Cam Newton did everything in his power not to earn the starting job during last night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but it appears that he is going to be the Carolina Panthers' starting quarterback anyway.
The first-overall draft pick played into the third quarter and was 6-for-19 with 75 passing yards, stats that almost are eerily reminiscent of most of former starter Jimmy Clausen's games from last year.
Newton was a factor in the running game, with 4 carries for 49 yards and a 16-yard touchdown, but that was overshadowed by Newton's consistent inaccuracy and the fact that the Panthers are heinously paying DeAngelo Williams to do that job (5 carries last night).
Newton came out and denounced his performance, saying "It's unacceptable on my part."
But, head coach Ron Rivera was more focused on the shoddy play of his defensive unit, saying such ominous and mystical things as, "I'm very concerned."
You have to feel for a guy like Rivera, who has long deserved a head-coaching position but has cruelly been placed in Carolina to appease some vengeful god. Rivera reminds me of a sheriff in a lawless Old West town who has hired a hot-shot sheriff to serve underneath him. Unfortunately, that new sheriff is a poor shot and wears a flamboyant hat that draws the ire of the governor. No matter how great the sheriff combination is, they still are unable to keep up with the incessant lawlessness, the thriving moonshine industry, and the saloon that closes everyday with a shootout.
To begin with Newton doesn't have the weapons around him to succeed and, therefore, potentially hide his faults.
His offensive line is as sturdy as the mental health of Jerry Richardson. His receivers are slow and have feet for hands. The defense will end up affecting Newton, too, as their inability to stop anyone will force Newton to be endlessly throwing the ball, putting him in a situation that most Buffalo Bills fans can relate to. I understand that at this point Newton appears to be the best option for the Panthers based on talent alone.
Jimmy Clausen has outplayed Newton in terms of competency and having similarities to NFL quarterbacks. A Newton supporter will point to the fact that he is yet to throw an interception, but a rational cynic can point to his 40.4-percent completion percentage and say that defenders can't catch balls out of bounds.
It may seem a little pretentious to be so trusting in preseason stats, and it probably is. But, Carolina is going to be putting Newton, a quarterback who is still a work in progress, out there in Week 1 with every defense biting their lips in excitement.
Why not just put Clausen out there for a few weeks to buy Newton some time to develop a rapport during practice? The Panthers were going to lose those games anyway. If the Carolina management really feels it is that necessary for Newton (who is a big reason for anyone purposely buying Carolina tickets) to play, let him do some mop-up work when Clausen has inversely put the game out of reach, or put him in during situations in which he has some leeway to scramble.
If, miraculously, Newton is able to have an above-average performance in Week 1, it will be because the opposing defense was caught off guard by Newton's ability to perform on the run. By Week 2, he will be well scouted, and that advantage will be gone.
Newton doesn't appear to possess the accuracy right now to be an NFL quarterback.
But, he can be—if he isn't rushed.