Over the course of the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton welcomed the spotlight. In fact, he invited attention directly onto his broad shoulders all season long.
It’s all part of why we love Cam Newtown, right? His bright smile, vibrant dancing and dabbing after touchdowns while the Panthers steamrolled the NFL to a 17-1 record and into the Super Bowl was entertaining to watch. He talked the talk and backed it up. He earned this year’s MVP award.
And then the Super Bowl happened. The Denver Broncos defense happened.
The Broncos sacked Cam six times, hit him 13 times (he hadn’t been hit more than six times all season long), intercepted him once and limited him to 18 of 41 for 265 yards. Cam didn’t score a touchdown. There would be no dabbing.
This game wasn’t about Peyton Manning possibly finishing his career with a Super Bowl win. It was about the Broncos and that tenacious defense that led them all year. Yet, somehow we still find ourselves talking about Cam after the game.
It was the postgame interview heard around the world. Or maybe it wasn’t. Cam slouched at the podium in a black Panthers sweatshirt with the hood draped over his head. He answered questions for about two minutes and 30 seconds. His answers were soft spoken and concise. And then he got up and left the podium before reporters were finished asking questions.
It wasn’t nearly at the level of any Marshawn Lynch episodes, but it seemed similar. It certainly wasn’t a good look for the NFL MVP.
Let’s give this some context, though.
The way the press conference room was set up, there were multiple podiums in a small area. If you listen to the audio, you can hear Denver cornerback Chris Harris talking about the Denver defense and Carolina’s offense asking, “Can you throw the football? That was the game plan.” Because the podiums are so closely set up near each other, Cam seemingly heard that and then said, “I’m done” and got up and walked away.
Side note: The NFL really needs to change the way post-game interviews are conducted at the Super Bowl so players aren’t an earshot away from each other. Especially players on opposite teams.
But back to Cam. He just got beat up by the Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and the rest of the Broncos defense. He just lost the biggest game of his life. He didn’t play well. It also should be noted that his receivers dropped a number of passes, the offensive line couldn’t protect him and the Panthers had 12 penalties for 102 yards. He looked angry. It almost looked like he was holding back tears. I understand that he probably didn’t want to talk to anybody after the game, never mind in front of a bunch of cameras.
But this is what Cam wanted, isn’t it?
I think it is worth bringing up two things. First, Russell Wilson threw a game-clinching interception on the 1-yard line in last year’s Super Bowl against New England. Whether you agreed with that play call or not, the Seahawks were one yard away from winning a second-straight Super Bowl.
Wilson answered questions in full after the game. Wilson’s situation, I would argue, is 10 times worse than what Cam went through Sunday night.
Secondly, Minnesota’s kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal that would have beaten Seattle and put the Vikings into the NFC Divisional game. But he missed it. He answered questions in full after the game, too.
“I want you guys (reporters) here when I make the game-winning kicks and I realize that I got to have you guys here when I miss them,” Walsh said.
Obviously Walsh’s kick was in a Wild Card round and not the Super Bowl, but I still think it’s a good example of someone owning up to what happened in a big-game situation.
For someone like Cam, who has invited the spotlight on him all season long, it was extremely disappointing to see him handle himself the way he did by getting up and leaving the press conference.
I’m in no position to tell him what to say to reporters after the game, but don’t get up and walk away.
Cam loved to be around the cameras when he was winning, when everything was going well. He even asked during media day “Why can’t LeBron James be the Cam Newton of the NBA?” He was seen in multiple commercials. He has a brand now.
Is it better that Cam walked away from that press conference rather than saying something he may have regretted? Maybe. He didn’t totally avoid the press conference like we’ve seen players do in the past, so I give him a little credit for that.
Watching the video, it seemed like he heard what Chris Harris said, but it’s still not an excuse.
Cam has a lot of haters/critics. And this certainly won’t help win any of them over. For the entire season, Cam didn’t have to worry about the critics because he was performing at a high level and his team was winning. This won’t help; he just gave them more ammunition.
The main reason I grew to love Cam this season is because he always has fun, he loves what he’s doing and he has a cocky arrogance to him - and he always backed it up. But at the same time, if he’s going to be cocky when he’s winning, he has to show some class when he loses.
Cam is the MVP and he’s becoming the face of the league. We know that if the Panthers won Sunday, it would have been the total opposite and he wouldn’t have stopped talking.
I’ve seen people tweet that they were wrong to support/root for him and that the world doesn’t revolve around him. I’m not going that far. I still like him. This didn’t change my opinion of him and who he is as a player or person. He’s 26 years old and he’ll learn from this. I hope he continues to dance and dab when he scores touchdowns next season.
But if Cam wants to be the face of the NFL, he can’t welcome the spotlight while winning and sit quiet when he loses.