

One of the more difficult terms in sports to define is clutch. Heck, some great sports minds fail to even recognize clutch as an attribute. The eye test, however, helps somewhat.

Anyone who gets things done when they need to get done (read: late in games when everything is on the line) is probably clutch.

Newton’s first win as a professional quarterback came in Week 3 of the 2011 season. It was a come-from-behind special where Newton hit tight end Greg Olsen on a 16-yard touchdown strike with four minutes, 20 seconds to play. That was clutch.

The problem was that Newton’s Week 3 moment was his only come-from-behind, fourth-quarter win that season.

In 2012, Newton did it again. This time, it was a Week 12 win over the Philadelphia Eagles where he ran the ball in from two yards out for the game-icing score with 4:40 leftBut once again, he only had one such game that season. 

This season, however, Newton nearly doubled his number of clutch performances.

Against the New England Patriots in Week 11, Newton hit wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. on a 25-yard touchdown pass with 59 seconds on the clock to win the game for Carolina. That was a huge fourth-quarter, come-from-behind moment and it might have been the biggest clutch moment of Newton’s career.

A week later, he did it again.

With 43 seconds on the clock against the Miami Dolphins, Newton hooked up with Olsen on a one-yard score to put the Panthers on top, 20-16. Newton showed he was becoming quite good at these last-minute moments.

In Week 16, Newton used a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds remaining to beat the New Orleans Saints, 17-13. It was Newton’s third last-minute win in six weeks after having only two such moments in the previous two seasons.

If Newton can continue evolving in those two areas—and let’s not forget the work he has to do on his mechanics—2014 will be a bright season for the young quarterback.

According to Ken Dorsey, Carolina’s quarterbacks coach, Newton is on the field “an hour after practice” every day, per Sorensen. Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com reported earlier in the season that Newton came to the training facility each Tuesday on a typical day off to work with the coaching staff on a list of what’s worked for the quarterback in an effort to improve.

The work ethic seems to be there now for Newton, and the results are showing on the field. But don’t forget that Newton is just a three-year pro with only one real season of big-time college football under his belt. He’s still in a time period of maturation where his skills and football intelligence will blossom quickly.

And now that Newton is spending his time off the field wisely—both during the season and in the offseason—his evolution could be incredible come 2014.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.


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