Once news broke that Cam Newton would be rejoining the team that drafted him No.1 overall, the Carolina Panthers, reactions started flying in left and right. Do the Panthers genuinely believe Newton has some gas left in the tank? Or was this simply a PR move to help sell tickets and jerseys in what’s otherwise been a lost season?
According to one member of the organization, the Panthers signed Newton with serious intentions of winning football games.
Panthers HC Matt Rhule is all in on Cam Newton
When asked about the Newton addition, Rhule had a fairly straightforward response.
“We’re not bringing him here to sell season tickets. We’re bringing him here to win,” Rhule said.
It’s not like Rhule will come out and say the Panthers only signed Newton for the publicity and hype. However, publicly stating his faith in Newton as the team’s QB1 moving forward is essential. The upwards of $10 million that Carolina paid Newton is also important — that’s starting quarterback money.
Can Cam Newton actually help the Panthers win games moving forward?
Newton won’t be under center in Week 10 as he familiarizes himself with Rhule’s playbook. However, the expectation is that he’ll start Weeks 11-18. The only question is, can the veteran QB’s presence actually translate into wins moving forward?
The last time the NFL saw Newton operate as a full-time starting QB was with the New England Patriots in 2020. He went 7-8 as a starter and finished the year with a measly 47.0 quarterback rating. It wasn’t a good year by any stretch of the imagination, ultimately resulting in Newton’s release the following offseason upon Mac Jones being drafted into New England.
Before Newton’s brief New England experience, he was battling a plethora of injury issues in Carolina. He only made two starts for the Panthers in 2019, causing the organization to move in a different direction at QB in 2020.
Fast forward to 2021, and Newton is seemingly in a much better place from a health perspective. He only missed one game last year due to the NFL’s health and safety protocols and was a full participant in Patriots’ training camp and preseason before his release.
The Panthers also have far better weapons for Newton to operate with compared to the 2020 Patriots. D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrance Marshall make up an impressive WR room, and Christian McCaffrey recently returned off injured reserve. It’s unclear if Newton still has the arm strength and accuracy to run a Matt Rhule-style offense, but he has the appropriate weapons around him to do so.
Carolina’s second-half schedule is brutal
Despite the disaster that was Sam Darnold, the Panthers aren’t entirely out of the NFC playoff picture. They somehow managed to scrape out four wins through their first nine games. However, their schedule moving forward is beyond brutal, giving Newton zero time to ramp up and get into form.
The Panthers play the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, the New Orleans Saints, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers twice. That could easily be five losses right there, which would all but eliminate them from postseason contention.
With that in mind, the pressure is very much on Newton to prove he’s not just here to sell jerseys. He has to win some football games — for his sake and Matt Rhule’s sake.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.