Normally, Twitter is a place where the average person goes to fire off quick thoughts. This changes when a professional journalist decides to search their name and step into the muck with the rest of us. I want to start out with full disclosure: I have recently told my meager Twitter following that I do not follow Jourdan Rodrigue because of a perceived bias against Cam Newton. This was not true, and I actually didn’t realize it. I thought I had unfollowed her long ago when she made a mountain out of a molehill over Cam Newton’s thoughtless comments in an October press conference in 2017. Mind you, this was over 2 years ago. When Jourdan started writing for The Athletic, I didn’t cancel my subscription. At some point, I guess I even followed her again on Twitter, even after it came out that Rodrigue is not free of her own controversial past statements. But, I believe in second chances and being gracious with those who thoughtlessly make comments in jest, and its not my goal here to tar and feather her so I’ll move on. Again, full disclosure, I actually pay for her content (among many others) on The Athletic for what that’s worth to the context here.
Unfortunately, to answer Jourdan’s fair appeal for evidence of her bias, I have to also address the Cam Newton controversy. This is honestly not the way I wanted to do this. I had intended to write a blog post about Cam’s situation without the drama of a Twitter beef. But when a Panthers beat writer with 37.5 thousand followers calls me out, I feel like my reputation is at stake, especially considering the aspirations I have for my own Twitter account. My hope here is to be fair to Jourdan while still explaining why I lumped her in with other journalists that I feel are biased against Carolina’s 2020 quarterback. To do that, I want to get one thing out of the way right now: I, UpstatePanther, was unfair to Jourdan by lumping her in with the likes of Scott Fowler and David Newton. She’s been far more fair to Cam than they’ve been combined. For that unfairness, I do publicly apologize to Jourdan.
With that out of the way, I’d like to point some things out. My main issue with Jourdan’s reporting since December is that any time she brings Cam up, she seems to ignore the possibility that he may actually stay in Carolina. She’s not alone. Many other reporters have done the same thing with Cam’s situation. But this is where the concern of bias comes in. One of the most likely scenarios for Cam Newton is that he stays in Carolina long-term. And yet, that scenario is not once discussed in Jourdan’s content that I can find. If she happens to read this and can provide an example, I’d be glad to read it. Until then, I’m forced to think that there is a narrative being driven that she is, at best, being unwittingly drawn in to. Why else all but ignore one of the most likely scenarios for Carolina’s record-breaking, community-beloved, former-MVP QB on a cheap contract in a prove it year under a new coaching staff that is seemingly tailor-made for his skill set?
From here on out, I’m going to shift away from Jourdan. Her opinions are just that, and she’s entitled to them. She’s also entitled to defend her work. As I told someone on Twitter, journalists make their money on reputation. I slandered her work and don’t blame her for responding. That said, I will use her material in the rest of this post as case studies for the agenda I see driven in the Charlotte sports media. Unfortunately for those reading this without a subscription to The Athletic, you wont be able to read my source material, except for what I’ve quoted. But I highly recommend it. Jourdan, Joseph Person, and others post great content there on the daily. One such headline read “Source: Carolina is optimistic about Cam Newton’s recovery timeline; could take precautions through the spring.” In that article, I found this statement…
The headline above got me in an argument with a Twitter user the other day. I felt that it was a bit contradictory, especially to the content of the article. If the Panthers are optimistic about Cam’s progress and will take precautions through the spring, how can Jourdan suggest that he might not be a Panther by that time in the content of the article? Especially in light reports like the one below…
So how can one suggest that Tepper, Hurney, and Rhule will make a decision before Tepper himself said that a decision will be made? Why are journalists making suggestions that Newton will be released or traded before he’s even able to show if he’s healthy or not, when the team owner himself said that Newton would get that chance? Things aren’t making sense here, unless I’m misunderstanding something. Could be. I’ve certainly been wrong before. Then again,…
If that is what Tepper has publicly stated, then why would media types be acting like releasing or trading Newton are the most likely scenarios, especially if Newton is to be given the chance to prove he is healthy? Additionally, I’d like to point out that Newton’s track record coming back from injury is stellar. If I were a betting man, I’d bet the farm on Newton coming back strong from any adversity (and making the League look like amateurs in the process). Its just his pattern. And yet, it seems the Charlotte media wants the team to take a different direction…
So, let me get this straight. The team is ostensibly thinking about dealing Newton away or releasing him outright before they’ve seen if he’s even healthy, Tepper’s comments above not withstanding? Don’t get me wrong. Carolina needs a backup QB. Kyle Allen and Will Grier proved themselves to be less than desirable backups this past season, so I fully support “kicking the tires” on other options for that #2 spot. But doing due diligence for a replacement starter in lieu of Cam? It just doesn’t seem to make sense. Let me build a case…
Sure. Cam is a valuable player. He could fetch a slew of draft picks. That $19 million would certainly help a rebuilding team pay free agents. But I want to point something out by asking a question. What is the single hardest piece of an NFL team to find? We all know: a franchise quarterback. Why would this team move on from a quarterback that still has a year on his contract and fits the system the new coaching staff is known for? While that $19 million would go a long way, its also very cheap for the hardest position on an NFL team to fill. Just look at Jared Goff’s contract for evidence of my claim there. I’d also like to point out that the national sports media has connected Cam to multiple teams as a possible trade target, and yet there’s a team in Charlotte that’s starting a rebuild and could really use some proven NFL talent at the quarterback position. Cam is a piece you can build around. I daresay Tepper’s hire of Rhule, and Rhule’s subsequent hire of Brady points to an offensive system that Cam Newton could truly thrive in. Just throwing that out there. Jourdan hinted as much in “Panthers offseason mailbag: The new coaching staff, a ‘rebuild’, Cam Newton, free agency, the draft and … toast?”
There’s one more argument that I’ve seen tossed around, and Jourdan included it in two articles that I could find,“The rebuilding Panthers need all the capital they can get. From draft picks to dollars, here’s how they can stock up” and “Panthers Q&A: Odds Cam Newton returns, real assessment of Matt Rhule’s hiring and Super Bowl predictions”, respectively.
I could see the merits of this argument if Cam himself had not stated, in no uncertain terms, that he was “absolutely” coming back to Carolina in an interview with Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney before the Super Bowl. Who’s to say Cam would want to go through a rebuild? Well… Cam, apparently. He doesn’t seem hesitant to come back at all, and I bet he would be if he’d been asked to be a “bridge QB”.
As for the “long-term guarantees”, I’m not sure Newton has as much leverage as Jourdan and others would have us believe. It is true that he’s had three surgeries of varying gravity in the past few years. Its true that we haven’t seen much of Newton’s arm since 2017. Well, except anyone who was at training camp last year including Jourdan and myself. My Twitter follower count is as high as it is mostly because of training camp videos that I posted last year of Cam throwing bombs to DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel, at times to the tune of 60 yards through the air. But contrary to the media’s opinions, I think its precisely in Cam’s best interest to play out his contract. Not as a bridge QB, but as Carolina’s QB of the future.
Cam’s contract ends after this season. He’s due a big payday, whether its in Carolina or elsewhere. But he’s only due that payday if he can stay healthy. The only way he can even begin to make himself a safer bet in that area is to play. Its worth it to Carolina to have that NFL veteran that Jourdan referred to above, especially one that they’re familiar with and, more importantly, fits in the new system. Its worth it to Cam to prove he can stay healthy, adjust to a new system, and ball at an MVP level again.
What I am getting at is this: Jourdan is not wrong to point out that Cam can be a bridge QB and stay for another year. He absolutely should. But as opposed to being a bridge QB for a young draft pick, Cam should be the bridge for this coaching staff to implement a new system with. He should be the bridge, franchise QB that Rhule and Brady build their new offense around. In 6 years or so when Cam really is getting up there in age for a running QB, maybe we can talk about a young draft pick to take the reigns. In the meantime, this panther can still run if he’s healthy. He can still bring Carolina a Super Bowl, especially in Rhule and Brady’s system. Again, the system seems tailor-made for Cam’s skill set. We have to remember that the last definitive thing we heard from the team about Cam is that they want him to lead them to a Super Bowl if healthy. We just got word a few days ago that the team is confident he’ll prove himself healthy next month. From there, I think its fair to just put two and two together.
The Panthers could certainly be willing to listen to offers from teams for Cam’s services. No one is denying that. But listening and reciprocating are two very different things. Cam is extremely valuable to the Panthers. He most certainly could be our QB of the future. He fits the new system. He’s publicly stated his desire to stay, at least for this year. He seems on track to be healthy, far sooner than after past surgeries I might add. This means he could be more prepared for the season opener than in seasons past after previous surgeries. Cam is the face of our franchise and a former MVP. He is beloved by this community and single-handedly made our team relevant. He has carried this franchise despite terrible coaching and a near complete lack of effort to surround him with protection and weapons to work with. There is no quarterback in free agency or the draft that can start for the Panthers in 2020 and fill Cam’s shoes for them. The Panthers owe Cam the benefit of the doubt for what he’s done for this franchise. I suppose a stupid team could offer multiple first rounders for Cam and entice the Panthers to trade him. I’m sure if a team was stupid enough to do that, Cam would understand. But I honestly doubt a team will be that stupid.
No, the most logical scenario for Cam Newton and the Panthers for 2020 is to have him come back and prove his mettle once again, in the face of all the doubters and haters. I meant no disrespect to Jourdan by claiming she was part of the agenda to push Cam out. Its nothing personal against her. But all I’ve seen from the Charlotte sports media is a focus on the sensational, click-attracting possibilities of trading or releasing Cam. No one has seemed to pause and even attempt to make the case for him to stay. I found it unsettling, since I truly see it as the most logical of all the options. I don’t understand how dozens of media types can just ignore that logic without some sort of agenda. I’m not sure why they would want Cam out. Maybe its easier to report on a Panthers team that’s constantly mediocre and irrelevant. Maybe they were all salty that Cam left Ron Rivera out to dry this past season (intentionally or not on Cam’s part). Rivera was beloved by the Charlotte sports media, so its plausible in my mind. Whatever the reason, there’s no excuse for this journalistic oversight. Once again, I’m sorry to Jourdan for throwing her under the bus. I just saw her joining the chorus of journalists refusing to even consider that maybe Cam Newton staying in Carolina is truly the best option for all involved, including Cam, the Carolina Panthers, and the fans. I couldn’t stand for that. Not after all Cam has done for us.