Why did the Panthers release Cam Newton? Looking back on Carolina’s decision to cut ties with franchise QB

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By all accounts, Cam Newton is the largest determine in Panthers’ franchise historical past.

He was the franchise’s first-ever first general choose, and he instantly turned the Panthers’ group round. Coming in on the heels of a 2-14 marketing campaign, the place Carolina was outscored by 212 factors by opponents, the new Newton-led offense seemed completely different.

Not as soon as whereas Newton was the quarterback did the offense rating fewer than 330 factors in a season — the Panthers scored greater than 330 simply as soon as in the earlier 5 seasons. Newton took them to the playoffs 4 instances, together with a Super Bowl, single-handedly doubling the quantity of NFC Championships and playoff appearances the franchise had. He was the solely NFL MVP in franchise historical past, and when he left Carolina, he was the franchise chief in passing touchdowns, dashing touchdowns and passing yards.

Which all in fact begs the query: why was he launched in the first place? 

MORE: Cam Newton’s return to Panthers spiking ticket prices ahead of Washington clash

As Newton prepares to make his first begin back in Carolina since 2019, Sporting News is looking back at his release.

Why did the Panthers release Cam Newton?

When the Panthers introduced Newton back, head coach Matt Rhule was open about the decision to cut the longtime franchise quarterback in 2020.

“I won’t go into specifics of our conversation but Cam Newton is a pro. We made a football decision at the time based on his health. We weren’t sure what his health was. We had to kind of make a decision at the time and Cam understands that. He understands that these are football decisions and football-based evaluations that you have to make. There wasn’t anything but an amicable conversation,” Rhule mentioned, according to All Panthers. “At the time, we weren’t sure if he was healthy. Anytime you look back on things you always say I wish I could have done this a little differently but there was nothing but good feelings in that conversation.”

To additional perceive what led to the separation, it is value trying back at his time in Charlotte since he was drafted first general in 2011.

He burst onto the scene in his rookie yr, beginning all 16 video games and passing for 4,051 yards with 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, whereas dashing 126 instances for 14 touchdowns and 706 yards. The season earned him NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He continued to carry out effectively for the Panthers, main them to a 7-9 document in 2012, a 12-4 season in 2013 earlier than a short stumble in 2015 at 5-8-1.

Newton’s breakout MVP and NFC Championship-winning season was one NFL followers might actually see coming. While the interceptions and low completion share confirmed considerations with accuracy, Newton’s dual-threat skill had defied expectations beforehand set on cell quarterbacks and confirmed glimpses of a possible few in the NFL had reached.

In 2015, the breakout marketing campaign got here. He handed for 35 touchdowns, threw 10 interceptions, had 3,837 passing yards and a completion share of 59.8 %. He additionally rushed 132 instances for 636 yards and 10 extra scores.

But after the 15-1 season, Newton struggled. He completed the 2016 season with a career-low 52.9 completion share, with 19 passing touchdowns, 3,509 passing yards, 14 interceptions, 90 carries, 359 dashing yards and 5 dashing touchdowns. He improved his play in 2017 and in 2018, he put collectively the finest particular person season since 2015 — ending with a career-best 67.9 completion share — however the crew nonetheless limped to a 6-8 end.

MORE: Cam Newton scores on first play in Panthers return, gets flagged for taunting

However, there have been indicators towards the finish of the 2018 season that struggles and accidents might comply with. In Weeks 10 by way of 15, Newton had 9 passing touchdowns and 9 interceptions, with 1,502 passing yards. He additionally rushed much less, as he tried simply 28 carries for 146 yards with no scores throughout these six video games. After Week 15, he was revealed to have been dealing with a shoulder harm, and missed the remaining two video games of the season earlier than present process shoulder surgical procedure in the offseason.

Newton appeared in simply two video games in 2019 earlier than he was positioned on IR for a Lisfranc fracture. His final look in a Panther uniform got here in Week 2 on Sept. 12, 2019.

At that time, Newton, who was 30 years outdated, had proven indicators of each regression and potential harm woes. As a quarterback who was harmful partially for his legs, Newton was understandably seen as a doubtlessly dangerous wager.

Newton was about to enter the ultimate yr of his five-year extension he had signed in 2015 earlier than his MVP marketing campaign, and whereas he wished one other extension to stay in Carolina, the group was clearly not enthralled with the thought. 

MORE: Cam Newton on how well he knew Panthers’ playbook — ‘Two touchdowns worth’

But it wasn’t simply the harm points and lack of consistency. Carolina was a franchise in transition. David Tepper purchased the crew in 2018 and was overhauling the group. Head coach Ron Rivera was fired earlier than the finish of the 2019 marketing campaign, and in January, former Baylor coach Matt Rhule was introduced in to coach the crew. Rhule introduced in new coaches, together with former LSU passing sport coordinator Joe Brady, to form up the offense.

The Panthers tried to commerce Newton to internet some type of a return for the franchise quarterback, however the free agent market was loaded with quarterbacks, together with Tom Brady, which finally eradicated a number of potential suitors for a commerce. The Panthers introduced on March 24, 2020, that Newton could be launched. The subsequent day, they introduced that they had introduced in Teddy Bridgewater.

“Cam has meant a lot to this organization and the Carolinas,” general manager Marty Hurney said in a statement. “Everyone saw his performances on the field. I had the privilege of seeing how hard he worked off the field, and his commitment to this team when no one was watching. He’s the ultimate competitor and it physically hurts him to lose. He willed this team to victory on many occasions and will always be considered one of the greatest players in the history of this franchise. His contributions to the team, this community and the game of football will leave a lasting impact on our organization.”

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