Starting Job Not in Jeopardy for Cam Newton

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 23: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers looks on during their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Cam Newton will start for the Carolina Panthers in 2019. His job has been called into question recently, as some believe there will be a quarterback competition in Charlotte this summer. That is simply not the case. The only competition for the former NFL MVP is against himself and his health, not an unproven rookie.

Some fans seem eager to move on to a new era of Panther football, but Newton is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Cam Newton is the Starter in Carolina

When the Panthers selected quarterback Will Grier in the third round of the draft, fans reacted unexpectedly. Calls for Newton’s head (metaphorically representing his job, of course) came from all corners of the fandom, raising questions at the national level as to who will start in Charlotte next season.

Spend more than a few seconds on any Panthers-related fan page and these takes will be too easy to find.

But why? Newton has consistently been a franchise-level quarterback in the greatest league in the world. At his best, he’s an MVP candidate. At his worst, he’s still above average.

Let’s get ahead of this “argument” before going any further. The idea of Grier being an immediate starter over Newton is asinine. He is a solid, raw prospect who could prove to be a high-quality backup in Charlotte, but a healthy Newton is the undisputed starter.

The Will Grier Situation

Why did the Panthers select Grier if they are not going to give him a shot? Because Carolina may face a future without Newton sooner than later if he is unable to extend his career the way quarterbacks such as Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers have. In the meantime, Grier can develop under Newton as a good backup option.

Newton is one of the most physical quarterbacks to ever play the game. His style is dazzling to watch, but could very well cut his career short. It is reassuring that Newton has never missed more than two games in a single season, but Carolina is preparing for that future now, just in case.

How We Got Here

The Panthers are coming off of one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory, dropping seven of their final eight contests (all in a row) after starting 6-2. Despite the dismal season, Newton put up some of the best stats of his career. He notched a career high in completion percentage (67.9) and posted career-second-bests in touchdown passes (24), passing yards per game (242.5) and passer rating (94.2).

Criticism of the team is warranted, but to pin the bulk of the blame on Newton is just factually inaccurate. In fact, Newton and second-year running back Christian McCaffrey were perhaps the only real bright spots from a season ago. The additions made via free agency and the draft could be huge steps in the direction of fixing last season’s many issues, namely the offensive and defensive lines.

If not, the Panthers may be in trouble. History is on their side, though.

Since 2011, the duo of Newton and head coach Ron Rivera (whose job is in much more danger than Newton’s) have always responded to sub-par seasons. In 2012, they missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record. The next season they jumped to 12-4 and won the NFC South. They held the division title for three seasons, going 3-3 in the playoffs over that span with an NFC Championship victory and a Super Bowl loss.

The next season was extremely disappointing, as a 6-10 mark was obviously not good enough to earn a playoff berth. In 2017, the Panthers bounced back with an 11-5 record, but they were a first-round exit in the playoffs, losing to the New Orleans Saints.

Then, last season happened. The year started off so promising, only for everything to fall into shambles after the Pittsburgh Steelers embarrassed the Panthers on national television.

Last Word on Cam Newton

If Newton and Rivera fail to make another jump from playoff absentees to divisional contenders, then criticism will surely come. And for good reason. But to call for Newton’s job at 29, coming off one of his most efficient seasons before giving him a chance to fail with an improved receiving corps and offensive line, is just unreasonable.

The Panthers kick off their season Sep. 8 at home against the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams.

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