I thought it might be a good idea for me to make my thoughts known in regard to the upcoming Panthers v Packers football game coming up on Sunday. I might as well, since most sports pundits have been completely wrong about Cam Newton and they have years of experience as sports experts. All I have is about eight years as a “watch every game fan” that started in 2003 during the Panthers’ Play-Off run and valiant Superbowl appearance. (This “true fan” tenet began after a challenge by a former boyfriend who said Panthers fans were “fairweather”. I wanted to see if I could be a “true fan” and in the process I became one!)
The True Fan Process
Becoming a true fan for me meant not only watching every game, but also reading most Charlotte Observer articles about the team as well as listening to WFNZ “The Fan”, formerly WFNZ “The Franchise” every morning before work and on the way home. I also needed to learn more about football other than guys running from one end of the field to the other. I also found a book geared to women by Holly Robinson Peete called “Get Your Own Damn Beer, I’m Watching the Game.” Great book! (BTW, I don’t have ESPN, I’m too cheap.)
Qualifications stated, I am now going to make my predictions. But first, I have to address a few things:
During pre-season I watched Cam Newton and I have to admit I didn’t see what the pundits saw. What I saw was something I had NEVER seen the Panthers have in the history of me watching them religiously since 2003: An extremely tall quarterback who stood in the pocket like he OWNED IT. Nothing against Jake Delhomme. I LOVED Jake, er…Good Jake. I loved how Good Jake could bring us back from the brink of a loss to a win with a heart-stopping two-minute drill. But what Cam seemed to have that Jake didn’t have (even during pre-season) was a lack of getting too emotional. Cam exuded calm. And he looked like he was having fun. When he got sacked, he had a SMILE on his face. Jake always looked pissed.
I also saw a mobile quartback. Most of the pundits said that Cam wouldn’t be able to run in the NFL. They said the linebackers and tackles wouldn’t let him. Well, granted it was only pre-season…but the kid looked like he was running to me. Not just running for his life, but running with the ball and gaining yards. I also noticed (and the sportcasters commented on it) that even while running, Cam Newton was LOOKING. Looking for an opportunity. He was a scrambling quarterback looking for an opportunity to THROW. And if he couldn’t throw, he’d try to run. And some of those linebackers and tackles couldn’t catch him. Yes, yes, I know it was only pre-season. Sheesh!
I also noticed that the linebackers who did manage to stop him were usually on the ground, not-so-gently put there by our offensive line. Not giving up, those evil defensive players grabbed Cam’s ankles, forcing him to topple over right before he was about to take off with a burst of speed. Call me crazy, but this looked promising to me. Our offensive linemen were doing their jobs. Cam wasn’t getting pummeled. Now if there was just some way for our offensive guys to also grab the hands of the opposing team while on the ground!
They also kept guys away from Cam in one on one situations, however this didn’t always work. I saw one of those evil would-be tacklers reach out a paw and stop Cam, while being held at bay by the Panthers’ offense, right before Cam was about to take off. You knew that if Cam could have taken off in those instances, he’d be GONE. Yes, these were failures, but hopeful failures if that makes any sense.
I tellya I’d love to compile a list of all the naysayer interviews and stories against Cam as well as those of the “fans” and one by one see how their predictions hold true by this time next year. My favorites: “He has a fake smile” “He won’t be able to run like he ran in college, NFL linebackers will stop him” “He is an ‘athletic’ quarterback” “He will be a ‘project’, why waste the first round pick on him” “His skills won’t transfer to a pro-level offense” “He is a scam artist, he can’t be trusted”. And on and on.
For all the talk about “inaccuracy”. Did they not notice how this kid could throw a ball? The POWER! As Michael Vick can tell us, accuracy can be learned.
Did any of them LISTEN to what Coach Rivera said? He said that he liked the way Cam made decisions. He didn’t freak out and throw balls to the sidelines or in triple coverage for certain interception. He said he felt like Cam was making improvements from game to game.
Did they not hear his previous coaches? They said that if ANYBODY could be a great quarterback in the NFL and make the transition from college to professional, it would be Cam Newton. Granted it was only his first game against a team that the experts say have a shoddy defense, but still! The boy broke records for throwing when they said he wasn’t even going to be able to do that much!
And about Cam’s integrity. The young man bought a hot laptop. Dumb move. Did he know it was hot? Not sure. Should he have suspected it was hot? Yes. However, it’s not like he was the kingpin in a campus laptop theft ring. Not excusing him, but we all make mistakes. If you’re not sure about the story, read about it here. And in the midst of the story you will also learn a bit more about Cam’s determination to become great.
And the smile. The boy has a winning smile. So do I (I’ve been told). It’s something you’re born with. Either you have it or you don’t. Like determination, it’s difficult to fake.
Will that smile plus all the other intangibles and tangibles make the Panthers a winning team this year? Only time will tell and in the process, it’s certainly going to make exciting football!
Angela’s Predictions, FINALLY!
Prediction 1: The Panthers will have three touchdowns. (I hope I’m wrong and they have more!) Two will be clutch throws to Smitty (or LaFell) when the Packers blitz Cam and leave Smitty (or Lafell) open to only single coverage. The Packers can’t cover both the tight ends, both receivers AND keep the running game frozen, can they? They are Superbowl champs, not SuperMAN, correct? One will be an unexpected pass to one of the tight ends who will then knuckle his way into the endzone.
Prediction 2: The Packers will continue to freeze the Panthers running game by blitzing and will try to continue to force Cam to throw, especially at first because they figure if they can rattle Cam enough, he will cave in to the pressure and make nervous mistakes.
Prediction 3: Cam is going to surprise everyone by remaining calm in the pocket even in the face of the much-hyped Packers defense. This is my boldest prediction, but it can’t be any worse than those who have predicted the opposite. It’s kind of fun to go out on a limb. I could be proven wrong and like the Cam Haters be forced to eat crow. But I guess it’s all part of the prediction business. If Cam is able to maintain his poise and his throwing continues to be successful, the Packers will have to vary their defensive strategy and the running game could be loosened up; which would allow us more offensive minutes on the field to rest our weary defense who will need all the rest they can get defending the goal against Aaron Rodgers!
Prediction 4: Speaking of Aaron Rodgers. I predict the Panthers will have their hands full with this guy. Okay, it didn’t take much to predict this. With all the hype surrounding him and with my limited knowledge about this team, how could I predict anything else? Can we hold him to no more than five touch-downs? I am predicting we can.
Prediction 5: The Panthers will lose. But only by one touchdown. Superbowl-run Panthers had heart. They could take an underdog situation and leave everyone surprised and shocked as they ended up winning. I am hoping for this type of headline: “Underdog Panthers beat the Packers in a surprise victory at home”. But the sports experts have assured me that this is a laughable outcome. The Packer’s dynamic defense coupled with the amazing Aaron Rodgers combined with the Packers never-ending array of player-weapons would surely beat the Panthers of 2010. But will they beat the Panthers of 2011? The Panthers who have a new coach, a new quarterback and several hurt players. Logic tells us no. But there is always hope…and crazy fan spirit.
This prediction thing is scary. You are putting your thoughts on the line. Maybe you will be proven wrong. After this process, I have a new admiration for people willing to put their thoughts out there one way or the other. I wanted to be one of them so there you have it.
What do you think the Panthers strategy should be against the Packers? What do you think the Packers strategy will be against the Panthers? I’d love to hear from you.