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Cam Newton Faces a Career Crossroads Between Excellence and Irrelevance

Any kid who sasses an NFL quarterback at an event named after that quarterback deserves a special kind of punishment. Back in my teaching days, smarty-pants middle schoolers were assigned a silent classroom lunch detention while a teacher played moldy oldies from his CD collection: Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison, show tunes. It was A Clockwork Orange-level behavioral modification, and it worked.

Newton should have sat the little crumb-crunchers down and made them watch an hour of Brock Osweiler highlights. They’d be all Mr. Newton, Former MVP, Sir from that moment on.

Instead, Newton handled the situation about as well as your basic substitute teacher, which means the kids were laughing at him even harder after he snapped.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

The Kids vs. Cam video then went viral, but not as viral as it once might have. A cursory internet search reveals plenty of tired-sounding quick takes on it—but no think pieces accusing Newton of child abuse or anything. Which is surprising. Three years ago, Newton’s end-zone dancing nearly caused the downfall of Western Civilization. Heck, someone should at least have the decency to photoshop Crying White Oakland Cookout Lady into the scene, but maybe picking on her is now as old hat as picking on Newton.

Newton has reached the stage of his career where he can go toe to toe with a child, come away with (charitably) a draw and barely generate a ripple of manufactured controversy, even in the quietest of NFL news cycles.58

Hooray? Or…alas? It’s hard to tell anymore whether Newton is rising to unassailability or settled into irrelevance.

Newton is now 29 years old, well past his “developing prospect” years. He has entered what should be the plateau of his career. But it’s a peak that looks little like his MVP, NFC-championship, 45-touchdown 2015 season.

His statistics have been ordinary for two straight years, and the Panthers’ results have been similarly unremarkable. New young quarterback superstars have been crowned in the meantime. He should be ascending to “distinguished veteran” status. But he remains trapped in permanent adolescence.

Or, at least, that’s one perception. Newton ranked 25th in NFL Network’s top 100 players in the league for 2018, so his peers think he’s doing something right. His stats look a lot better when he gets credit for leading the Panthers in rushing instead of blame for not being a pure pocket passer. He came within 21 yards of an epic fourth-quarter comeback against Drew Brees and the Saints in last year’s playoffs, but that must have happened after the youth camp heckler’s bedtime or something.cheap nfl nike jersey

The reality is that Newton is just held to a different standard. A quarterback like Kirk Cousins gets to sell his services to the highest bidder and be portrayed as a paragon of maturity (despite the Rick and Morty references) with a fraction of Newton’s accomplishments. Newton is still the goofy scrambler with a lot of growing up to do because, well, there’s a little Oakland Cookout Lady photoshopped into many of us football fans.

Semiotics aside, it’s hard for a guy to shake an overgrown-kid persona when he’s still vulnerable to tweenage bullying.