The following article, written by Vic Tafur, appeared in Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle. You don’t need to be a fan of football to enjoy it. All you need to be is a fan of improved performance. We underline the last paragraph for emphasis. Everyone one reading this has been on “both sides of the world”.
This is the year of the rookie quarterback, but what's happened to the rookie quarterback of a year ago, Cam Newton?Superman's been down in the dumps and back, an alarming and confirming follow-up to a year in which the Panthers' quarterback broke the NFL rookie record for passing yards.Carolina started 2-8, with Newton having more interceptions (10) than passing touchdowns (nine) and openly pouting on the sidelines after an ugly loss to the Giants. Then, on Oct. 21, after a loss to the Cowboys, a depressed Newton said he was going to put out a suggestion box for reporters to help fix the problem.But just when everyone was ready to write off Newton, he is back.Smiling big and making plays nobody else can make."He's playing with the swagger he had," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.The 5-9 Panthers, who host the 4-10 Raiders on Sunday, have won three of their past four and Newton has thrown nine touchdown passes, rushed for three more and hasn't turned the ball over once in those games. The "wow" plays are back. Like in the 30-20 win over Atlanta, when Newton took off for a 72-yard touchdown run, the fifth-longest by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era."Some stuff, you can't practice for it," said Raiders linebacker Omar Gaither, who played with Newton last season. "It's like you're playing against Kobe (Bryant), you know what he can do, but somehow he still hangs 40 on you."In the immortal words of Bobby McFerrin, "Don't worry, be happy."Newton had to learn how to lose and how to deal with the disappointment."He's never had to go through that," Rivera said. "I think part of it's just the pressure of it. He puts so much on himself. He took a lot of the blame himself."I think he understands and has figured out how to cope with it. Not accept it, but cope with it and make things better."The Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn hasn't thrown an interception in 152 passes, the longest current streak in the NFL.With 373 yards passing in his last two games, Newton will eclipse Peyton Manning's total of 7,874 yards for the most in NFL history by a quarterback in his first two years.
"I could not have done it without my offense, and they could not have done it without me," Newton said. "There are a lot of guys going unnoticed behind the scenes that make this work.
"It is not a one-man team. I think that's what we have learned more as the season has progressed."Yes, the swagger, the one that prompted AFC players to actually hit him hard in last year's Pro Bowl, is back. But you also have to credit hard work and being more patient.
"He has really improved, especially with checking it down to the second read or dumping it off to the backs, or with getting the ball out of harm's way and throwing it out of bounds," Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. "Those are the things that quarterbacks can do to keep drives alive."We've been good at creating big plays and getting things down the field. He's doing a good job of stringing those together with the check-downs and the short passing game."
The Panthers also have solidified their offensive line with Garry Williams, the fourth and most effective player at the problematic right guard position.
Happy Holidays from us to you and your team!Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have grabbed the limelight this season, but Newton wants it back. He is just not going to live and die over it every day."A wise man once said that nothing is as good as it seems when things are going good and nothing is as bad as it seems when things are going bad," Newton said. "You have to stay even keel because today you can be on top of the world and tomorrow the world can be on top of you."Twitter: @Vic Tafur